cartoon by Pansy
– Rob Shearer
UPDATE: Several people have emailed me to complain that they don’t “get” the cartoon (aside from the Clinton pun on wench/winch). A “Deus ex machina” is a device from the plays of the ancient Greeks. They invented drama. Several of their playwrights were fond of resolving impossibly complicated situations by “flying in” a god at the very end who tidied up all the loose ends. The actor playing the god was lowered in over the top of the scenery using a winch, called in Greek, a “machina.” Hence, the phrase: “deus ex machina.”
Aristotle (the world’s first drama critic, among other things) was very critical of the playwrights who used this device. He likened it to cheating and insisted that plot complications should be resolved realistically in a way that was internally consistent with the action of the rest of the play and the characters.
Aren’t you glad you asked?