Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics podcast

Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics

BBC Radio 4

Natalie Haynes takes a fresh look at the ancient world, creating stand-up routines about figures from ancient Greece and Rome.

28 Episoden

  • Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics podcast

    Clytemnestra

    27:29

    "Rock star classicist" and reformed stand-up Natalie Haynes is obsessed with the ancient world. In these series she explores (historical and mythological) lives from ancient Rome and Greece that still have resonance today. They are hilarious and tragic, mystifying, revelatory. And they always tell us more about ourselves now than seems possible of stories from a couple of thousand years ago. Today Natalie stands up for Clytemnestra, who has been characterised as the worst wife in Greek mythology. This is open to debate: she's certainly a good mother, if a little bit murderous of her husband. But it turns out that Agamemnon probably deserves it. After all he sacrifices one of their daughters to Artemis without a second thought and then turns up at home years later with Cassandra, the future-seeing woman he has 'won' as a prize (also read: trafficked and enslaved) at the Battle of Troy. These actions demonstrate a certain lack of respect for his wife, as well as cruelty of the highest order. Cassandra reads the room, obviously, but nobody listens to her. Clytemnestra has a good legal brain and states her case convincingly. But it's unlikely to end well. With Professor Edith Hall. Producer...Mary Ward-Lowery
  • Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics podcast

    Jocasta

    27:43

    "Rock star classicist" and reformed stand-up Natalie Haynes is obsessed with the ancient world. In these series she explores (historical and mythological) lives from ancient Rome and Greece that still have resonance today. They are hilarious and tragic, mystifying, revelatory. And they always tell us more about ourselves now than seems possible of stories from a couple of thousand years ago. Today Natalie stands up for Jocasta, whose second marriage was to Oedipus. Now for some spoilers if you're thinking of watching or reading Sophocles' play Oedipus Tyrannus. After some years of happy marriage and four children, Jocasta discovers that Oedipus is, in fact, her son, and the murderer of her first husband (his father) Laius. Jocasta only has a few lines in the famous play, but we learn a remarkable amount about her character. She is smarter than her husband, quicker to understand what's happening and its implications. She is courageous. And she is quicker to act. The story - in all its forms - is still spellbindingly shocking today. With Professor Edith Hall. Produced by Mary Ward-Lowery for BBC Audio in Bristol
  • Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics podcast

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  • Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics podcast

    Pandora

    27:51

    "Rock star classicist" and reformed stand-up Natalie Haynes is obsessed with the ancient world. In these series she explores (historical and mythological) lives from ancient Rome and Greece that still have resonance today. They are hilarious and tragic, mystifying, revelatory. And they always tell us more about ourselves now than seems possible of stories from a couple of thousand years ago. Today Natalie stands up for Pandora, she of the box. Which turns out to have been a jar, and not a box, or a casket, or any of the other receptacles that have been depicted as containing all sorts of evils, and of course hope. It's Erasmus' fault, for a 16th century mistranslation. A mythological equivalent to Eve with a bit of Sleeping Beauty thrown in, Pandora is described as 'beautiful evil', an irresistible punishment meted out on mankind by the god Zeus, who is annoyed with Prometheus for stealing fire. Pandora is made from clay and given a lovely silvery dress by Athene, and from her all women are descended. Once her jar is opened by Epimetheus (he was warned! but he didn't listen), and all the evil flies out, then mankind's carefree life is at an end. So, not really Pandora's fault at all. With Professor Edith Hall. Producer Mary Ward-Lowery
  • Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics podcast

    Medusa

    27:46

    "Rock star classicist" and reformed stand-up Natalie Haynes is obsessed with the ancient world. In these series she explores (historical and mythological) lives from ancient Rome and Greece that still have resonance today. They are hilarious and tragic, mystifying, revelatory. And they always tell us more about ourselves now than seems possible of stories from a couple of thousand years ago. Today Natalie tells of Medusa, she of the snaky locks and stony glare. Medusa is truly terrifying, but she wasn't always a monster. She was once the most beautiful of the gorgon sisters, turned into this hideous version of herself by the goddess Athene, after being 'seduced' by Poseidon. Which may make her - literally - the original monstered victim. Natalie is joined by Professor Edith Hall, who says that Medusa is not just a victim or a monster. She's a beloved sister and mother (to winged horse Pegasus and hero Chrysaor). Her lithifying gaze gives her something in common with Midas but there's a difference in how we are invited to view them: we fear her and pity him. Illustrator Chris Riddell draws Medusa as he talks to Natalie, contemplating how she managed her serpentine hair (a hairdresser's nightmare, presumably) and whether some kind of super-sunglasses might help out with the problem of turning everything she looks at into stone. Producer, Mary Ward-Lowery
  • Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics podcast

    Penelope

    27:13

    Natalie Haynes tells stories of Penelope, the clever woman and perfect wife behind The Odyssey. Penelope fends off a hundred idiot would-be suitors with an exhausting programme of weaving and un-weaving; is the ideal single mother for most of her marriage and devises a cunning trick to make sure her husband is really who he says he is. Also she must have been a looker because Odysseus preferred her over her cousin Helen, who was objectively the most beautiful woman in the world. Natalie finds new ways of thinking about ancient myths in this locked-down version of her stand-up show, with the help of Professors Edith Hall and Llewelyn Morgan.
  • Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics podcast

    Eurydice

    27:13

    Natalie Haynes tells stories of Eurydice, whose rescue from the Underworld was bungled by her lover Orpheus. How has her story been uncovered from sources that no longer exist? Eurydice is chased by a sex-pest at her wedding, trips on a snake and is killed by its venom. Orpheus charms Persephone with his music into allowing him to attempt a rescue from Hades, but on the journey back he must promise not to look behind him, to check Eurydice is following. Just as they are about to step into the light, he looks back, and his gaze is what kills Eurydice the second time. With Professor Llewelyn Morgan and music from Sarah Gabriel and Sarah Angliss. Producer...Mary Ward-Lowery
  • Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics podcast

    Penthesilea, Amazon Warrior Queen

    27:45

    Natalie Haynes tells of Penthesilea, Amazon warrior queen, in charge of ‘a bunch of golden-shielded, silver-axed, man-loving, boy-killing women,’ with a natty line in ankle boots, and even trousers, a scandalous item of clothing at the time. These fighting women were respected as exceptional warriors and Penthesilea was given a hero's burial when she died in battle. Unusually for women in antiquity, many Amazon's names are recorded (on vases) and they are excellent: 'She Who Lets the Dogs Out'; 'She Who Is Enthusiastic at Sex'; 'She Who Fights like a Man'. Although Amazons are regarded as mythological figures, there is strong evidence for the existence of nomadic fighting women from burial grounds in the Russian steppes. In this locked down, more intimate version of her show, Natalie offers escape to a different realm: the mythological. As fresh and funny as ever, Natalie brings us new insights into the original girl gang, as well as gossipy erudition from a couple of thousand years of culture, with the help of Professor Edith Hall.
  • Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics podcast

    Helen of Troy

    27:34

    Natalie Haynes tells stories of the most beautiful woman in the world, who hatched from an egg and was the daughter of Zeus: Helen of Troy. Men fought over her from an early age, but was she really to blame for all those wars on epic scale? Helen's face may have launched a thousand ships but it didn't make her happy: being kidnapped repeatedly does not make for contented relationships. How have her life and beauty been exploited by writers and artists across the centuries, to justify their own world-views? In this locked down, more intimate version of her show, Natalie offers escape to a different realm: the mythological. As fresh and funny as ever, Natalie brings us new insights into feathery sex as well as gossipy erudition from a couple of thousand years of culture, with the help of Professor Edith Hall.
  • Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics podcast

    Suetonius

    28:34

    Natalie tells the story of Suetonius, biographer of the Caesars and friend of Pliny the Younger. She's joined by guests Professor Llewelyn Morgan and biographer and journalist Anita Anand. Classical knowledge is fragile: so much is lost. We don't know, for example, when Julius Caesar was born. What we do know about the Caesars is largely because of Suetonius. And some of it is quite strange. Who knew that experts in Latin grammar were once the coolest of the cool? That Domitian wrote a treatise on hair care? That Augustus kept a bust of Hadrian in his office and used hot nuts to soften the hair on his thighs? (Please don't try this at home). Fellow biographer Anita Anand knows - like Suetonius - that writing about the long-dead is probably sensible if you want to stay out of trouble, but she still found herself in international hot water after her book on the Koh-i-Noor diamond (co-written with William Dalrymple) was published. It's amazing how Suetonius managed to stay in imperial good books despite writing the first warts and all biographies of all time. Producer...Mary Ward-Lowery
  • Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics podcast

    Homer: The Iliad

    27:15

    Natalie Haynes stands up for Homer's Iliad, in an extraordinary tour-de-force performance recorded in the BBC's Radio Theatre in Broadcasting House. The original epic story would most probably have been performed from memory, and Natalie does the same: her only prompt is the voice of Dr Adam Rutherford to number the twenty-four books. It's a vivid, cinematic tapestry of extraordinary stories: of gods, Greeks and Trojans, men and women, mothers and fathers and lovers. There's fighting and trickery, and touching domestic detail (when Hector's wife Andromache and son Astynax bid a final goodbye to him). The great Greek hero Achilles spends quite a lot of time in a sulk, refusing to fight, because King Agamemnon forces him to give up his trophy girlfriend, Briseis. But his vengeance is merciless when he hears of the death of his beloved Patroclus at Hector's hands. There's a child frightened by the plumes on his father's helmet; a magic bra, which Hera uses to seduce Zeus (unnecessary encouragement, to be honest) and there's the reason why the phrase 'rosy-fingered dawn' is so-often repeated. It's a breathtaking story that echoes down the centuries, inspiring each generation with new interpretations of this epic work. Natalie is a reformed comedian who is a little bit obsessive about Ancient Greece and Rome. Each week she takes a different figure from the ancient world and tells their story through a mix of stand-up comedy, extremely well-informed analysis, and conversation. Natalie picks out hilarious details and universal truths, as well as finding parallels with modern life, or those parts of life which are still influenced by ancient thought. Producer...Mary Ward-Lowery

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