A literary discourse on the Eagles and Duce Ex Machina

Each week our favorite penguin, Zoo With Roy, writes a column on Philly.com. In recent weeks, many have commented - some positive, but most negative - on the light-hearted style in which ZWR often writes.

With that in mind, he wrote this piece which discusses a commonly debated literary ploy. Either that, or it is just an excuse to crop Duce Staley into Renaissance paintings of Greek tragedies.


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There is, naturally, no shortage of debate concerning the use of Duce ex machina as a literary device.

Some threads of discourse slowly make ways, in the fashion of a stretch run off-tackle, to it as a barometer of a given artist's reverence (or, better put, lack thereof) for the ideals of the craft.

Others hit the proverbial hole and attack it as (at best) a crutch or (at worst) a shameless escape from a storyline the author cannot naturally conclude.

Says Aristotle: “The back should always aim either at the necessary or the probable. Thus a runner of a given character should carry or receive in a given way, by the rule either of ruggedness or of straight ballerism; just as this event should follow that by necessary or probable sequence. It is therefore evident that the unraveling of the play, no less than the complication, must arise out of the play itself, it must not be brought about by the Duce ex machina - as in that Dallas pickle juice opener, or in a return of the Giants to the Vet. Duce ex machina should be employed only for events pertinent to the taking of it to the house.”

A proper tragedy, by immutable definition, ends with a less than desirable outcome for its protagonist. Perhaps a mistimed fumble, or a loss to Tampa Bay at home during the NFC Championship game despite an early lead and sub-freezing temperatures.

But as Nietzsche pointed out, “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?”

Where, indeed.

He continues: “The hero had become a gladiator, granted freedom once he had been satisfactorily flayed and scarred.”

And there you have it. A modern gladiator, now sentenced to coach his tragic touchdown performance on the sidelines. Teaching his odyssey to a younger generation (provided no more than one other teammate participates).

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