The great cycles of heroic legends furnished the principal subjects of Attic tragedy. For him those heroes who were the common pride of the Greek race are true demigods. In his dramas they stand as close to the gods as in the Iliad; and more than in the Iliad do they tower above men. With him their distinctive attribute is majesty; a majesty rather Titanic than in the proper Greek sense heroic. What, it may be asked, is the basis of this Titanic majesty? It would be easy to say that the effect is wrought partly by pomp and weight of language, partly by vagueness of outline.
But the essential reason appears to be another. The central idea of Greek tragedy is the conflict between free-will and fate. No subtle contrivance, no complexity of purposes, breaks the direct shock of the collision between man and destiny.
Agamemnon before the Fury of his house is even as Prometheus facing Zeus. In his mid-career, about ten years before his Oresteia , the so-called relics of Theseus found at Scyros were brought to Athens by Cimon and laid in a shrine specially built for them. The distinctly religious enthusiasm then shown implies the old faith.
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The national religion was now all but dead. By the side of philosophic scepticism had come up the spurious scepticism which teachers of rhetoric had made popular. The devotional need, so far as it was felt, was usually satisfied by rituals or mysteries brought in from abroad; the old creed was not often attacked, but there was a tacit understanding among "able" men that it was to be taken allegorically; and a dim, silently spreading sense of this had further weakened its hold upon the people.
What, then, was a tragic poet to do? The drama was an act of worship; the consecrated mythology must still supply the greatest number of its subjects. Euripides solved the problem partly by realism, partly by antiquarianism. He presented the hero as a man, reflecting the mind as well as speaking the dialect of the day; and he made the legend, where he could, illustrate local Attic tradition. The reason why this treatment failed, so far as it failed, has not always been accurately stated. Euripides has sometimes been judged as if his poetical fault had been in bringing down half-gods to the level of men and surrounding them with mean and ludicrous troubles.
But the very strength of Euripides lay in a deep and tender compassion for human suffering: if he had done nothing worse to his heroes than to give them rags and crutches, his power could have kept for them at least the sympathy due to the sordid miseries of men; he would only have substituted a severely human for an ideal pathos. His real fault lay in the admission of sophistic debate. A drama cannot be an artistic whole in which the powers supposed to control the issues of the action represent a given theory of moral government, while the agents are from time to time employing the resources of rhetorical logic to prove that this theory is either false or doubtful.
The heroic persons of the Sophoclean drama are at once human and ideal.
They are made human by the distinct and continuous portrayal of their chief feelings, impulses, and motives. Their ideality is preserved chiefly in two ways. First, the poet avoids too minute a moral analysis; and so each character, while its main tendencies are exhibited, still remains generic, a type rather than a portrait.
On the other hand, there is no trace of that competition between free thought and the principle of authority which is often so jarring in the plots of Euripides. In the dramas of Sophocles there is perfect unity of moral government; and the development of human motives, while it heightens the interest of the action, serves to illustrate the power of the gods. The goddess Athene, whom he had angered by arrogance, had seized the opportunity of his disappointment and rage to strike him with madness.
In this frenzy he had fallen upon the flocks and herds of the Greek army on the plain of Troy, and had butchered or tortured them, thinking that he was wreaking vengeance on his enemies. When he comes to his senses, he is overpowered by a sense of his disgrace, and destroys himself. The central person of this drama becomes human in the hands of Sophocles by the natural delineation of his anguish on the return to sanity. Ajax feels the new shame added to his repulse as any man of honour would feel it. An ideal or heroic character is lent to him, partly by the grandeur with which two feelings—remorse, and the sense that his dishonour must be effaced by death—absolutely predominate over all other emotions, as over pity for Tecmessa and his son; chiefly by his terrible nearness to Athene, as one whom with her own voice she had once urged to battle, promising her aid—when, face to face with her, he vaunted his independence of her, and provoked her anger;—then, as the blinded victim whom she, his pretended ally, had stung into the senseless slaughter—lastly, as the conscious, broken-hearted sufferer of her chastisement.
In the farewell of Ajax to Tecmessa and the seamen who had come with him from Salamis to Troy—a farewell really final, but disguised as temporary under a sustained though possibly unconscious irony—the human and the heroic elements are thus blended:—.
- Sophocles' Electra;
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For even I, I once so wondrous firm, like iron in the dipping felt my keen edge dulled by yon woman's words; and I have ruth to leave her a widow with my foes, and the boy an orphan. But I will go to the sea-waters and the meadows by the shore, that in the purging of my stains I may flee the heavy anger of the goddess Of course, dread things and things most potent bow to office.
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Thus it is that the snow-strewn winters give place to fruitful summer; and thus Night's weary round makes room for Day with her white horses to kindle light; and the breath of dreadful winds at last gives slumber to the groaning sea; and, like the rest, almighty Sleep looses whom he has bound, nor holds with an eternal grasp. And we , shall we not learn discretion? I chiefly, for I have newly learned that our enemy is to be hated but so far as one who will hereafter be a friend; and towards a friend I would wish so far to show aid and service as knowing that he will not always abide.
For to most men the haven of friendship is false. But all this will be well. And do ye, friends, honour my wishes even as she does, and bid Teucer, when he come, have care for me and good-will to you as well. For I will go whither I must pass,—but do ye what I bid; and perchance, perchance, though now I suffer, ye will hear that I have found rest. And how thoroughly answering to this is the tone in which the priest, the leader of the suppliants, tells the trouble and the faith of Thebes:—. Do thou, then, grudge neither voice of birds nor any other way of seer-lore that thou hast, but save thyself and the state and me, and take away all the taint of the dead.
For in thee is our hope; and a man's noblest task is to help others by his best means and powers. And now the human element of the history has been worked out. And yet thus much I know, that neither sickness nor aught else shall destroy me; for I should never have been saved on the verge of death except for some strange ill. For the man was ushered forth, not with groans nor in sickness or pain, but beyond all mortals, wondrously.
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What follows is thus told:—. But when the flame of sacrifice began to blaze from the holy offerings and from the resinous wood, sweat broke out upon his flesh, and the tunic clung to his sides, and at every joint, close-glued as if by workman's hand; and there came a biting pain twitching at his bones; and then the venom as of a deadly, cruel adder began to eat him. Then Heracles, as he heard it, and as a piercing spasm clutched his lungs, caught him by the foot, where the ankle hinges in the socket, and flung him at a rock washed on both sides by the sea; and Lichas has his white brain oozing through his hair, as the skull is cloven and the blood scattered therewith.
Presently Heracles himself is brought before the eyes of the spectators. In the lamentation wrung from him by his torment two strains are clear above the rest, and each is a strain of thoroughly human anguish. He contrasts the strength in which, through life, he has been the champion of helpless men—"ofttimes on the sea and in all forests ridding them of plagues"—with his own helpless misery in this hour; and he contrasts the greatness of the work to which he had seemed called with the weakness of the agent who has arrested it:—.
Glued to my sides, it has eaten away my flesh to the bone; it is ever with me, sucking the channels of my breath; already it has drained my vigorous blood, and in all my body I am marred, the thrall of these unutterable bonds. Not the warrior on the battle-field, not the giant's earthborn host, nor the might of wild beasts, nor Hellas, nor the land of the alien, nor all the lands that I have visited and purged, have done unto me thus; but a woman, a weak woman, born not to the strength of man, alone, alone has struck me down without a sword.
O King, O Father, dash, hurl thy thunderbolt upon me! Again the pest eats me—it has blazed up, it has started into fury! And of other toils ten thousand I had taste, and no man got a trophy from my hands. But now with joint thus wrenched from joint, with frame torn to shreds, I have been wrecked by this blind curse—I, who am named son of noblest mother—I, who was called the offspring of starry Zeus!
Anon he learns that the venom which is devouring him is the poisoned blood of his old enemy, the Centaur Nessus.
A Comparison of Sophocles and Euripides Versions of Electra
That knowledge gives him at once the calm certainty of death; and now, in the nearness of the passage to his Father, there arises, triumphant over bodily torment, the innate, tranquil strength of his immortal origin. He sees in this last chapter of his earthly ordeal the foreordained purpose of Zeus:—. So this monster, the Centaur, even as the god's will had been foreshown, slew me, a living man, when he was dead. As generation after generation came to the struggle with plagues against which there arose no new deliverer, weary eyes must often have been turned to the height on which the first champion of men had won his late release from the steadfast malignity of fate; where, in the words of the Chorus foreboding the return of Philoctetes to Trachis, "the great warrior, wrapt in heavenly fire, drew near to all the gods.
Sophocles's Electra Vs. Euripides's Electra Essays - Greek Mythology
One aspect of the poetry of Sophocles has now been noticed; the character of the treatment applied by him to those legends which supplied the chief material of Greek tragedy. But this change of feeling towards the myths is not the only change of which account has to be taken.
The spirit of dramatic poetry was influenced, less directly, yet broadly, by the current of political change. At the beginning of the fifth century B. Athens was a limited democracy; at the close of the century it was an absolute democracy. Three periods may be marked in the transition. The first includes the new growth of democracy at Athens, springing from the common effort against Persia—the reform of Aristeides and the reform of Pericles.
Its net result was the formal maturing of the democracy by the removal of a few old limitations. In dystopian Ancient Greek tragedian literature Euripides used powerful theatrical form of art to show everything being unpleasant or in bad standing to Athenian audiences Euripides and Kalidasa have some of the best known literary works in their respective cultures and throughout the world.
Kalidasa introduces readers to the beauty of Indian writing, creating a remarkable piece in a play on a famous Hindu text Not many know or understand the Greeks and their ways of living, but it is the way Greeks get their entertainment they did not have movie theaters like we do today where we can just go and pay to sit and watch a movie on a big screen. Greek theatre or tragedy , was a popular and influential form of drama performed in theatres across ancient Greece. Starting in the late 6th century BCE. A more formal definition is a play in which the protagonist, usually a man of importance and outstanding personal qualities, falls to disaster through the combination of a personal failing and circumstances with which he cannot deal It offers us a look at how the Greeks lived in a completely different culture to ours.
It also shows us how important religion was to them and how they worshipped different gods to us; it is very interesting because this is how theatre started off in ancient Greece.
From choosing a piece of drama this old, we can see how our theatre today has developed from previous ideas and techniques Free Essays words 4. Essay Preview. Read Full Essay Click the button above to view the complete essay, speech, term paper, or research paper. Need Writing Help? The chorus has also been used to influence the minds of the actors. The chorus in Antigone has little role in influencing the emotions of the audience.
They enter the play and introduce Creon to the audience also creating a doubt in the mind of the viewers of his immediate plans which made him call the old Theban men. The chorus is also given the responsibility of informing the viewers of the status of Ismene over her sister being caught denying the law. The chorus takes its responsibility of burying the dead while propagating the importance of wisdom. I sympathise with them. Further in the play when Creon banishes Medea and her sons from the kingdom and gives them only one day in Corinth, the chorus enlightens the audience of the troubles she faces after being banished from the land which gave her refuge.
This increases the sense of sympathy from the audience towards Medea. The same feeling would have developed among the audience to know whether she is actually committing the sin. The chorus in Antigone also plays the major role of influencing the decisions of Creon and making Antigone realize her mistake. However, this was only responded with anger by Creon who warned the chorus that they might prove it insane and senile as the Gods will not give an honorable burial to the person who came to burn their temples and pillars.
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