Thematic Antithesis In Greek Tragedies Essay

1565 words - 6 pages

Thematic Antithesis in Greek Tragedies
The binary oppositions in Euripides plays, Medea and Bacchae, emphasize the structural techniques seen throughout both of the plays works are “[described as] a pair of theoretical opposites or thematic contrasts” (Marvin 1). The themes are highly symmetrical throughout and typical of the structure of Greek tragedies. Euripides use of thematic antithesis gives greater irony within Greek plays. The gender roles of female and male challenge the traditional stereotypical roles as observed in Greek society, and when those roles are crossed or blurred, the rational becomes irrational and the order of civilized Greek society itself falls into disorder.
Euripides manipulates the characters, through contrast, to explore or challenge Greek society’s gender roles of female and male behavior through the stereotypes that are established within his plays. In the play Medea, we observe the protagonist challenging the traditional patriarchal system of Greek society and empowering herself throughout the play using the stereotype of feminine behavior in order to manipulate the males (Barlow 163) We observe this through her manipulation of King Creon. The king states, “I order you to go from this land”[;] she then is able to manipulate the king, successfully, for another day (272). The empowerment through this exchange is viewed when the king states, “[W]hy are you applying force, refusing to release my hand?” (339) This line is the first sign of Medea taking control of her destiny, no longer allowing the males to determine it for her. As Barlow points out, “Medea’s ability to “[dissociate] herself not just with women’s stereotypes as they are commonly accepted by women as well as men, but more importantly from the myths and fictions that men particularly propagate about women” and use it to her advantage (160). She then manipulates Jason, who is cautious but confident within his male supremacy, allowing himself to be swayed into believing that she means no harm to him or his new wife. Podlecki points out that “[A] new, and false, note of submissiveness on Medea’s part” allows Jason to be lulled into a false sense of security (74; note 970). She then uses the words “that you bring up the children yourself: A master-stroke by Medea, appealing to Jason’s fatherly instincts,” which results in the death of his bride and her father (73; note 939). The empowerment she gains throughout the play allows her to break free of the expectation for women in Greek society of tending the home and raising the children. This empowerment manifests itself physically, allowing her to commit her final act of revenge, usually reserved for men, to murder her own two children in order to promote the suffering of Jason. Further evidence of female empowerment over the male is seen within the Bacchae when the townswomen leave their homes to head up to Mt. Cithaeron. The devotion to the god Dionysus gives the women of Thebes the...

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