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The Attitudes of Euripides and Sophocles towards the power of the gods over men and their lives.

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Introduction

The Attitudes of Euripides and Sophocles towards the power of the gods over men and their lives. Medea and Antigone are among the great classical literary pieces of all time, they are masterpieces of language and drama. They have lasted as marvels of the stage for over a millennia, and this gives us cause to ask: What is it that sets these plays apart from the multitudes of Greek tragedies produced during the time? What is it that makes these particular plays "classics"? The only distinguishing feature in literature that one can judge an authors creation by is the effect that it has on the reader. And these two plays leave an irremovable mark on those that witness their performance, this in itself is remarkable, but more significant still is that these plays deal with issues so universal to humanity that they still have an effect on present day readers. Central to the purpose of both authors was the goal of changing how men of the day thought about the deities that ruled them. The two playwrights were of differing eras and so took diametrically opposite stances when it came to their views of the gods and their place. ...read more.

Middle

Thus all the way through the text there are constant references to the power and vengefulness of the gods and constant implications that Creon's actions will bring retribution, as early as line 128 Antigone is hinting at what is to come: "... Live then if you will, Live and defy the holiest laws of heaven" And then again: "The Father of Heaven abhors the proud tongues boasting;" Sophocles attempts to associate the events of the play with the will of the gods go beyond simple hints however. Because all ancient Greek plays were written as a tribute to the gods the audience would expect frequent references to the inevitability of their will, hence if the author of a play intended to make a particular point regarding this it is necessary to spell it out to the audience. Sophocles arranges this through the introduction of the prophet. The prophet is a literary tool used by Sophocles to confirm in the audiences mind that the events at the conclusion of the play are as indeed a vengeance from the gods in response for Creon's actions. ...read more.

Conclusion

He chose to write of the story of Medea, but added an unforseen twist to the well known tale, instead of having Medea's enemies slay the children, he re-wrote the tale, this time having her kill her own children. Having constructed this sin, he proceeds to manipulate the audience a word at a time to see Medea's actions as something that could never go unpunished by the heavens. This might not be quite as confronting to the modern reader, but we must understand that the audience of the time would already have known the course of the legend, and would so have been expecting a very different tale to the one that was told on Euripides stage. When Medea's story changes its focus to the death of the children, Euripides makes it abundantly clear that the gods are in full support of her actions because of Jason's oath breaking. This would create for the audience a contradiction in the interests of the gods, they would have found that the idea that the gods should support Medea to be almost mutually contradictory to the idea of her killing her children. Euripides and Sophocles hold diametrically opposing views of the place of the gods in Ancient Greek society, their differing views on theocracy are abundantly evident in their plays. Matt Jackson. ...read more.

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