Aeschylus And Euripides About Woman Roles Essay

, Research Paper

Due to the fact of similarities between authors writing in the same place and

time, we often make the mistake of presuming their viewpoints are identical on

the given subject. It would be a mistake to expect Aeschylus? Agamemnon and

Euripides? Medea to express identical views on the subject; each author had a

unique way. The opinions of these two writers on this subject are actually

different. Aeschylus? plays revolved around ethics, and commonly he presented

as objectively as possible, by asking the audience to judge the ethical

questions for themselves. Agamemnon is not really about Agamemnon as much as is

about Clytemnestra, his wife. Clytemnestra tells us early on that she has

suffered terribly in her life, and mentions the loss of her daughter Iphigenia.

Aeschylus has making us sympathize with Clytemnestra. After Agamemnon arrives,

Clytemnestra treats him almost like a god, insisting on wrapping him in a huge

royal robe as he descends from his chariot. Agamemnon protests that this kind of

welcome is unnecessary, but Clytemnestra is insistent, and he finally gives in.

Clytemnestra, however, has an another motive; she uses the huge robe to make it

difficult for him to fight against her; as Clytemnestra later confesses, ?Our

never-ending, all embracing net, I cast it/ wide for the royal haul, I coil him

round and round/ in the wealth, the robes of doom? (Norton, 559). Once

trapped, she stabs him three times. Killing a king is a very public act, and

Clytemnestra makes no effort to hide what she has done. Rather, she comes out

into the public square outside the palace, bearing the bloodstained robe, and

tells the Chorus that she has killed their king, and why. Agamemnon had

sacrificed his own child. Despite the fact that Agamemnon looked upon his deed

as a public necessity, Clytemnestra saw her daughter?s death as a private

loss, and consequently could not forgive it. The point is that Aeschylus has

created a woman with whom his audience could sympathize, and whose pain felt

real to them. This was no small effort, considering the fact that in ancient

Greece women were looked same as slaves. Euripides, in writing Medea, presents

women in a much different way. There is a similarity between Euripides? story

and Aeschylus?; both Clytemnestra and Medea is strong, passionate woman who

commit a horrendous crime. But then the similarity stops. In Agamemnon, we

understand why Agamemnon did what he did, but somehow we feel that Clytemnestra

was completely justified in planning ten years worth of bitterness against the

man who killed her child. And under her circumstances, we completely sympathize

with her desire to kill the man who separated her of the daughter she loved.

Part of the reason we have so much sympathy for Clytemnestra is that Aeschylus

presented her as a tragic character. We feel her pain, she does not seem insane

to us. In the other hand, with Euripides? Medea is the opposite. In the

opening speech the Nurse warns us that Medea is dangerous; she is not presented

like a suffering creature as much as the wrong woman to mess with. Later, the

Nurse cautions Medea?s children to stay clear of their mother for a while:

?What did I said, my dear children? Your mother Frets her hart and frets her

anger. Run away quickly into the house, And well out of her sight. Don?t go

anywhere near, but be careful Of the wildness and bitter nature Of that proud

mind. Go now run quickly indoors.? (Norton, 644) In the very next speech Medea

curses her children, she is not a nice woman. The reason why we can forgive

Clytemnestra but not Medea is based in the innocence or guilt of their victims.

Medea has killed her brother; she kills her husband?s new bride; and later she

kills her children. One cannot sympathize with these acts; they are all out of

proportion to Medea?s reasons for doing them; and they clearly show Medea to

be out of her mind. But what does it say about Aeschylus and Euripides? views

on the role of women? Aeschylus would seem to have a much more open view of

women, he gives Clytemnestra some credit. Moreover, he makes her sympathetic

enough that even his audience would have understood Clytemnestra?s view, and

excused her one-time intrusion into an area normally reserved for men — seeking

vengeance. On the other hand, Euripides seems to fear women, if his

characterization of Medea is any indication. Medea is not the least human being;

she is portrayed as if she were from another planet. She is barbarian, and what

we would now call a cold-blooded killer. Euripides knows that most of the women

of his people are not like that, but he is clearly responding to what he senses

is the ?other?. Because women are not exactly like men, he seems to be

saying, they could be capable of doing something like these. Unfortunately, in

Athenian society Age, there would seem to have been many people who agreed with

Euripides than with Aeschylus. Women had no legal rights; their function, aside

from motherhood, was to see that the home ran smoothly and the lives of their

men were secure and comfortable. From this point, what is truly remarkable is

that Aeschylus managed to make Clytemnestra sympathetic at all.

Maynard Mack, and Editors. The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. Vol.

1. New York: Norton and Company, 1998. Aeschylus (translated by Robert Eagles).

The Orestia. Agamemnon The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. Vol. 1. Ed.

Maynard Mack, and editors. New York: Norton and Company, 1998.


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