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Greek Tragedies Essay

2304 words - 10 pages

Throughout all of history people have been writing about the temptations of mankind and their rise to glory and honour, which can ultimately lead to their demise. Through the three plays Agamemnon by Aeschylus, Oedipus the King by Sophocles and Hippolytus by Euripides, there are three prevalent themes. These are the role of the gods, the difference between good and evil and human responsibilities. All three of these tragedies reveal the importance of the role the gods play to mankind. The gods have control over mankind and sometimes use them as pawns to achieve their ambitions; the gods also ensure that each individual’s fate is secured. The tragedies also reveal to the audience the ...view middle of the document...

” (51). This demonstrates all of Zeus’ power, not only is he the strongest god, but he can also control and change things to suite his plans. A classic example of a character who cannot escape his destiny is Oedipus in the play Oedipus the King. When Oedipus was born, a Delphic oracle informed his parents, Jocasta and Laius, that their son would murder his father and have an incestuous marriage with his mother. Not wanting to suffer this fate Jocasta and Laius sent their son away with a slave and ordered him to leave the child to die. The slave informed them that he had done what they had ordered him to do, although in actuality he gave their son away to be raised by another family thinking that this would have no affect on the family because they would never find out. Not only do his parents try to change his fate when he is born, but Oedipus tries as well; after hearing about the oracle he ran away from the family he believed were his parents. By running away Oedipus unknowingly sets in affect the course of his fate. David Wiles states in his book An Introduction to Greek Theatre Performance that “Sophocles depicts what is fated and not Oedipus’s moral choices”(98). This shows that although Oedipus was trying to be moral in his decisions, his fate did not allow this to occur. The story of Oedipus demonstrates the power of an individual’s destiny as set out by the gods; no matter how hard a person tries to avoid it, they are resigned to their fate and no course of action can prevent it. Not only do the gods ensure that mortals fulfill their destinies, they also govern the people and make certain that they maintain their sense of mortality.
The gods are the forces that drive the universe and are seen as unforgiving, bitter, vengeful and controlling. They seek revenge on mortals by punishing them for excessive pride which can be seen through the story Agamemnon by Aeschylus. The story of Agamemnon demonstrates the views of the gods regarding excessive pride known as hubris. In this story they punish Agamemnon when he returns home from Troy because he displays too much pride over his victory on the battlefield, this is demonstrating through walking along the tapestries rather than the earth. David Wiles comments on the gods and their views of the Trojan war, “Despite the fine intentions of the individuals, the siege ended in atrocities, and the gods ensured that the victors would in turn become victims”.(98) Initially he is opposed to this idea although when he steps out of his chariot his wife Clytemnestra insists upon it. Before he walks upon the tapestries he says “And as I crush these garments stained from the rich sea/ let no god’s eyes of hatred strike me from afar” (line 946-47). Although Agamemnon is fully aware that the gods may punish him for this act he still does it because he believes that he is worthy to walk upon the tapestries and disregards all possible consequences. The gods view Agamemnon’s act of hubris as a sin against them...

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