• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

the representation of women in the Greek tragedies

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Discuss the representation of women in any of the tragedies (at least two) you have read so far. For example, (and these are just suggestions): what are the common features of these ancient portrayals of women? Are women portrayed as essentially “different” from men (physically, socially, mentally)? Do women have power, and where can/does it lie? Should one draw distinctions between mortal and immortal women, or living and dead women, or noble and slave women, or married and unmarried women? What (if anything) might these representations of women tell us about the society of men that produced them?

One of the great ironies of Greek tragedy is that it saturated with female characters when actual Athenian women were consigned to the private sphere of the home. The pervasive presence of women in the public domain leads one to question how far these tragedies draw upon female stereotypes in their representation of woman. While many of the plays in one form or another illustrates the female sex as emotionally unstable, motivated by sexual desire, driven by passion and by nature deceptive, one stereotypical trait that is not apparent is the powerless of women. Their ‘feminine wiles’ and their ability to produce legitimate male heirs appear to provide woman in these plays some sort of strength. While undoubtedly the works of the three great playwrights -Euripides, Sophocles, and Aeschylus- are andocentric, their depiction of the ‘fairer sex’ cannot be easily pigeonholed.

...read more.

Middle

   Although initially, Medea’s manipulative qualities appear to engage in the stereotype that this was ‘typical’ of women, the audience cannot condemn her for using this strategy. Confronted with her predicament, Medea has nothing to depend on but what might be termed as traditional female wiles. It is this representation of Medea as an assertive woman who refuses to become yet another female victim in male dominated society that the audience relates and sympathizes with.

   Euripides’s, however, presents another side to Medea’s character with which the audience is undeniably uncomfortable and appalled with.  This representation Medea is derived form Greek mythology.  This Medea was not a common mortal woman; she was a powerful witch, a monster beyond the bonds of rationality. It is this side of Medea’s character that finds revenge more potent than her maternal instincts, a barbarian capable of the most horrendous of crimes. Yet, Euripides’s downplays Medea’s supernatural abilities until the very end when, along with her murdered children she in spirited away in a chariot sent by the Sun god. Euripides’s concealment of Medea’s magical abilities and her emphasis as an ordinary Athenian woman at the opening the play “manipulate[s] the audience into a false sense of both sympathy and empathy.”

The American feminist writer Camille Paglia has suggested that Euripides’s representation of Medea

...read more.

Conclusion

As illustrated above, women in Greek tragedies often played the role of the fetishized victim or the powerful “masculine” avenger. The Greek playwrights also endowed their female characters with many stereotypes usually linked to their gender. The vindictive, irrational, jealous woman is portrayed alongside the submissive placid female. However, Euripides’ occasionally diverts from this typecasting of women as he portrayed an independent and intelligent, and initially sympathetic, female figure. Yet, even the most complex and well-developed female character reinforces the Athenian stereotypes of women’s nature. While whether the male writers were actually misogynists will never be known, several of their plays contain a subtle misogynistic undercurrent. Conspicuously, the majority of Greek tragedies reflect the fear and suspicion held among the Athenian male population about woman. Moreover, female characters assisted in the male construct of identity as they often “serve as anti- models as well as hidden models for the masculine self” and to serve to reinforce the prominence of the ruling male class. However, the representations of woman in most plays do not gratuitously take part in simple ‘female bashing.” The Greek dramatists, most notably Euripides’, often treated woman with great insight and fairness.

...read more.

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Height and Weight of Pupils and other Mayfield High School investigations section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Height and Weight of Pupils and other Mayfield High School investigations essays

  1. the representation of women in Greek tragedies

    Likewise, Greek drama reveals woman as inferior to the male sex and portrays them as creatures to be feared. These representations highlight the misogynic attitudes of the society of men that produced these plays. Greek drama presents a host of compelling female figures that flout the cultural norms of ancient Athenian civilization.

  2. Informal vs. formal speech.

    sharing S's feelings about the upcoming work. In line 11 she gives a different back-channel-behaviour. M says "Hm." to show S that she has realized what she has said. M takes active participation in the next two points. In line 8 she supports S by helping her out with a word.

  1. Is there a difference between male and female conversational styles in today's society?

    what kind of guy you get married to A.B: yeah but what about the family (all participants talking all at once) S.K: it's not like he's gonna treat you like a baby (2 secs) you have to change (all participants talking all at once)

  2. Through analysis of "Indiana Jones- Raiders of the lost Ark" and "Mr. and Mrs. ...

    Smith-15), but Indiana Jones may be more suited to families, whilst Mr. and Mrs. Smith would be more suited for teenagers of the modern generation. The first film, "Indiana Jones- Raiders of the lost Ark" was made in 1981 and was directed by Steven Spielberg.

  1. I believe that women are less threatening and more polite in conversation with members ...

    he is not as considerate to the other speaker's situation as his speech would have the audience believe. This complies with Zimmerman and West's thinking, that this interruption diminishes the status of the female speaker and shows an insufficiency of respect by the male with regards to the female's choice in topic.

  2. Was Plato’s View of the Nature and Capabilites of Women any More Positive than ...

    were the innate qualities we selected as the marks of men who would make good guardians." Although Plato here appears to be showing belief that women can be men's equal, he denies that they could ever be as able as men: "The one gender is far superior to the other in just about every sphere."

  1. Liquid chromatography is a technique used to separate components of a mixture to isolate ...

    In chromatography, spreading by longitudinal diffusion can occur in both the mobile and stationary phases. The mass transfer term, C, arises from slow diffusion of solute molecules into and out of the particles. The contribution to H from C can be minimised by using small-diameter, porous particles or particles having a thin porous shell (pellicular)

  2. Bridget Jones - Contemporary Cultural Icon?

    However, the problem is improving, the media is now producing a more 3 dimensional view of women. Enter Helen Fielding. Ever since 'Bridget Jones Diary' appeared in a newspaper column in the 90's and led on to be a worldwide best selling novel, the character had enjoyed universal success and liberated woman everywhere.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work