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Greek Tragedy

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Introduction

Art and literature has existed throughout time to represent and express cultural values, ideals and perceptions. It often portrays the forces that push one's particular culture onward, mentally stimulating and expanding individual mind and thought. In ancient Greek culture, Art and Literature is combined in a way that represented all of these things to its people. This combination is what we know as ancient Greek Theater, an art of drama and song, with the structure of "spoken portions interlaced with choral lyrics, all concerned with man's fate."1 Greek tragedy is credited to have developed around 534 B.C when the Greek Thespis created drama in which a main actor conversed with the leader of the chorus (this is where the term "thespian" originated, it has been used to describe an actor since the early 19th century).2 Aeschylus, the first of the great 3 tragic poets, added a second actor to his plays and had a chorus of around 12. Sophocles, the second of the great poets, added the third actor and increased the chorus to 15 members. Sophocles is considered to model Greek tragedy, with Aeschylus marking the preparation and Eudripidies the decline. 3 These plays where preformed at Festivals in open-air theaters in which poets competed for prizes. It is widely accepted that these festivals where religious, and honored the Greek god Dionysius (God of Wine). All plays where developed around well-known ancient Greek myth, it was the Poets job to develop character and deepen plot. ...read more.

Middle

His heroic nature is magnified in his persistence for the truth despite the fact that it became quite obvious that gaining further knowledge would end in disaster and self-destruction.12 Peripeteia is when a character produces "an effect opposite to that which he intended to produce." 13Aristotle firmly believed that all good tragedy proposed some peripeteia within its plot. This is perfectly represented within "Oedipus Rex." Oedipus promises his people that he will find the root of the plague that gripped his kingdom. In ancient Greek times, it was believed that illness and plague where signs from the gods that they where upset or a crime against their godly standards had been committed. So as any noble hero would do, Oedipus sets out on a quest for this knowledge. He soon discovers that the murder of Thebe's prior king, Laius, is the root off his city's pollution. He vows to discover the murderer, and sets the punishment of death or banishment to whomever was found guilty. This was his intention. We can also see again that Oedipus is a noble hero, as he is a king and he is willing to go to any ends for his people. These traits would have invoked feelings of respect in the minds of the audience. As Oedipus discovers more information, he draws nearer to the conclusion that it is possible that through self-blindness and ignorance, Oedipus himself is the likely murderer of Laius. Through this step in the play we see that again Oedipus carries the qualities of a tragic hero; his murdering of Laius was due to his self-arrogance and lack of knowledge that the man who he was killing was of high status. ...read more.

Conclusion

But we can also examine the fact that a prophecy existed which laid out the steps that Oedipus would take through out his life. If it where not for Oedipus's knowledge of this prophecy, would he have ever left his home in Corinth, would he have ever murdered Laius, and married his mother? Or we can look even further into Oedipus's past; if Jocasta and Leius had not known of this prophecy, they would never had abandoned Oedipus, and perhaps he would never had committed the sins which it seems he was destined to commit. So again we see a cause and effect chain, knowledge leading to ignorance, ignorance in turn leading to knowledge, blindness to sight, sight to blindness. It is also argued that it was the individual's attempt to escape their fate which was the true crime against the gods. It is at this point we can see how the Cultural Revolution, known as 'The Greek Enlightenment', effected these drama's. It was from this new atmosphere of questioning and individualism in which man started to question the meaning of life beyond the restraints of 'God rules man.' And not only did Greek tragedy come to question the gods, it also questioned what it meant to be human. 18 1 The Complete Plays of Sophocles. 2 http://www.stemnet.nf.ca/~hblake/tragedy1.html 3 http://www.classics.cam.ac.uk/Faculty/tragedy.html 4 www.depthame.brooklyn.cuny.edu 5 15 Greek Plays 6 The Complete Plays of Sophocles 7 www.depthame.brooklyn.cuny.edu 8 9 www.cnr.edu/home/bmcmanus/poetics.html 10 The Complete Plays of Sophocles. 11 The Complete Plays of Sophocles 12 The Complete Plays of Sophocles 13 www.depthame.brooklyn.cuny.edu 12 American Heritage dictionary 15 www.cnr.edu/home/bmcmanus/poetics.html 16 www.cnr.edu/home/bmcmanus/poetics.html 17 http://www.stemnet.nf.ca/~hblake/tragedy1.html 18 http://www.stemnet.nf.ca/~hblake/tragedy1.html ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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