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What the People Are Like: Voices from Without


Clarion Vol. 5: Tau Lewis: Vox Populi, Vox Dei

Tiana Reid

What the People Are Like: Voices from Without

8 - 15 222 Words 2 Notes 1min


PENTHEUS: I shall have order!

Let the city know at once Pentheus is here to give back order and sanity.

To think those reports which came to be abroad are true!

Not padded or strained. Disgustingly true in detail.

If anything reality beggars the report. It’s disgusting!

I leave the country, I’m away only a moment Campaigning to secure our national frontiers. 

 And what happens?

Behind me—chaos!

The city in uproar.

Well, let everyone know I’ve returned to re-impose order.


And tell it to the women especially, those Promiscuous bearers of this new disease. —Wole Soyinka, The Bacchae of Euripides: A Communion Rite (1973)1

Listening to those voices raging in the dark, Selina often thought of the family who had lived  there before them. —Paule Marshall, Brown Girl, Brownstones (1959)2

A silent slave is not liked by masters or overseers. “Make a noise,” “make a noise,” and “bear a hand,” are the words usually addressed to the slaves when there is silence amongst them. This may account for the almost constant singing heard in the southern states. There was, generally, more or less singing among the teamsters, as it was one means of letting the overseer know where they were, and that they were mov-ing on with the work. 

—Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom (1855)3

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Staged production of Euripides’s Phoenissae, n.d. Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts


Douris, Red-Figure Cup Showing the Death of Pentheus (exterior) and a Maenad (interior), c. 480 bc Terracotta, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas