A Phoenix Too Frequent

By Christopher Fry. This is a comedic one-act in modern verse, set in classical times. A widow of a prominent accountant/administrator, Dynamene, is grieving to death in her husband’s tomb with her oversexed maid, Doto. As Dynamene goes to sleep, Doto is interrupted by Tegeus, a soldier who is guarding some hanging bodies outside. Tegeus shares his food and wine with Doto, they get to talking, and Dynamene wakes up, convinced initially that Tegeus is a spirit or supernatural, then turns to abusing him when he reveals himself to be a poor soldier. He is in awe of her noble self-sacrifice, they end up falling in love, poor Doto is left out of the loop. Dyanmene renames Tegeus to Chromis, and he goes to check on the bodies outside. When he comes back he is doomed, since one of the bodies is missing and the punishment for that is death. Dyanmene volunteers her husband’s body to replace the missing one, and all is well.

This play is really funny and cute, and also in verse. Which makes it all the more cute, in my opnion, although I’m not sure how it would sound or look on the stage. Other free verse plays (like the Abbey’s production of Medea) tend to sound pretty natural, although the words are prettied up, and I get the impression this play would be like that as well. Fry has written a lot of verse plays, and I own several, so it will be interesting to see how the style changes from play to play.

It’s nicely constructed into two person scenes, basically, with some small transitions, but it all takes place in a single interval of time without interruption. Each scenelet has clear objectives and conflicts, and there’s a particularly cute “getting to know you” scene between Tegeus-Chromis and Dynamene. Doto’s comic asides and written in burps and hiccups are also charming. She reminds me a little of the maid in Noises Off, coming in and out with sardines and talking to herself. A little dotty, but pretty nice.

All in all, a cute fun play to read in summer. I laughed.

The Silmarillion

By J.R.R. Tolkien. This is the prequel, as-it-were, to the Lord of the Rings. It covers the making of the earth, the early days of the elves and of men, and revolves in the center around the elves’ quest to regain the Silmarils, which were jewels stolen by Morgoth, a god who Fell from grace. It was Tolkien’s attempt to create a mythos for England, that is centered in things English, and also to provide a theological framework for his world of Middle-Earth. As a result, The Silmarillion reads much like the Bible, say, or the epic of Gilgamesh. It’s full of names, all of which are etymologically described in the glossary, and very confusing. It’s not so much of the X begot Y who begot Z, but more like X was angry at Y’s slowness and slew him, and thus began X’s exile from the lands ruled by Z, who was Y’s father. Complicated, to say the least.

Recommended for those seeking some relatively clean (well thought-out) mythology, but it’s not light or easy reading, and it’s not very swashbuckling. It’s kind of nice in its grandeur though, and a lot happens, even if it isn’t described in the most colorful way. Some of the mini epics and romances within the main story are beautiful in the way in which they mimic other cultures’ stories.