Power For Women In Alcestis And Hippolytus

1860 words - 7 pages

Is it feasible that through the loss of one’s life and being, one would be able to gain influence and power? Does this fatal gain of power show a previous lack of it? Does forgoing one’s life for an honorable cause improve a woman’s reputation in turn giving her more power? Through our studies, we have discovered that typically women exhibit a limited amount of agency in ancient Greece. Women occasionally assert dominance in the household; although, even within the home they posses limited influence over their husbands. An interesting theme runs though Euripides theatrical tragedies Alcestis and Hippolytus. In each play the lead female character forgoes her life for the sake of love. In Alcestis, Alcestis willingly gives her life to prevent her husband Admentus' death. In Hipplytus, Phaedra chooses to commits suicide as a result of falling in love with her husband’s son and refusing to be deceitful to her husband. Consequently, is self-professed death a venue for the women to assert authority and gain status and agency? How do their reputations and the reputations of their households affect this increase of power? In ancient Greece, women, through sacrifice of their lives, uphold and improve their reputation through which they increase their influence and power in society, yet although they are praised by society because of these valiant deeds, they are unable to actively reap the benefits of this powerful reputation.

Numerous sources including Euripides’ tragedies show that reputations are held with the highest regard in ancient Greece. It is through people's perceptions that one is judged; therefore, reputation should be upheld at the greatest of costs. Laws of Greek society allow for a man to take revenge into his own hands when his reputation has been challenged. (The Murder of Herodes) A man also takes great care when choosing a wife because her actions assist in establishing his reputation. (Oeconomicus) Therefore, it is with great regard that men and women uphold the public's opinion of them. Furthermore, the women of Euripides’ tragedies are expected to withhold both their individual reputation and the reputation of the household. The importance of withholding one's reputation is stated in each of these tragedies. Admentus shows the importance when in Alcestis he says, “What have I gained by living, friends, when reputation, life and action are all bad" (960). Phaedra reemphasizes the importance of reputation in her speech, “It would always be my choice to have my virtues known and honored. So when I do wrong I could not endure to see a circle of condemning witnesses" (402-404). Consequently, reputation is a highly influential factor in society and it is desirable to uphold one’s reputation.

In the eye of a condemning society, Alcestis improves her reputation through the valiant way she gives her own life for her husband. She courageously does what none of his family...

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