A Masque of Aesop

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Davies, Robertson
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Research Projects
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This is a dramatic entertainment to be played by the boys of a Canadian high school. It presents a trial of Aesop before Apollo at Delphi. Apollo commands that Aesop, who is brought on in a sack by irate citizens, perform playlets of some of his fables. Aesop presents The Belly and the Members, TMCM, and CJ. When the crowd is calling for Aesop's death, their leader, who claims to represent organized labour, makes a great statement: Aesop is an unsettling influence in society, and unless society is reasonably stable my followers cannot threaten it with the horrors of instability (15). The third playlet is done as a satire on swallowing everything without questioning. Its particular target is Reader's Digest. The cock not only rejects the pearl on which he has hurt his beak, thinking it a piece of grit. He also cannot even understand what a pearl is and goes on claiming that it is an inedible piece of grit. After each of the playlets, the humans are outraged, seeing in it criticism of themselves. After each, Apollo declares that he likes and enjoys the fable. I am not surprised when Apollo rebukes the citizens for misunderstanding a great teacher like Aesop, but I am surprised when he rebukes Aesop too for the arrogance of his wisdom. He has dared to scorn men and to suggest that beasts are wiser than people. His sentence is that his writings will be the delight of children but that only the wisest among them will remember and interpret them past childhood. The greatest teacher is he who has passed through scorn of mankind, to love of mankind (49). The author has fun with the footnotes, which he uses rather to ask questions of his (presumably high school) audience than to fill them in on technical matters. The illustrations are nicely done, e.g. the vase on 21, which shows the first playlet in its three levels: Apollo the judge; the members playing the scene; and the court audience, with two soldiers surrounding Aesop at the center. Other illustrations are on 13, 27, 45, and 51.
Clarke, Irwin & Company Limited
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