Sunday, May 4, 2014

Library of America Story of the Week Read-Along 225: Thornton Wilder, The Drunken Sisters (#225)

Thornton Wilder, "The Drunken Sisters" (1957) from Thornton Wilder: Collected Plays & Writings on Theater:

If all you know of Thornton Wilder is Our Town--which is all I know of him, besides the other LoA pieces of his I've read--"The Drunken Sisters" may seem a little odd: it's a Greek tragedy about Apollo trying to save the life of King Admetus, mostly (it seems) because of his affection for Queen Alcestis. He tricks the Fates by getting them drunk and then tricks them into a riddle contest, which is itself a trick since the riddle's answer is impossible without knowing who the riddler is.

There's some echo of the Wilder "just a stage" writing: the Fates throw invisible strings to lasso Apollo, in a scene that might be funny; while Apollo comments to the audience directly.

It's a fine short play, but I wonder more about the background here, as hinted at by the headnote: Wilder was always interested in Greek mythology and wanted to write a satyr play (the short play that followed the longer tragedy, often playing for laughs the earlier tragedy). Which means that this is Wilder's idea of comedy? Clearly not, but it's interesting to imagine him starting out comedic and ending up tragic, if that's what happened. (It happens to all of us at some time.)

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