Analysis Of Various Greek Plays, Including Antigone. Discussing The Role Of Greek Tragedy Westview/Hillview Essay

1393 words - 6 pages

Ancient Greek Tragedy
Every good story that speaks to the human spirit has conflict. The best stories have various
kinds of conflict, and some of those struggles are internal, rooted in the psyches of fascinating
characters. The Greeks developed internal conflict within their main characters so well that the
the tragedies themselves are riveting. Unlike modern literature where characters are typically torn
between a choice of what is right and a temptation to do wrong, characters of Greek tragedy are
torn between two mutually exclusive virtues. For example, Antigone is a young woman torn
between the virtue of obeying her king and a religious obligation to bury the dead. Both are
right, according to her culture, making this a profound dilemma between two conflicting duties.
Her problem is not choosing right from wrong; it’s that no matter what she chooses, she forsakes
a sacred duty by necessity. The characters in Greek tragedy must choose between two conflicting
loyalties. The audience clearly understands that the actions of the character in question are
wrong but also sees how easily someone can offer justification for their crimes committed. There
is this sense of moral contradiction between being able to still do good when doing something
bad.
In Sophocles “Antigone”, Antigone and Creon are both championing what is right, but they
define rightness through different sets of values, Antigone taking the divine approach. Key
elements of the play occur when Creon finally backs down and listens to the advice he has been
given, turning against the preservation of the kind of order he cherishes. And when Creon finally
recognizes that he has been misguided and that his actions have led to the death of his wife and
GREEK TRAGEDY !1
son. “Good sense is crucial to human happiness. Never fail to respect the gods, for the huge
claims of proud men are always hugely punished - by blows that, as the proud grow old, pound
wisdom through their minds (Antigone, lines 1512-1518). The main context of the play is
Antigone and Creon battling this philosophical war concerning their ideals. In Creon’s argument
with Haimon, Creon seems to be of the opinion that only his judgment, his opinion should
matter, after all he is the king. Therefore the way the people feel doesn’t matter. “Citizens must
obey men in office appointed by the city, both in minor matters and in the great questions of
what is just - even when they think an action unjust…Discipline is what saves the lives of all good
people who stay out of trouble (Antigone, lines 739-750). As a king he disregards the way the
people feel, a mistake in the end.
Agamemnon is torn between two conflicting moral requirements, the need to save his
daughter and the need to pursue the Trojan War. He must decide between the failure of the
whole Trojan enterprise and the life of his daughter. On the one side is his fidelity to the cause of
his brother Menelaus, his duty to the expedition, and his loyalty to...

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