“Nevertheless They Persisted: Hecuba/Helen” – Stanford Rep Delivers Engaging Interpretation of Greek Tragedy

Last month, I was given the opportunity to catch a fantastic performance of Stanford Repertory Theater‘s “Nevertheless They Persisted: Euripides’ Hecuba/Helen.” This combined production of two Greek tragedies was adapted and directed by Rush Rehm, Stanford professor of theater and Classics and specialist in Greek tragedy.

As it turns out, he might be one of my future instructors at the Stanford Classics Department, and it would be extraordinary to benefit from his practical expertise in staging ancient plays as a way to enhance my literary study of Greek tragedy. Watching one of Prof. Rehm’s productions, as well as hearing him speak at a Q&A session afterward, was a nice preview of what awaits me, if I get to take a class with him in the future.

The name of the production comes from the phrase “nevertheless she persisted,” which refers to the silencing of Senator Elizabeth Warren on the Senate floor, and her refusal to stand down. The expression has become a statement of female empowerment, and these modern revivals of Euripides’ plays build on that theme by bringing together the stories of two mythical women, Hecuba and Helen, who each experience suffering and adversity, yet are able to re-gain some measure of power and autonomy through their courage, cleverness, and willpower.

In many ways, the positive ideals of empowerment and female strength clash with the dark, grim world of Euripides’ Hecuba, and the brutal act of vengeance that concludes the play. After the Trojan War, Hecuba (Courtney Walsh), the queen of Troy, becomes a slave to the conquering Greek army. After already losing her sons, her power, and her city, she learns that her daughter, Polyxena (Lea Claire Zawada), is to be sacrificed by the Greeks as a tribute to the ghost of Achilles. Then, she discovers that her son, Polydorus (Shayan Hooshmand), has been betrayed and killed by the greedy king Polymnestor (Joe Estlack).

Hecuba takes revenge by blinding Polymnestor and murdering his two innocent young sons. She does “persist” to re-gain control over her circumstances, but revels in a gleeful act of violence that suggests an abandonment of morality. Perhaps that is what makes this a tragedy: despite the efforts of Hecuba to overcome suffering and seek justice, we have nothing to show for it in this play, except for a trail of bloodied bodies and the destruction of innocent lives. Nothing seems to change, and there is no hope for a better tomorrow.

But there are fleeting glimmers of hope, too: in one of the most moving moments of the play, Polyxena delivers a profound speech in which she affirms her own inner strength and retains her dignity by willingly accepting her death. She wins praise from her Greek captors, who look on in admiration at her noble heroism, even as they are cutting her down.

Polyxena (Lea Claire Zawada) gives her final speech. Odysseus (Joe Estlack) waits impatiently in the background to take her away for her sacrifice.

All in all, I enjoyed the emotional ups-and-downs of this play, embodied in the intensity of the actors’ powerful performances, especially as Hecuba shifts from the depths of despair to the joy of triumphant revenge.

Courtney Walsh as Helen (left) and Hecuba (right).

In the second play, Prof. Rehm flips things on their head. In the last moment of Hecuba, the queen switches costumes on stage and Walsh, who plays both title roles, transforms into the beautiful Helen. From the darkness of the first play, we move to the lighter, ironic, and even humorous Helen, which features a different sort of tragedy: Helen never went to Troy, but it was a phantom Helen that the gods sent there with Paris, in order to cause the Trojan War.

In other words, a terrible war was waged and a great city destroyed in pursuit of a meaningless illusion, which points to the limits of human knowledge and the pointlessness of conflict: these concerns were relevant to the ancient Athenians watching the play, who were engaged in a long war with their Spartan foes, but also to our modern world. In interviews, Prof. Rehm explicitly brings up the modern parallel of the Iraq War and the non-existent “weapons of mass destruction.”

Not only that, but the real Helen, through no fault of her own, has her reputation smeared by those who blame her for the war and call her an adulterous whore.

In this twist on the traditional myth, Helen faithfully awaits her husband Menelaus (also Joe Estlack) in Egypt, where she’s been trapped for the war’s duration, and invents a clever scheme to escape from the tyrannical clutches of king Theoclymenus (Doug Nolan), who seeks to marry her himself. She persists and endures until she can be reunited with her husband and return to Greece, where she can reveal the truth and restore her reputation.

Helen (Courtney Walsh, right) is reunited with her husband, Menelaus (Joe Estlack, left).

Rush sprinkles his adaptation of Helen with comedic moments, reminding us that tragedy is not only a genre of suffering, but, as he explained at the Q&A, also something we can laugh at, by finding humor in the ironies and cruel jokes of life. Many of these moments, however, are not present in Euripides’ original play, but were added during the process of adaptation. These alterations are a bit uncomfortable for a student like me who studies tragedy as a form of written literature, and would prefer to rely on the actual text of Euripides.

Admittedly, the added comedic portions align well with the ironic tragedies of the play. When Helen laments, “I’m famous for my beauty. It’s a curse,” she uses her wit to suggest the complexly double-sided nature of beauty, at once her greatest asset yet a burden that contributes to her reputation as an air-headed, vain adulteress, as well as its devastating role as a glorified, illusory ideal for which pointless wars are fought.

Menelaus’ bewilderment, as he struggles to understand how he could possibly have two wives, both of whom claim to be Helen, daughter of Zeus or Tyndareus (no one knows for sure), is funny, but the moment also asks us to ponder the deeper absurdities of human existence and the difficulties of achieving an objective understanding of reality.

Menelaus (Joe Estlack, left) laughs at Theoclymenus (Doug Nolan, right) in his ridiculous military garb: note the three swords.

When Theoclymenus emerges from his palace in ridiculous camo gear, absurdly juggling three swords, we laugh at his buffoonery, before remembering the threat he poses to Helen and Menelaus. We are reminded of the inane boasting and grandstanding of certain politicians and authoritarian strongmen: is it a horrible joke, or a terrifying reality that these are the types of leaders who run our world today? Certainly, the ancient Athenians asked the same question of their politicians.

The text of Euripides which comes down to us has no stage directions, and so, it is up to the director and actors to interpret the lines of the play into movements on stage. Menelaus’ encounter with the housekeeper, who berates him and prevents him from entering the palace, becomes funnier through the addition of physical comedy. At the end of the play’s text, Helen’s twin brothers appear, but we don’t know which of them speak when making their divine pronouncement: this becomes a joke as Castor comedically speaks over his brother, but again, this is located nowhere in the text.

Edition of Euripides’ Helen in its original Greek.

All this raises the question of what we are trying to do when staging a Greek tragedy: reproduce an ancient author’s play as closely as possible, or create our own interpretation of it? How far can we depart from the original Greek text, when it comes to translation, adaptation, and stage directions? What exactly counts as a authentic production of a tragedy? Can there an objective standard for what makes a “true” tragedy? As the play Helen would have us ask, what does it even mean for something to be “real”?

In the end, as a director, Rush Rehm has succeeded in making his own version of Helen that is uniquely humorous, and one that would have aligned with Euripides’ thematic intentions. Whether that is authentic or not remains up for debate.

Finally, I appreciated Prof. Rehm’s ability to convey the peculiar, idiosyncratic elements of Greek drama without making them seem too foreign to a modern audience.

First, the music. We know that Greek tragedies were originally accompanied by music and that the plays alternated between spoken dialogue and lyric passages which would have been sung or chanted, to mark shifts in register. To create a sense of this effect, musical director Michael Keck utilizes musical instrumentation with Asian influences to set the scene in Thrace, near the coast of modern-day Turkey where the ships of the Greek army are stranded, or in the exotic land of Egypt.

Daringly and unusually, this production attempts to suggest the lyrical, poetic nature of song in tragedy, with Hecuba singing her lamentation alongside music to emphasize the emotional intensity of her suffering, and so too does Helen sing in a similar lamentation scene. But Prof. Rehm doesn’t overdo this: there is only one song per play, which grants special significance to the heightened register and formal tone of those scenes and prevents us from being overwhelmed. Any more than that would feel like musical theater, a modern genre that has little resemblance to tragedy.

Hecuba (Courtney Walsh) stands together with the chorus of captive Trojan women.

Now, the chorus, an essential part of any Greek play. They are a unified group of characters who act and speak as one. They set the tone of the play, give it structure, and provide narrative and mythical background. They are involved in the action, but represent a generalized perspective that allows them to step back and offer commentary not only on the events of the play itself, but on the broader universal human experience.

Modern productions sometimes struggle with the chorus. One method is to emphasize their unity, by having them sing, chant, or speak their lines in unison, but in addition to being an unfamiliar style to audience members, this has the problem of obscuring the clarity of the verses: not ideal, if we want to grasp the important information they are sharing.

The Chorus in action.

The chorus of this production achieves a nice balance. Each line is spoken separately by individual chorus members, so we can hear what they’re saying, but at times they speak together for emphasis.

Yet their essential unity remains, primarily through the highly engaging and energetic choreography, which allows the chorus to rhythmically dance and move across the stage as if they were all parts of one body. Every movement occurs in synchronicity with their words. Choreographer Aleta Hayes does great work here: the ancient Greek chorus is brought to life in a way that feels organic, and not at all forced.

Overall, “Nevertheless They Persisted: Hecuba/Helen” was an excellent achievement of a production that shows what is possible when it comes to modern adaptations of Classical drama. Ancient works performed on stage need not be thought of as alien or unfamiliar after all.

Unfortunately, the run of this show at Stanford’s Roble Studio Theater is over. Rush Rehm is now bringing his version of Hecuba to Athens, Greece, the city where Euripides presented that same play over 2000 years ago. Besides that, there will be no chance to catch these plays anymore, so be sure to see Stanford Repertory Theater’s next production, hopefully of another Classical work.

Other Reviews and Media:

Photo credits: Frank Chen and Zachary Dammann


Status Update: Entering M.A. Program at Stanford Classics

I am excited to be starting graduate classes at the Stanford Classics department in a few weeks. It’s been a dream of mine to study Classics at the graduate level, and I was ecstatic to hear earlier this year that I’d been accepted to pursue an M.A. degree in Classical Languages and Literature at Stanford. Alongside the excitement of attaining my goals, I am feeling a bit of anxiety, which is to be expected for anyone entering a new phase of their life, and which I’m sure is true of graduate students, who must spend time acclimating to a new, more intensive academic environment.

View of the Stanford Memorial Church from the Classics department. Photo credit: http://anhthuvulephotography.wordpress.com/

While applying, I had worked hard to build myself up as a scholar. I listed all the achievements that could contribute to graduate study in my CV and clearly identified my skills, reasons for studying Classics, and specific research goals in my statement of purpose. Now that I have been accepted, I hope to reach the standards I laid out for myself in the application.

I’ve been reviewing Greek by working through this commentary of Iliad book 6.

My first step is to ensure that my Greek and Latin abilities are at the right level. I need to figure out how to take care of the requirement for reading knowledge of French, needed for academic articles. I am also asking myself how well I can handle the intensity of a graduate program, and if there are any additional areas of background knowledge I need to review or skills I have to practice, after being out of school for the past two years.

So there are many things to think about, though not all these concerns are too serious; I am sure that with practice and time, I can return back into the familiar flow and structure of an academic program. I just have to trust in my own abilities.

But beyond the ordinary issues confronting a grad student, I must face a unique set of challenges presented by my disability. I’ve written about my disability from an identity standpoint, but on a basic level, these difficulties are physical and logistical, having to do with my health.

My health and mobility have gradually declined over the years, yet here I am entering a program that represents an increase in academic difficulty, and so, the question is how well I can handle that greater work load in terms of physical energy and health. Fortunately, like at Santa Clara University, Stanford’s Office of Accessible Education (OAE) has provided me with a variety of extremely useful disability accommodations. All I had to do was submit medical notes from my doctor for them to review.

The most essential accommodation is part-time enrollment, which means I can sign up for a lower number of credits than other students, and can conserve my energy and health by taking on a lighter load of classes. I am permitted to tackle a one-year program in three years, at a pace of one class per quarter. To avoid tiring myself out taking notes, I am allowed a notetaker, a fellow student who will share copies of his or her notes with me, as well as the opportunity to audio record lectures and listen to them again later.

Access to electronic copies of books on a computer is incredibly helpful too. Working with large and heavy physical books while writing or doing research is a struggle for me, so to alleviate that, OAE either receives an e-book from the publisher or scans the book into a pdf for me. This process can be a huge lifesaver, and is one more example of the resources available at university setting that allow disabled students greater independence in pursuing their academic goals.

The key for handling these kinds of concerns is to ensure I am making use of all the resources and accommodations available to me and to not be afraid to ask for the assistance I need. I’ve learned the importance of slowing down, relaxing, and enjoying my time in school, in order to avoid overworking myself.

When it comes to my larger decision to pursue graduate-level study, there are some factors beyond my control. For instance, since my circumstances limit me geographically, it was not practical to apply to many schools across the nation.

If my main passion is to continue studying Greek and Latin literature, why not pursue a PhD program? I often ask myself that question. Here, my disability is a motivating factor as well as a limiting factor: it pushes me to attain my dreams in the here-and-now by doing work that is significant to me, which is part of why I am entering a graduate program. But since it is hard to say how long my health will last, I can’t commit to a long-term PhD program, as much as I would love to.

In the end, the balance of an M.A. program was the best choice for me, though it’s imperfect: the M.A. degree requires me to focus on one language over another, so I won’t have as many chances to work on the Latin poets. Sorry about that, Vergil and Ovid!

To help ease this transitional period, I’ve decided to focus on settling into the program for the first quarter by sticking to my comfort zone. So, none of the more challenging seminars quite yet. I’ll be taking an advanced reading course in Greek literature, similar to what I’ve taken before.

Recent book by Prof. Anastasia-Erasmia Peponi

The class offered this quarter is Greek Erotic Prose and Poetry with Prof. Anastasia-Erasmia Peponi who works on Greek aesthetic perception in poetry and philosophical texts.

We’re going to first compare the Symposia of Xenophon and Plato, two texts offering philosophical discussions of passion and desire, in the interesting setting of a Greek drinking party, where as a side benefit we’ll get to observe the fictionalized antics of various (in)famous personalities from ancient Athens, from Socrates to Alcibiades: that should be quite fun.

Then, we’re going to move on to the lyric poets, for a close look at their approach to the theme of eros. I’m looking forward to learning more about Sappho, one of the few female poets from the ancient world whose work still survives (alongside Sulpicia, the female Roman elegist). She offers a women’s voice within a pool of Classical texts otherwise dominated by male authors, so it should be a fascinating experience to study that unique perspective.

One of the commentaries we’ll be using in class

This will be a nice mix of prose and poetry for my first quarter. It’d be useful to review Greek prose, since I’ve not had as much exposure to it through the course of my education, but meanwhile, I get to continue working on Greek poetry, which is my greater area of interest.

So, that is an overview of what is coming up for me in the fall and what it’s been like preparing to enter graduate school. At some point, I will start thinking about ideas for my Master’s thesis and which texts I’d like to focus on: either the Homeric epics, or a Greek tragedy. Definitely a hard choice, but I don’t need to decide right away. For now, the plan is to proceed one quarter at a time.

Healing the Wounds of the Past: ‘Black Panther’ and the Lessons of Classical Tragedy

Black Panther has made a huge splash in recent months as an excellent superhero movie that has spurred complex discussions of race, identity, and African culture. Interestingly, it seems to have acquired a literary and theatrical dimension: it has been called a “Shakespearean tragedy,” and it is true that Black Panther resembles Hamlet, in its emphasis on a son contending with the legacy of his father.

As we turn to the plays of ancient Greece and Rome, I’d like to suggest that what makes Black Panther particularly tragic (in a dramatic sense) is its use of a narrative pattern that comes to us from the mythological family sagas of Classical tragedy: the crimes and sins of previous generations build up overtime, come to a boiling point, and erupt into violent conflict, often based on the desire for power or revenge.

The following contains plot details from ‘Black Panther.’


Mythological Superheroes in “Something Just Like This” by Coldplay and The Chainsmokers

Spotify recently released their list of most-streamed songs of the year, and “Something Just Like This,” by The Chainsmokers and Coldplay, has made it into fourth place, behind Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” and two different versions of “Despacito.” As a result of its popularity, the song’s mythological allusions to the heroes Achilles and Hercules are some of 2017’s most prominent references to Classical mythology. I would like to take a few moments to investigate how the song makes use of these mythical references.

Before we move on, I encourage you to listen to the song, or read over its lyrics. Here is the official lyric video:

“Something Just Like This” opens up with the following lines:

I’ve been reading books of old
The legends and the myths
Achilles and his gold
Hercules and his gifts
Spiderman’s control
And Batman with his fists
And clearly I don’t see myself upon that list

Here, the narrator names various heroes, from the mythological figures of ancient Greece and Rome to the superheroes of modern comic books and film, and states that he is not worthy of being included among them. What is the vision of heroism he is thinking of when referencing these characters, and why does he believe he is unfit to be one of them?

Thetis dips Achilles into the river Styx. Statue on view at the Victoria and Albert Museum in the UK.

Let’s begin with “Achilles and his gold.” Achilles is the son of the warrior Peleus and the sea goddess Thetis, and is known for his exploits during the Trojan War. He is famed for his speed and strength in combat, and one explanation for his near-invincibility was that his mother dipped him into the river Styx when he was a child. All parts of him became invulnerable, except his heel, where Thetis was holding him, and this vulnerable spot, where he would be shot with an arrow and killed by Paris, is the source of the term “Achilles’ heel.”

The reference to gold is a bit odd, since Achilles was not known for his wealth. The only valuable treasure associated with Achilles is the beautiful set of weapons and armor made for him in the Iliad by Hephaestus, god of the forge, at the request of Thetis, so that he can return to battle after a long absence and avenge his fallen companion, Patroclus (18.368-616).

In one of the most fascinating passages of the Iliad, Hephaestus creates an intricate shield displaying all the moments of human life that Achilles will miss out on, for now that he has decided to return to battle, he is fated to die gloriously at a young age (view an artistic interpretation of Achilles’ shield here). With this set of arms, Achilles wrecks the Trojan army and savagely slays the Trojan hero Hector.

John Flaxman’s 1821 reconstruction of Achilles’ shield, on view in the Huntington Library. Image by Thad Zajdowicz: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thadz/31680177383

Achilles’ “gold,” then, is emblematic of several things: first, his divine parentage and connection with the gods, for it is his special link with his mother, and his mother’s relationship with other gods like Hephaestus, that gives him access to this set of weapons and armor; second, his amazing prowess in battle, for he uses these arms to devastating effect against the Trojans; and third, the fact that he will never again be able to experience ordinary human life, for he has instead chosen fame and glory in death.

As for Hercules (or Heracles, if you prefer the Greek form), he is the son of the god Zeus and the mortal woman Alcmene, and is renowned for the courage and incredible physical strength he utilizes to perform his famous 12 labors, which include the slaying of various monsters, like the Nemean Lion and the Hydra.

This wonderful relief sculpture from ancient Rome shows Hercules performing his labors.

After his death, he becomes a god himself, further distancing himself from human experience. His “gifts” likely refer to his divine connection, his strength and power, and his immortality, not only as a god, but also in the form of the fame he has earned through his glorious deeds.

So, the type of hero being referenced in this song is a powerful figure, who possesses superhuman or supernatural talents, which enable him or her to perform incredible feats beyond the ability of ordinary humans and thereby earn lasting fame and glory.

Taking into account the superhero references, it’s true Batman is only human, but the unique circumstances of his training, ingenuity, wealth, and access to technology as head of Wayne Enterprises grant him the ability to perform heroic deeds beyond that of a regular person.

Spiderman, meanwhile, is a superhuman figure whose power allows him to be a hero in a way that an ordinary person cannot. Perhaps it even demands it, as he attempts to adhere to the famous saying of Uncle Ben that “with great power comes great responsibility.” This moral imperative is probably the “control” of Spiderman mentioned in the lyrics.

In a later verse, there is a reference to Superman (“And Superman unrolls / A suit before he lifts / But I’m not the kind of person that it fits”), which takes us even further in this direction, as he is actually not human at all. Rather, he is an alien from Krypton, with a vast set of powerful abilities which come to him from the sun, a cosmic source.

The reason for the narrator’s sense of inadequacy is understandable, given that he is trying to measure up against these heroes: he is an ordinary human, lacking the power of these figures and incapable of the great deeds they have accomplished, and as a result, he feels unworthy. However, in the next verse, his lover or significant other responds:

But she said, “Where’d you wanna go?
How much you wanna risk?
I’m not looking for somebody
With some superhuman gifts
Some superhero
Some fairytale bliss
Just something I can turn to
Somebody I can kiss
I want something just like this”

She is saying that the narrator does not need to go on a quest for power, glory, and fame to be worthy of love and affection. There is no need for us to risk it all to be perfect heroes and perform great deeds; simply being human, with all the flaws and weakness that entails, is enough to be loved. We just have to be exactly who we are, and accept our imperfect human qualities. This is what is referred to in the phrase “something just like this.”

In this song, Coldplay and The Chainsmokers reject a traditional notion of heroism that has existed since the ancient days–that of powerful figures who push themselves past the limits of human ability and human existence to attain greatness—and instead suggest that we should be comfortable with our own humanity.

This is what these great heroes represent, if we think of them only as monolithic cultural symbols: Achilles, the invulnerable warrior, or Spiderman, the moral webslinger, or Superman, the alien who delivers justice. But we have to remember that it is often the humanity of these characters which ultimately allows them to become greater heroes.

This 19th century painting depicts the famous moment from the Iliad when Priam supplicates Achilles and begs him to return Hector’s body.

In the Iliad, after avenging Patroclus by slaying his killer, Hector, Achilles remains so infuriated that he refuses to return Hector’s body for burial and continually drags the corpse around. But he puts aside his anger and gives the body back to Hector’s father, King Priam, when he recognizes the similarities between the Trojan king and his own father, Peleus, and learns to acknowledge the common sufferings of humanity (24.471-676). Achilles and Priam share a meal and for a moment overcome the divisions of war and violence. It is arguably at this very human moment that Achilles is at his most heroic.

Hercules, when he is driven mad by Hera, Zeus’ wife, winds up killing his family, and it is the guilt over this horrible act and the desire for atonement that motivates him to accomplish his 12 Labors. It is a real, human emotion that leads him to accomplish his heroic deeds.

Jonathan and Martha Kent with a young Clark Kent.

The grief that Bruce Wayne goes through when he lost his parents to a criminal act of violence motivates him to become Batman and fight criminals, so that no one else would have to go through such a loss. The death of Uncle Ben, and the guilt of knowing he could have stopped his killer, drive Peter Parker to become Spiderman and live up to his responsibility as a hero.

Superman is not even human, and yet, it is his ordinary upbringing in Kansas by his adoptive parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent, that imparts him with the values and sense of justice needed to become an American hero.

In the end, we should not reject the idea of heroism altogether, but instead recognize that our humanity enables us all to be heroes in our way. The album artwork, seen in the video above, says it best: the imagination, spirit, and optimism of the young boy allows him to be the hero he wishes to be.

Reflections on Trump, Thersites, and Disability Experiences in the Iliad: Personal Encounters with Classical Texts

It can be easy to think of ancient stories like the Iliad and the Odyssey as unconnected to our modern world because they come to us from a distant time and mythological reality. But a recent — and uncomfortable—parallel between the Iliad and today’s politics has caused me to re-evaluate my view of the text in light of my own personal experiences. (more…)

Homecomings and Reunions in Game of Thrones: Echoes of the Odyssey?

The following post contains minor spoilers for “Spoils of War” (episode 4 of Game of Thrones season 7).

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the creators of Game of Thrones, say in a behind-the-scenes video that Arya’s homecoming scene in the latest episode of Game of Thrones was inspired by Odysseus’ return to Ithaca in Homer’s Odyssey. But the parallels with the Odyssey in that particular scene are not all that strong. (more…)

‘Wonder Woman’ and Greek Gods At War: The Mythology Behind the Film

The new ‘Wonder Woman’ movie provides a goldmine of opportunities to discuss the influence of Classical mythology on modern media. Diana of Themyscira is an Amazon, part of the mysterious tribe of women warriors described in Greek mythology, and the backdrop of the Amazon origin story in the film is a clash of divine proportions between the Greek gods.

It is this battle between divine forces that I would like to explore, especially the portrayal of Zeus, the king of the gods, and his son Ares, the war god. Although the film relies heavily on many elements of ancient Greek mythology, it does not align very well with the themes of those myths, and instead relies on a more Christian perspective to inform its narrative.

The following contains spoilers from ‘Wonder Woman.’


Worshiping the Gun: The Evolution of Vulcan from Roman Mythology to ‘American Gods’

The essential conflict of STARZ’s American Gods is between the Old Gods, who are being weakened as fewer people worship them, and the New Gods of modernity and technology who are rising to dominance. To retain relevance and a source of worship in this rapidly-changing world, Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and metalworking, adapts himself to American culture by “franchising” his faith and transforming from the god of fire into the god of firearms.

The following post contains potential spoilers for “A Murder of Gods” (season 1, episode 6 of American Gods).