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Harrison and Marsyas

Adrian Poole, Cambridge University

The myth of Marsyas plays a vital role in Harrison's The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus, and Trackers (as I shall refer to it from now on) is itself a key text in the story of his engagement with classical myths and models. I say a 'text' in the knowledge that it has taken various forms in performance at Delphi (1988), at the National Theatre (1990), and subsequently at Salts Mill, Saltaire and Art Carnuntum near Vienna [1] — and that it may take new forms in the future. Marianne McDonald notes that Harrison 'rewrites the play for each space in which it is performed', including Salts Mill and Carnuntum. She makes the important point that 'The "elite" and the "outsiders" vary from place to place, as does the text.' [2] The performances at Delphi and the National Theatre are commemorated in print as two texts published together as The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus by Faber and Faber (London and Boston, 1991). This supersedes the edition of the Delphi text alone from the same publishers the previous year, though this latter has an important Appendix on the music by the composer Stephen Edwards, and some stills, not reproduced in the second edition. I shall be referring mainly to the National Theatre text (hereafter NT); all page references, whether to NT or Delphi versions, are to the 1991 two-text edition.

I see Trackers as a key text because of the change it marks in Harrison's dealings with the classical sources for his theatre works (and now film). If we consider the relation to their source or sources of preceding works such as Phaedra Brittanica (1975), the Oresteia (1981), or the libretto for Medea: A Sex-War Opera (1985), in all these cases there is an aggressive foregrounding of translation as an issue, a matter of confrontation between then and now and them and us (or 'uz').[3] Harrison's version is a challenge to the receiving culture, an act of reclamation, of reinvention. But the cultural prestige of the source-texts and of the commissioning theatres (the National Theatre and the New York Metropolitan Opera) inevitably constrained the challenge, restricting it to the level of speech and theatrical idiom. One can sense Harrison's desire to go further, to engage both more intimately and more abrasively with his audiences. In particular he was disappointed at the National Theatre's refusal to take up his suggestion that the audience for the Oresteia should be segregated, the men from the women. This would have sharpened their sense of the sex-war and its ostensible resolution on stage: 'our production should have got that abrasion right.'[4] The narrative he developed for his Medea libretto was potentially more challenging in the daring handling of its multiple sources and own free invention, but then it was left stranded without the music required for performance. He had found much more freedom, understandably so, in his dealings with the more popular sources involved in the creation of Bow Down (1977), Yan Tan Tethera (1983), The Big H (1984), and above all, The Mysteries (1985). Two of these started life in a theatrical space congenial to experiment; three of them found their way on to the television screen.[5]

So Trackers represented a new opportunity for Harrison to combine the different kinds of success he had enjoyed with the Oresteia and The Mysteries, successes which had earned him the confidence of a theatre prepared to let him loose on a big stage and a grand scale with a daring experiment. He would bring together the 'high culture' that the Oresteia and Phèdre have come to represent, and the 'popular' or 'folk culture' on which Bow Down and The Mysteries had been based. And he would try to get the 'abrasion' right. The satyr play was a gift with its raucous, ribald generic indeterminacy, and the fragment of the Ichneutae left him all the room he would need for invention.[6] For all its relentless local inventiveness, his Oresteia had been comparatively deferential to its source-text. The beauty of the Sophocles source was that it was precisely a fragment, not merely requiring completion, but positively inviting the involvement of some new contextual narrative, and enabling a more aggressive dialogue with the audience than had been feasible with the Oresteia. The incompleteness of the source-text liberated the possibilities of experiment which have led on to The Kaisers of Carnuntum and The Labourers of Herakles (both 1995), and Prometheus (1998).[7]

Marsyas does not make a personal appearance in Trackers. But we get to hear his terrible exemplary story, and his image dominates the third and final phase of the play. His tale enters at the critical turn in Harrison's narrative, when Apollo refuses to let the chorus of satyrs have a go on the lyre, the magical new invention:

This is now my lyre and I define
its music as half-human, half-divine,
and satyrs, half-beasts, must never aspire
to mastering my, and I mean my, lyre. (p. 120)

There are significant differences between the Delphi and NT texts here. In the Delphi text Apollo goes on to threaten the satyrs with the fate of their brother Marsyas:

Do you need reminding how I had to flay
your brother Marsyas pour encourager
and I hereby have to warn all les autres
not to touch or try playing one note. (p. 56)

The NT text rightly postpones this mention of Marsyas because it does not make sense for Apollo to use his punishment as a threat at this point. Marsyas meets his fate because he challenges Apollo to a musical contest, the flute against the lyre. But as Apollo has only just acquired the lyre, the catastrophic challenge cannot yet have taken place. It must lie in the future, as the NT Apollo recognizes (p. 122); it is exactly in the time-switch from the second to the third main phase of the play that Marsyas must make his entrance.

Nevertheless we understand why Marsyas should be associated with this moment (albeit at Delphi, prematurely), when the NT stage direction which follows Apollo's decisive rebuff tells us: 'The satyrs are a devastated bunch.' (p. 120) They are devastated because Apollo is contemptuously refusing them admission to 'high culture'. This is a translation of the defining moment in what can be called without disparagement Harrison's personal myth, when the schoolteacher stops him reading Keats's 'Ode to a Nightingale'.[8] The satyrs are rewarded or fobbed off with gold-wrapped ghetto-blasters instead.[9] The figure of the flayed Marsyas irrupts into the play at the moment when they unwrap the ghetto-blasters, and his scream blasts out from them, mingled with the sound of a modern orchestra tuning up, 'the descendents of the lyre tuning up for the concerts of the future such as those in the Royal Festival Hall' (p.124).[10]

The scream amid the strings of the modern orchestra: this is a brilliant translation into an aural figure of Benjamin's notorious assertion that 'There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism',[11] or more simply of Nietzsche's sardonic exclamation: 'How much blood and horror lie behind all "good things"!'[12] In the theatre this is one of the play's great moments of transformation — a leap of time, space, consciousness. For the central phase of the play we have been in an extraordinary hybrid realm, as befits the creatures after whom the play's classical model is named. It is a state of generic frolic and mayhem in which tragedy and comedy and satyr play, ancient Greek papyrus and clog-dancing northerns, Sophocles and Tony Harrison, all hilariously and precariously co-exist and even dance together. But this is the point at which the satyrs are cast out, as they themselves managed earlier to expel the ludicrous, marmoreal Kyllene.[13] Now we enter the third and most disturbing phase of the play. The satyrs flee the stage. Their great clogging rhythms are displaced by the new music of the ghetto-blasting Marsyas scream, and the continuity of the narrative, the bridging of this violent transition is embodied and articulated by their leader Silenus. To him is given the messenger speech which tells the story of their brother satyr Marsyas, who challenged Apollo and lost, somewhere in the wide gap of time between then and now.

In this final phase the disenchanted satyrs return as the vengeful hooligans, the new Furies who tear up the kind of pact made by their Aeschylean counterparts at the end of the Oresteia. They beat up Silenus, who to them is just an old Uncle Tom, or to be exact 'a fucking old Uncle Tom' (p.128). This leaves Silenus interestingly marooned — and here again it is hard not to hear the force of Harrison's personal myth — estranged from his fellow satyrs and also of course from Apollo. But he is also estranged from the play, stranded between the ancient Greek past and the contemporary present. He appeals to the audience either to 'give me a home here in Great Britain' or to send him (and the lads) back to Ancient Greece (p. 133). Harrison concludes — and here the NT version differs very markedly from its predecessor — on a double image. One image is of the homeless destitutes bedding down for the night, just outside the theatre itself, wrapped up in the fragments of papyrus; they include the interestingly specified figure of the 'Pale Boy' to whom Silenus gives his 'cloak'. The other image is of Silenus himself, mounting the tragic stage, gingerly claiming his right to perform — following the example of his brave, calamitous brother Marsyas — and then being abruptly frozen into terror, as he imagines the onset of Apollo and the flayers: 'His mouth opens in a silent scream' — then 'Blackout'. This is a vengeful translation of the ending of the Choephori — performed of course in the very same theatre. Instead of Orestes and the onset of the Furies, we have Marsyas and the onset of the Olympian hit-squad.

I want to pursue, indeed to track Harrison's Silenus a bit further. Silenus is a far more intriguing figure in the play than Apollo, who is or becomes an object of simple derision, a savage cartoon. Silenus is Marsyas's weaker, tamer, more prudent double. Oliver Taplin has called this 'the tragedy of Caliban'.[14] But Silenus is also a bit of a Bottom, albeit there are marked differences between his two versions and fates. At Delphi he concludes with compromise, embracing the quiet life, after he has struck the note of defiance and aspiration and mounted the tragic stage: 'In short, I suppose, I'm not really averse/ to being a satyr. I could do a lot worse.' (p. 69) In the NT version this sequence is reversed, so that he shrinks from the thought of Marsyas's punishment before the entry of the satyr/hooligans, and only mounts the stage at the very end, in nervous emulation of his bolder brother. Caliban, Bottom: one way or the other, Silenus is surely a fool or a clown, lucky to get near enough most traditional tragedy to be even a bystander. When tragedy has dipped down to the low lives like Marsyas, Silenus and his fellow satyrs, it has usually done so only to touch them, not to put them centre-stage: they have plays of their own, after all.

So where exactly, in the logic of the Marsyas myth, does Silenus come from? Marsyas was well-known in antiquity. The confrontation between satyr and Olympian featured in sculpture and the visual arts — not just the musical contest with Apollo, but also the earlier moment at which Athene, according to legend, throws away the pipe which Marsyas picks up. Herodotus refers to his story (7.26), and Xenophon points to the cave where Marsyas's skin was hung up as the source of the river named after him (Anabasis, 1.2.8). But it is in Ovid's Metamorphoses that the tale is most influentially told, and it is here, in the lines about the assembly of witnesses to Marsyas's gruesome punishment, that we can see the imaginative gene pool from which Harrison's Silenus necessarily derives. The translation is A. D. Melville's:

The countryfolk, the sylvan deities,
The fauns and brother satyrs and the nymphs,
All were in tears, Olympus too, still loved,
And every swain who fed his fleecy flocks
And long-horned cattle on those mountainsides.[15]

It is from the tears of these compassionate witnesses (including the shadowy father or tutor or friend or lover, Olympus) that the river Marsyas is created, 'Phrygiae liquidissimus amnis' ('the freshest, clearest stream of Phrygia'). Other versions include the figure of King Midas who had foolishly disputed Apollo's victory and was given the ears of an ass in punishment.

The flaying of Marsyas is also richly featured in Renaissance art, heavily inflected by allegorical readings which go back to Plato, and pass through Dante's great invocation of Apollo at the start of the Paradiso, to the Florentine Neo-Platonists and their heirs.[16] Marsyas's fate seems to tell of the necessary humiliation of the body as a pre-condition for the release of man's true, inner, spiritual nature; or, relatedly, of the victory of divine harmony over earthly passion, or light and reason over primitive darkness. Painters who portrayed Marsyas include Perugino, Giulio Romano, Raphael, Bronzino, Tintoretto, Titian, Veronese, Guercino, Ribera, and Claude.[17] Of these the most extraordinary is Titian's late masterpiece (c.1570-75), in which the satyr is turned upside down and strung up by his goat-legs, while the faces both of the flaying god and the flayed satyr at the foot of the canvas are those of young boys, brooded over by the figure of aged and melancholy contemplation, a majestic version of Midas, and allegedly, the artist's self-portrait. The Titian painting also serves more generally to illustrate the impulse with which I am concerned, to imagine 'the others' who must or might have been there on the spot, whether willing or not, at the moment when justice displays itself at its most terrible, in the clinical destruction of its victim. Titian's canvas is crowded with these others, two servants of Apollo, two fellow satyrs of Marsyas, two dogs. It is rare for Apollo and Marsyas to be imagined on their own. And when they are, as Perugino has them, the eeriness of the scene derives from exactly this absence of the third persons we look for, the onlookers, bystanders, witnesses, servants, slaves, who might lend a hand or not, to wield the knife, to play the lyre, to bring a bucket of water, to watch — in horror, dismay, indifference, satisfaction.

There are two main points I want to seize from this. The first is that Harrison's Silenus derives from all the possibilities represented by the third person(s) within the frame who in some sense stand by or between Apollo and Marsyas, the witness(es) who may have to choose between them, who may try to reconcile what they stand for, who may follow Marsyas and in turn be torn apart. The second point I would make is that there is always in the representation of the Marsyas myth, whether in the visual arts or in literature, a tension between 'image' and 'story'. By 'image' I mean the intensely physical image of pain and punishment, embodied (or disembodied) in the flaying of Marsyas's skin. By 'story' I mean not only the acts and events which lead up to this image and follow on from it, but the meanings and explanations attached to them, indeed inseparable from them, for no act of narration, however apparently innocent, is exempt from the implication of cause and effect. Marsyas's fate seems to demand story, to need it. This cannot just be a story of pain and punishment, can it? Yet how risky representation can be. As soon as this story is 'realized', especially in the visual arts, its alleged meanings never go entirely unchallenged by the impact of Marsyas's brute — or rather, brute-human — pain. This touches a nerve in the witness, to put it mildly. And this relates to questions of performance and its effect on us the audience, the witnesses outside the frame.

From the Romantics onwards, as one would expect, voices of protest have been raised on behalf of Marsyas, and Harrison's is unsurprisingly one of them. Near the end of the nineteenth century Oscar Wilde helps to give a certain new turn to the forms of oppression and humiliation to be found in the myth, when he makes Lord Henry Wotton compare himself to Marsyas and Dorian Gray to the young Apollo (The Picture of Dorian Gray, ch. 19), and then again in De Profundis when he recalls Dante's terrible phrase about being 'torn from the scabbard of his limbs'. Perhaps, Wilde suggests, the Greeks were wrong to suppose that the lyre had vanquished the reed: 'I hear in much modern art the cry of Marsyas'.[18] Other writers to have been inspired by Marsyas include Willa Cather, Siegfried Sassoon, James Merrill, Zbigniew Herbert, and Annemarie Austin.[19] More generally, Nietzsche's patronage of Dionysus and the Dionysiac has helped to aggrandise the idea of the satyr, and the wisdom he might represent.

Where Harrison makes his distinctive contribution to this tradition is in the attention he pays, indeed the focus he displaces on to Marsyas's degraded, embruted brothers, and the revenge they might take on his behalf. Here we need to think a bit harder about the brothers of Marsyas, and the rift that opens up between Silenus and the other satyrs in the last third of Trackers. This is partly a generational difference. The new breed of hooligan/satyrs, as Harrison presents them, have been deprived of all the benefits of traditional culture. No Latin or Greek, no lyres or flutes, only the clogs for kicking and the aerosol for spraying graffiti. We might want to ask here what ever happened to the flute with which Marsyas challenged Apollo. Harrison's story requires it to be just another gift, another kind of musical instrument, no different from the lyre. But this is to ignore (or even suppress) the traditional antagonism, from Plato onwards, between the two kinds of music — the 'lower', Dionysiac, bodily, flute, and the 'higher', Olympian, spiritual lyre.[20] Why does not Harrison make use of this, being so much on the side of Dionysus against Apollo and all that the latter stands for? Because he has already given the role of 'alternative music' to the clog dance, and that has been defeated? He does not need, he positively does not want the possibility that Marsyas's flute music might represent a collective resource instead of a solo challenge. There is a problem here, on which others have commented, about Harrison's relation to popular culture. Jeffrey Wainwright, for instance, the force of whose critique is not much affected by the fact that he is taking his evidence from the Delphi text:

What does not seem to enter his [Harrison's] calculations here however is the artistic expression that people have made outside the traditions of high Western European art forms. The whole various tradition of popular music in this century—which now emanates from those same ghetto-blasters — cannot be written off. The Trackers proselytises on behalf of popular art. That it does so in a form and place that is itself élite is a necessary irony that the work acknowledges. That it should do so without reference to that aesthetic experience that is popular, and by implication damning it, is surely a lacuna. Satyrs should not be expected to do only clog dances. Let them go to the disco.[21]

There are other senses in which 'lacunae' are a matter of interest in Trackers, to which I shall return.

On the other hand there is Silenus with his solitary attachment to an older kind of culture that involves at least being able to spell Marsyas's name correctly. It is easy to forget, as most commentators seem to, that at one level within the play Silenus was once Hunt. There are two Oxford dons at the start, one of whom turns into Apollo and the other into Silenus. Hunt at the start is the more compassionate and pedestrian 'tracker', the Watson to Grenfell's Holmes. Hunt cares both about the poetry and the petitions, both art and the real human labour that makes it possible, amongst other things. One could try to read the play as Grenfell's mad dream — a nightmare into which he drags his saner colleague and the whole world around him, and us too, the audience — from which we never escape. Soon after his appointment to the Oxford Chair of Papyrology in 1908, the real Bernard Pyne Grenfell did indeed suffer a serious breakdown which left him incapacitated for more than four years, and a further collapse in 1920, from which he never properly recovered until his death in 1926. The real Arthur Surridge Hunt was distinctly the junior partner until Grenfell's health failed, but as regards their class origins there is no real basis for the differences between them such as Harrison's play might conceivably be thought to draw on.[22] A much better source in this respect would have been the relation between Sir Arthur Evans and his younger assistant at Knossos, Duncan McKenzie, whose life has recently been described as 'a very sad story, with a tragic ending ... the story of a bright lad from a poor Highland family who made good, but never acquired an established and secure position, nor lasting fame, and who eventually died mad and forgotten'.[23] One may glimpse in McKenzie the possibilities for a kind of drama such as Harrison has deliberately chosen not to write.

But let us be pedantic for a moment and ask what it might mean to Harrison's play that Silenus should once have been Hunt? Are there supposed to be different kinds of Oxford don? Evidently yes, at least once back in 1907, if not now. Let us take the implications to their furthest extreme for a moment, and ask if the difference between Grenfell and Hunt signals a fault-line at the heart of the establishment. What kind of covert allegory would this be, then, which has Grenfell ascending to the British Academy and Hunt rusticated to the backstreets of Leeds (as it were)?[24] The Hunt/Silenus figure is clearly at the centre of the play, the figure with whom both author and audience most closely identify. Is there some kind of double nightmare at work here, in which Harrison imagines himself not as a working-class aspirant who turns into a troubled, liberal Oxford don, that old familiar story, but mirabile dictu, the other way round: a Hunt who turns into Silenus? To complement this black fantasy there would be a vision of cultural authority that has purged itself of its liberal twinges and become all Apollo. As if Oxford were to become all Grenfell: not a Hunt in sight, not the trace of an Oliver Taplin or Edith Hall or Oswyn Murray.

Perhaps this whole line of thought is simply impertinent, this attempt to track the correspondences so logically, and find them wanting or fantastic. Perhaps we should just forget that Silenus was once Hunt. Perhaps we should not ask the play to deliver an intellectually coherent argument about the relations between class and classics, about culture and torture, about Oxford dons and the dispossessed. Let me instead propose a generous reading of the gaps or lacunae which the play in performance produces, between the theatrical images it creates, of great indelible impact, and the fragmentary, provocative stories that get attached to them.[25]

By 'images' I mean moments in performance which supersede the verbal by the force of the impression they make, at once visual and aural and kinetic. I mean the expressive power of physical presence, of the body in action. In performance, certainly at the National Theatre, the chorus of satyrs simply steal the show with their amazing phalluses and unforgettable clog dance.[26] In one sense the play could be summarized by juxtaposing that collective celebratory image with the one of Silenus at the end, with his frozen solo scream of apprehension. But in another sense one could say that the key 'figures' in the play are those of transformation — or translation, in the sense suggested by Peter Quince's famous exclamation: 'Bless thee, Bottom, bless thee! Thou art translated.'[27] There are two critical moments. The first is when Grenfell and Hunt turn into Apollo and Silenus, and the fellaheen into the satyrs; the second is when Apollo exits and the tale of Marsyas enters, the old satyrs turn into the new, and Silenus is left in search of a future or a past, homeless. Or to put it in structural terms, these are the two major turning-points, when the play moves from the prelude in 1907 Egypt into that extraordinary domain where Sophocles and Harrison collide and converse and part company, and then again when it says goodbye to that magical dialogue, and moves into a savage now, now, very now.

The point I want to make is that what may appear the weaknesses or logical slippages in the play's intellectual argument exactly correspond with the theatrically brilliant moments of transformation. (Such transformations are difficult and hence magical in the theatre, but they are treacherously easy on film. This might help to explain what I take to be some of Harrison's difficulties with film, especially Prometheus.) The story that Trackers seems to tell about class and classics and culture does not make a coherent argument because while Grenfell may map neatly enough on to Apollo and vice versa, Hunt does not map neatly onto Silenus, nor do the fellaheen, the old satyrs and the new hooligans map on to each other. But does this matter? Perhaps it is not just that it does not matter, but that it is positively purposive and effective as the means of engaging the audience and putting them on the spot. We the audience are the witnesses challenged to make sense of these figures and stories. Or to make a different sense from the one which the play seems to tell when it ends on that image of pain and punishment, of vicious cultural exclusion, and its predictably vengeful consequences. Note the stress Silenus puts on the satyrs themselves as witnesses, a privileged audience there at the birth of great cultural goods such as the lyre, wine and fire, who have then been forbidden to make the transition and transform themselves from witness to performer, not just to watch but to take and to make good things for themselves. (Their association with fire of course looks ahead to Prometheus.) Instead of which, there is just unemployment, consignment to the cultural waste-heap — like the Sophocles papyrus itself. To say that this puts the audience into an uncomfortable position is an understatement. We witness the satyrs' desire to turn from witnesses into participants, and its bitter disappointment. How might we, how could we or should we make reparation for that disappointment, by turning ourselves from witnesses into participants? Our reactions to Silenus's pleas to read the fragments of Sophocles' text, and thereby give him a home — these are written into the script for us in the stage directions: 'Silence from the audience', 'Silence from the audience', 'Silence from audience' (p. 133).

This is — or was in performance at the National Theatre — an unusually disconcerting theatrical experience. There is a clue to the way it works its effect in the references to King Lear that Harrison buries in his introduction to the published texts, then again at the close of the play itself. As Silenus helps the homeless satyrs to swaddle themselves with the shreds of papyrus against the freezing night air, he also hands out little bits to plug their ears with:

Stuff your lugs with this to keep out the sound
of music and drama when you kip on the ground.
With your ear on the concrete what you can hear
is Ligeti in one lug and in t'other King Lear
competing with the pelting 'of the pitiless storm'
up there in the RNT where it's nice and warm. (p. 135)

His last action before he ascends the tragic stage is to wrap the figure of the Pale Boy tenderly in his 'cloak' and settle him for the night. This is rich with echoes of Lear on the heath in the pitiless storm, stirred with compassion for the Fool and Poor Tom: 'How dost, my boy? Art cold?' (3. 2. 68); 'Tom's a-cold', 'Tom's a-cold', 'Poor Tom's a-cold' (3.4.58, 83, 147); 'Off, off, you lendings!' (3. 4. 108). But it is Lear's great speech about the 'Poor naked wretches' with their 'houseless heads and unfed sides' (3. 4.28-36) that lurks behind this closure, along with the terrible image of Marsyas's punishment.

In his introduction, Harrison refers us, rather oddly as it might at first seem, to a passage from Shelley's little-known fragment — another uncompleted drama — Charles I (1819).

Ay, there they are —
Nobles, and sons of nobles, patentees,
Monopolists, and stewards of this poor farm,
On whose lean sheep sit the prophetic crows,
Here is the pomp that strips the houseless orphan,
Here is the pride that breaks the desolate heart. (p. xiv)

Shelley has taken the force of Lear's revelation of social injustice and turned into it an accusation. This is what Harrison is trying to repeat. He wants to challenge the audience with this bold piece of casting, where we become King Lear as it were, face-to-face with the figure of social destitution.

'The tragedy of Caliban and of the have-nots rather than of the great king', writes Taplin.[28] To be sure, in one sense. But the great king is there in performance as the audience itself. This is an astonishing way of implying our complicity in the inequities of 'culture'.

[1] In his Introduction to Tony Harrison: Plays, 3, London and Boston, Faber and Faber, 1996, Michael Kustow describes the significance of these locations, which Harrison subsequently used for the performances of Poetry or Bust (1993) and The Kaisers of Carnuntum (1995): 'Saltaire, the model mill-town, the place of wool-bales, sheds, clogs, the poignancy of the industrial revolution, and the sounding-board of native vowels, idioms and intonations, is Harrison's Yorkshire homeland, the site of origins. Carnuntum, which he discovered through the National Theatre tour of Trackers, is central Europe for this rooted yet cosmopolitan writer, a territory he knows wells from having lived and taught in Communist Czechoslovakia. It also stands for Rome, Roman power and empire, the other face of antiquity for this scholar gypsy, Rome which in its stadia and on its stages acted out the killings that Greek tragedy only impersonated.' (p. ix)

[2] Marianne McDonald, 'Harrison's Trackers as People's Tract', in Neil Astley (ed.), Tony Harrison: Bloodaxe Critical Anthologies, I, Newcastle upon Tyne, Bloodaxe Books, 1991, p. 471.

[3] Translation of various kinds is involved in all eight of the works, including the three mentioned here, collected in Dramatic Verse 1973-1985, Newcastle upon Tyne, Bloodaxe Books, 1985, and re-published as Theatre Works 1973-1985, Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1986.

[4] John Haffenden, 'Interview with Tony Harrison', in Astley (ed.), Tony Harrison, p. 245.

[5] Bow Down and The Mysteries were first performed in the National Theatre's Cottesloe: Yan Tan Tethera, The Big H and The Mysteries have all been screened on television. For details, see Neil Astley, 'Tony Harrison: Selective Bibliography', in Astley (ed.), Tony Harrison, pp. 504-10.

[6] See Oliver Taplin's excellent piece, 'Satyrs on the Borderline: Trackers in the Development of Tony Harrison's Theatre Work', in Astley (ed.), Tony Harrison, pp.458-64.

[7] Texts of the first two have been published in Tony Harrison: Plays, 3, London and Boston, Faber and Faber, 1996, and of the last, as Prometheus, London, Faber and Faber, 1998.

[8] 'Them & [uz]', in Tony Harrison: Selected Poems, 2nd edn, Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1987, p. 122.

[9] The NT stage-direction tells us that they 'sit gazing at their reflections in the gold foil, aware for the first time of the division between their animal and human selves' (p. 120).

[10] I say the 'figure' of Marsyas because the term keeps open the question of the form it may take -– narrative, musical, visual, imaginary (as the term 'image' tends not to, with its visual and sculptural connotations).

[11] Walter Benjamin, 'Theses on the Philosophy of History', in Hannah Arendt (ed.), Illuminations, tr. Harry Zohn, London, Fontana, 1973, p. 258.

[12] Friedrich Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals, tr. Francis Golffing, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1956, p. 194.

[13] The NT text (p. 113) foregoes the delightful impudence of the Delphi stage-direction: 'Exit tragedy pursued by a Satyr.' (p. 46)

[14] Taplin, 'Satyrs on the Borderline', in Astley (ed.), Tony Harrison, p. 464.

[15] Ovid, Metamorphoses, VI, 392-5, tr. A. D. Melville, Oxford and New York, Oxford University Press, 1986.

[16] See Edgar Wind, Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance, new and enlarged edn. (London: Faber and Faber, 1968), ch. 11, 'The Flaying of Marsyas'. In Plato's Symposium the drunken Alcibiades calls Socrates a Marsyas and compares him to a Silenus figure, 'a deceptive contraption in statuary shape which shows outwardly the face of an ugly man, but, when opened, proves to be full of gods' (Wind, p. 172). In the Paradiso Dante prays to Apollo: 'Entra nel petto mio, e spira tue/ sì come quando Marsia traesti/ della vagina delle membra sue.' (1, 13-21). Wind translates: 'Enter my breast, and so infuse me with your spirit as you did Marsyas when you tore him from the cover of his limbs'; and comments: 'To obtain the "beloved laurel" of Apollo, the poet must pass through the agony of Marsyas' (pp.173-4).

[17] See Edith Wyss, The Myth of Apollo and Marsyas in the Art of the Italian Renaissance: An Inquiry into the Meaning of Images, Newark, University of Delaware Press, and London, Associated University Presses, 1996, and the entry on Marsyas in Jane Davidson Reid, The Oxford Guide to Classical Mythology in the Arts, 1300-1990s, vol. 2, New York and Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1993, pp. 638-43.

[18] Oscar Wilde, De Profundis and Other Writings, Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1973, p. 182.

[19] For the first four, see Reid, Guide to Classical Mythology, pp. 642-3; Annemarie Austin, The Flaying of Marsyas, Newcastle upon Tyne, Bloodaxe Books, 1995.

[20] Aristotle says that no gentleman should play the flute too well. It is much better left to professionals, that is, to high-class slaves: 'flute-playing, unlike other musical exercises, does not lead to an increase in intelligence, but is rather a matter of dexterity' (Politics, 1341a; quoted by A. D. Nuttall, Why Does Tragedy Give Pleasure? Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1996, p. 8.

[21] Jeffrey Wainwright, 'Something To Believe In', in Astley (ed.), Tony Harrison, p. 414.

[22] The Dictionary of National Biography tells us that Grenfell's father was assistant in the department of Greek and Roman antiquities at the British Museum, and then a public school teacher; Hunt's father was a solicitor. Both were admitted as scholars to Queen's College, Oxford.

[23] Nicoletta Momigliano, Duncan Mackenzie: A Cautious Canny Highlander and the Palace of Minos at Knossos, Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies: Supplement 72, London, 1999, p. xiii. I am grateful to Oswyn Murray for suggesting the parallel and bringing this book to my attention.

[24] In reality Grenfell was elected FBA in 1905, and Hunt in 1913.

[25] I say 'images' but again I would prefer the word 'figures' for its open-endedness (see n. 10 above).

[26] Richard Eyre, Director of the National Theatre at the time of the Trackers production, speaks of his affection for the NT poster: 'I look at the photographs of twelve Yorkshiremen in clogs dressed as satyrs with long tails, the ears of pantomime horses, and magnificently gross phalluses, and I think this: there is no bolder or more imaginative playwright working in this country.' ('Tony Harrison the Playwright', in Sandie Byrne (ed.), Tony Harrison: Loiner, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 48.) Major contributors to the success of the NT production were Stephen Edwards (music), Jocelyn Herbert (design), Vicki Hallam (phalluses) and Paul McLeish (lighting). Edwards has some interesting things to say in 'High and Low Notes: working with Tony Harrison on The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus', in Astley (ed.), Tony Harrison, pp. 465-9.

[27] A Midsummer Night's Dream , 3. 1. 119. This and further references to Shakespeare are taken from G. Blakemore Evans (ed.), The Riverside Shakespeare , Boston , Houghton Mifflin, 1974.

[28] Taplin, 'Satyrs on the Borderline', in Astley (ed.), Tony Harrison , p. 464.