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Written by Calypso Carol
Ah me, how sudden have the storms of Fate,
Beyond all thought, all apprehension, burst
On my devoted head.! O Fortune, Fortune!
With what relentless fury hath thy hand
Hurl'd desolation on the Persian race!
It is interesting to note that even at this juncture, Xerxes does not feel that he is responsible for the defeat of the Persian empire by the Greeks. He is instead blaming the Fates for what has happened. Fate has delivered this blow to Persia for a reason that Xerxes has yet to understand, but not for any reason that he can attribute to his own actions or responses. This quote also refers us again to the theme of arrogance and ego; it has not occurred to him that his rash decision to wreak war might be the cause of the downfall of Persia. Instead, he views it as out of his hands, and he is the victim of this unexplained wrath.
My son hath tasted from his purposed vengeance
On Athens, famed for arms, the fatal field
Of Marathon, red with barbaric blood,
Sufficed not; that defeat he thought to avenge
And pull'd this hideous ruin on his head.
Unlike her son, Atossa has a great clarity about what has caused Persia's defeat and downfall. She realizes that it his her son who is to blame, for allowing his thirst for vengeance to over-ride his judgement. Had he been thinking clearly, he would have realized that the Athenian forces are renowned for their ability to defend their city, and to vanquish any invaders. He would have remembered the terrible bloodshed on the Persian's part at Marathon. He would have decided not to sacrifice any more men to such a futile endeavor. Atossa realizes that because he was blinded by his need to avenge past defeats, Xerxes was unable to see all of the things that should have made him pull back from war, and instead only saw the need to prove that he was capable of overwhelming Greek forces to punish them for the damage inflicted on the Persians at their last battle.
Raise high the mournful strain,
And let the voice of anguish pierce the sky
Or roll beneath the roaring tide.,
By monsters rent of touch, abhorr'd
While through the widow'd mansion, echoing wide
Sounds the deep groan, and wails its slaughter'd lord.
This quote is one of several that supports the assertion that this is an anti-war play. The emphasis is on mourning and the terrible sorrow inflicted on the unconsolable left behind after loved ones are killed on the battlefield. The imagery strongly plays to the audience's auditory senses as all of the mourning is described as a succession of sounds; roaring, anguish that pierces the sky, that echoes and wails. The pain suffered by the families of those killed in action is palpable and adds to the mournful nature of the play itself. It is clearly designed to show that it is war itself that is the enemy and that even on the side of victory their is unimaginable sorrow.
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