MovieChat Forums > Zorba the GreekĀ (1964) Discussion > Zorba's Encouragement of his boss + the ...

Zorba's Encouragement of his boss + the widow [spoilers]

I've read through the numerous other posts here that discuss the widow's stoning and while I'm still not comfortable with the scene or how it was dealt with in the film, I'm particularly confused as to why Zorba encouraged his boss to visit the widow earlier in the film.

On Christmas eve he points out that even God choose the path that led to Mary, to which Bates replies, "I'm different." Zorba looks after him and says something like "you can knock forever at a deaf man's door." I took this, and the earlier conversation over the rose water he discovers in the chest, to mean Zorba was encouraging a physical relationship between his boss and the widow. Bates was resisting.

After the stoning Basil says "I couldn't help." I'm not certain, but that comment seems to mean he couldn't help himself from visiting her, not that he couldn't help prevent her murder. That is, he seems to understand his role in her death.

My question is why Zorba encouraged Bates to take her as a lover. Given his own association with women I seriously doubt he was suggesting Bates court and marry her. He talks to Bates about passion and seduction, does he truly not understand the danger it will cause? Or does he not care? Besides, isn't Bates' initial instinct not to visit the widow the right one, given the results? That is, hasn't the film proven that while Zorba may survive life's trials, others pay for his care-free ways with their lives?

I would add that one of the reasons that scene is so powerful is that it is also so painfully perplexing. I'm baffled by the united hatred for her; particularly from the other women in the village. But that issue is addressed in other threads here. I'm mostly curious about Zorba's role in this thread.


I think he does mean that he could not help save her.

Had her other suitor not committed suicide I do not think she would have had a fatal reprisal.


why Zorba encouraged Bates to take her as a lover

When Zorba does that, he is in (as a character) his larger-than-life persona as a Ruthless Pronouncer of what the story is presenting as fundamental human truths, fates, and urges. He is the Chorus.

You might even say he's a Dionysiac Chorus.

Consider the scene in which, visiting the little cafe, they briefly glimpse the widow for the first time, and they see the way she is treated as she struggles alone to re-capture her strayed goat. It's a tiny cafe, but as Zorba speaks to Basil, it's as though time stops while Zorba speaks these lines. Look at them, says Zorba - and the camera pans over them as they are gazing out the door and windows, immobile. It's as though Zorba and Basil are, briefly, invisible. Look at them, says Zorba - and he speaks as the Chorus, with the same half-mocking detachment as Fate - they all furiously desire the widow, but only one man in this whole town has the faintest chance of being with her: "_you_."


I see Zorba as being partly at fault for what happened to the widow. He just takes life as he finds it and ignores consequences. He knew the situation was volatile given the resentment of the males of the village against the poor woman, yet he encouraged Basil to pursue her, knowing the restraints women in his culture lived under. I think her only fault was being a widow and beautiful. The women probably resented her for those reasons and the fact that their men were attracted to her. She takes Basil, an outsider for a lover and is hated and punished for that.
Life for Greek women in that time was not easy, and widows had always to be mindful of their reputations.
I saw this movie when it came out, and didn't see Zorba as anyone to admire. For me he is a dirty ne'er do well layabout who lives in the moment.
My heart broke for the widow.


angelosdaughter says > didn't see Zorba as anyone to admire. For me he is a dirty ne'er do well layabout who lives in the moment. My heart broke for the widow.
This is how I saw it too. He contaminated Basil with his ideas about life. I did not like Zorba at all. Basil may have been stereo-typically uptight as Brits are often portrayed but if he was at one extreme Zorba was at the other. Most people live somewhere in the middle where it makes sense. Had they each rubbed off a little on each other they might have both benefited as would the people around them. Basil forgot that one of his goal was to potentially help the town. The only one who he really helped was the selfish Zorba.

He encouraged Basil to live life but because he did not suffer any repercussion he thought that was the way to live. Basil should have known better. He knew it from the very first moment Zorba started pushing him in the widow's direction.

I think her only fault was being a widow and beautiful. The women probably resented her for those reasons and the fact that their men were attracted to her.
I think both the men and the women saw her as a temptress. She was being as rude to the lovesick kid as she could to keep him from getting the wrong idea but it wasn't helping. I think in the eyes of the villagers she was bewitching all of them because, 'of course', they couldn't be to blame.

The women wouldn't hold their husbands responsible, they needed them. The kid was not to blame because he was young and naive so it had to be her fault. In Basil's case she did lure him. This is what Zorba was telling him in the bar. She wanted him. He tried to hide the evidence of the gifts but at that point Basil understood she desired him. This is why he was not harmed.

The way she was with him is how they felt she had been with all of them even though she hadn't. She liked him because unlike the others he was nice to her, treated her with respect, and had no ulterior motives. The fact they were not married would have been a bone of contention for the villagers too. They had to make an example of her to keep their daughters from ever considering that path.

I don't agree with the villagers but I understand why they acted the way they did. They were closed-minded but that's what the lack of education and external contact will do. They may have respected women but divorced women or widows were harder to control than young girls. They had experienced sex and often could be independent. That was a threat to order in the town. The men would chase her leaving their wives and children. Madame Hortense was no different. According to her she had had many lovers, often four at a time. She was an outsider not only because she was a foreigner but also because she did not share their values.

Woman, man! That's the way it should be Tarzan. [Tarzan and his mate]


In many Southern European countries at that time widows were prized because of their experience.

The boy desired the widow but she did not regard him as man enough for her. His bastard of a father kept encouraging him to go after her but she did not want him. The boy killed himself because the widow preferred Basil so bastard Daddy killed her.


The boy's "bastard of a father" (Mavrandoni) did not keep "encouraging him to go after her (the widow)". In fact, he hated his son's infatuation with the widow and knew that she was no good for him.

That was clearer in the book, but even in the film, before Basil slept with the widow, there was one earlier scene in which the son was shown going to her house at night and she told him to go away. He tried to pass her a note, which fell to the ground, and as he tried to retrieve it he was stopped violently by Mavrandoni.