Act One Scene Eighteen

Synopsis of Scene 18

Dysart tells Hesther that he is not happy with his wife and that they haven’t been happy for a while.They live a comfortable, middle-class life, but she doesn’t understand his interest in ancient Greece and instead tries to psychoanalyse him. He explains how important to him the drama and grandeur of ancient civilisations is to him. Dysart seems thankful they have no children, as they might be too like their mother. 

Hesther says she has to go and do some paperwork, but first they discuss Alan’s case and how difficult it is proving for Dysart. They acknowledge the difficulty of trying to make patients ‘normal’ and Hesther leaves as Dysart contemplates this.

Commentary on Scene 18

Your Honour: This is how one would address a judge or a magistrate, which Hesther is. Perhaps Dysart is indicating that he feels he will be cross-questioned as if in court, or perhaps he is imagining a divorce hearing.

sacred acrobats of Crete: Dysart’s ideas are founded on images such this:

Ancient Greece … the Iliad: Studying ancient Greece is Dysart’s hobby, though his wife does not like it. He tries to tell her stories from the Iliad, Homer’s epic of the Trojan Wars, but she does not understand.

Agamemnon: Agamemnon was a great warrior of the Trojan Wars who is described in the Iliad.

kirk: Scottish word for church.

Doric temple: place of worship built in ancient Greece using a particular, grand style of architecture.

Zeus: Zeus was king of the gods in Greek mythology.

Geniuses of Place and Person: In both mythology and literature, the ‘genius’ is a spirit of a place or a person, which means that there is divinity in everything and everyone. See The associations of location in classical writing > Gods and their locale.

Investigating scene 18...

  • What do we find out about Dysart in this scene?
    • How is his interest in ancient Greece significant?
  • Are you beginning to see any parallels between Dysart and Alan?
    • In what way?
  • What purpose does Hesther fulfil in this scene?
  • What do you think ‘normal’ means?
    • Is there such a thing as normal, and why does it concern Dysart so much?
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