This is the fifteenth installment of my aptly-named series “Books on the Shelf,” in which I take any title or object from one of my lovingly alphabetized shelves and write a short post about it.
So much to mine on this shelf!
Right there in the middle is an out-of-print collection of adaptations of classical texts, Divine Fire, edited by Caridad Svich. Included in it is Karen Hartman’s play Troy Women, which doesn’t so much begin as it launches with such beautiful yet heartbreaking language and proportion, it’s caught in my memory for something like 20 years now. The stage directions:
Troy. Dawn after the fall. The men are dead and the women are captives. HECUBA lies on the ground. The sea-god Poseidon surveys the ruin.
Poseidon speaks at length, in verse, about the loss of Troy, his pet city. Interspersed within his speech are three words from Hecuba, queen of Troy.
He speaks for a page, then she says,
(he speaks again at length, and she says)
(he speaks even more, then)
The balance is exquisite. He may be a god, but her lines carry all the power.
Are there any scenes from movies or plays that stick with you as acutely?