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Article Title

"Now the struggle is for all" (Aeschylus's Persians 405): What a Difference a Few Years Make When Interpreting a Classic

Authors

Gonda Van Steen

Abstract

This article is a succinct study of Aeschylus’ battle-cry, “Now the struggle is for all,” in two contexts of the 1940s reception of the Persians: first, the motto was a Leitmotif of The Glory That Is Greece, a short radio script written by the British poet, writer, and classicist, Louis MacNeice. The play was broadcast over the BBC radio on 28 October 1941, or on the first anniversary of Greece’s bold answer of "No" to the fascist Italian invaders. The resolute "No" of the then Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas launched Greece into the Second World War and the combined Italian and Nazi German Occupation; the country later descended into the bloodshed of a fratricidal civil strife. By the late 1940s, an epoch of Greek nationalist theater and culture had come to an end, but not without reaching an infamous climax in a 1946 production of Aeschylus’ Persians that functioned as a battle-cry against communism. The Greek National Theater staged the production under the proud banner of “Now the struggle is for all.” At the time of the production of his play, MacNeice showed awareness of the double invasion and occupation of Greece, but he focused on the historical expectations to which the Greek military and civilian defense had to live up, in order to safeguard its reputation and to carry on the western democratic tradition. By 1946, however, or at the onset of the Cold War, “the struggle for all” was no longer the Allied antifascist war effort on behalf of the occupied nations of Europe, but the slogan signified Greece’s fascist-style repression of leftists and communists, whether real or imagined. This article first sketches the historical context to MacNeice’s radio broadcast, to then delve into its use of Aeschylus’ battle-cry. Secondly, it examines the Greek subversion of the famous motto by the mid-1940s, of which deplorably few foreign observers or philhellenes took note.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.

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