Gods in the Machine: Deus Ex Machina

I’ve always been enamored by ghosts. I witnessed my own momma seized by a possession. Could that be written off as a kind of madness?

Certainly.

Have I witnessed similar events afterwords?

Alas, yes.

So I remain unclear.

Maybe things lurk in the dark;

Maybe there are beasties in  the shadows.

Or maybe, it’s just us, shivering with stories left to tell.

Poets lie where heroes fear to tread

Poets lie where warriors die.

Poets do lie. That’s their job (I know, I’ve moon-lighted).

So what exactly is a ἀπὸ μηχανῆς θεός?

A god from the machine?

When a writer gets stuck, as in really stuck, it becomes time to pray.

(Or time to play).

This is the time to invoke the god in the machine.

Because when the story has gone to Hell, only a god can fix it.

You might know this feeling.

Sweet god in a box, I do.

As a writer, I know when the things get stuck.

So here’s a fix:

But before that, we gotta hear the haters:

when they don’t know what to say

and have completely given up on the play

just like a finger they lift the machine

and the spectators are satisfied

-Antiphones

Let’s move on to Aristotle:

In the characters too, exactly as in the structure of the incidents, [the poet] ought always to seek what is either necessary or probable, so that it is either necessary or probable that a person of such-and-such a sort say or do things of the same sort, and it is either necessary or probable that this [incident] happen after that one.

It is obvious that the solutions of plots too should come about as a result of the plot itself, and not from a contrivance, as in the Medea and in the passage about sailing home in the Iliad. A contrivance must be used for matters outside the drama — either previous events which are beyond human knowledge, or later ones that need to be foretold or announced.

For we grant that the gods can see everything. There should be nothing improbable in the incidents; otherwise, it should be outside the tragedy, e.g., that in Sophocles’ Iliad.

Aristotle, Poetics

Finally , moving to modern times, and modern criticism of the Deus Ex, we find Nietzsche

But the new non-Dionysiac spirit is most clearly apparent in the endings of the new dramas. At the end of the old tragedies there was a sense of metaphysical conciliation without which it is impossible to imagine our taking delight in tragedy; perhaps the conciliatory tones from another world echo most purely in Oedipus at Colonus. Now, once tragedy had lost the genius of music, tragedy in the strictest sense was dead: for where was that metaphysical consolation now to be found? Hence an earthly resolution for tragic dissonance was sought; the hero, having been adequately tormented by fate, won his well-earned reward in a stately marriage and tokens of divine honour. The hero had become a gladiator, granted freedom once he had been satisfactorily flayed and scarred. Metaphysical consolation had been ousted by the deus ex machina.

I’ll take my God-A-Box, thank you very much.

Until next time, keep looking in your boxes, because you never know what gods are hiding there 🙂

 

 

 

 

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