A comparison of Euripides' Medea with Anderson's The wingless victory
Beemer, W. Howard
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Introduction The Wingless Victory, by Maxwell Anderson, was first presented by Katharine Cornell, who also played Oparre, at the National Theatre, Washington, D.C., on November 24, 1936. The play was staged by Guthrie McClintic and the settings and costumes were by Jo Mielziner. The Wingless Victory received such adverse criticism, with but scant favorable comment from the critics. Stark Young, writing for the New Republic, very severely attacked the play. He said, in part, It has not any reality at all, of any kind. . . . The play is semi-tosh from start to finish, and the dying, analytical languor and the verse's cadence here and there are little help — all despite a situation potentially dramatic. Brooks Atkinson, writing for the New fork Times, said of this play, . . . to the theatre-goers, it is in its bluntest moments a sound melodrama of villainy driving against the imperious gentleness of a civilized woman from the East. To Anderson, it is probably more than that — the Medea legend told in Yankee terms and an assault upon the smug ferocity of religious bigotry. Nor has he completely imagined the character of his Malay princess. She might be a Wellesley-College girl, she is so forth-right, clear-headed, and practical in her social relations. An example of the more vicious attacks against the play and of the criticisms claiming Anderson copied the Medea, by Euripides, is that of Mary M. Colum. Her criticism is, as follows: Maxwell Anderson follows step by step the incidents and characters in Euripides' Medea, except for the ending where he could hardly follow the Medea. It is here that Mr. Anderson falls down due to an attempt at sentimentalizing and having Nathaniel regretting his abandonment of Oparre and belatedly following her to the ship. . . . how much more comprehensible even to this generation is the play written by Euripides so many centuries ago.