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Binary Oppisition Essay

1051 words - 4 pages

Binary Opposition
In Greek tragedy there are many themes that are contrasted with each other. This is known as binary opposition, which s defined as a contrast of themes that are the opposite poles of each other. There are many conflicts in Euripides’ Medea and Bacchae: perhaps the three most conspicuous oppositions are rational versus irrational, foreigner versus natives, and stereotypical dichotomy of female and male.
The first binary opposite in Euripides plays are rational versus irrational thinking, his characters are changing constantly within the plays; there are a couple of characters that stays in a rational thinking which they do not favor any side of the conflict. In Medea, Euripides showed rational thinking through the Chorus, who are married Corinthian women; they lend Medea support in time of need and gives advice as a friend and not as foe, when she would talk and act irrationally (Medea 173-82). The Chorus does agree that “[Jason] wrongs and betrays” Medea by breaking their oath of marriage (Medea 131-42; 208, MLA unit 6 info from). But they do not take it to the extreme thinking as Medea does and explains to her that if she does go through with her plans of revenge that “no city, no friend, will pity [Medea’s] pain” (Medea 657-58). The Chorus even advises her that killing her children and her enemies is wrong and just to “give up [her] plan[s]” (Medea 813).
In the same way, Euripides’ play the Bacchae has rational and irrational thinkers, they are Cadmus the old king and Tiresias the prophet, and on the contrary of rational is the irrational thinkers who are Pentheus the current king and Dionysus the god. Cadmus and Tiresias are the only two men who stay rational throughout the play. They agree that there is no harm done for taking the time from the ordinary day to worshiping the god Dionysus to feel young again (186-88). As they were on their way to worship Dionysus they see Pentheus and stopped to talk with him (212). Pentheus started to speak about how he was out of the city and heard rumors of the women leaving their homes and rather engage in “cult gathering and each lady is slinks off in a different direction” (216-225). He speaks about how “[Semele] lied about her union with Zeus” and that he is not a god (244). But Tiresias replies back to Pentheus that “[w]henever a wise man sets out to argue an honest case it’s no great undertaking to argue well” (266-67). Tiresias also states that Pentheus “rejoice whenever crowds gather at the palace gates and the city glorifies [your] name… Dionysus too, … takes delight in receiving [the same] honor” (319-21). In the mean time Cadmus also explains that “[e]ven if the god does not exist, as you claim, let him be considered a god in your eyes. Lies for good cause… In this way [Semele] might seem to have given birth to a god and honor might accrue to our entire family” (332-36). Equally important, that Pentheus and Dionysus constantly change from rational to irrational...

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