The Three Great Epics Essay Research Paper

The Three Great Epics- Essay, Research Paper

The Three Great Epics-

Three of the greatest literary works are Oedipus the King,

Antigone and the Odyssey. Oedipus the King and Antigone, part of a

three part series, was composed by Sophocles and performed on the

stage during a three day festival. While Odyssey was story written

down by Homer and was one of the first recorded epicsthat was and is

still being read today. The following shall be a comparison between

these three great epics in terms of their similarities and their


In comparing Oedipus the King, Antigone and Odyssey, there is

a similarity between all three of them in terms of the main

characters leadership in response to to situations. In Oedipus the

King, the main character that displays leadership in response to a

situation is Oedipus. In this epic, Oedipus s leadership is greatly

noted, especially in the beginning and into the middle. His

leadership is greatly recognizable when he takes charge when the

Chorus and the Priest ask for his help because of a plague in Thebes.

As a result Oedipus says, In all my search, I have found helpful

course, and that I have taken: I have sent Creon, Son of Menoikeus,

brother of the Queen, to Delphi, Apollo s place of revelation, To

learn there, if he can, What act or pledge of mine may save the

city. (Sophocles pg 153) Once Creon gets back with the word from the

Oracle, Oedipus springs into action when he says, I make this

proclamation to all Thebans: If any man knows by whose hand Laios,

son of Labdakos, met his death, I direct that man to tell me

everything, no matter what he fears for having so long withheld it.

Let it stand as promised that no further trouble will come to him, but

he may leave the land in safety. Moreover: If anyone knows the

murderer to be foreign, let him not keep silent:

He shall have his reward from me. However, if he does conceal it; if

any man fearing for his friend or for himself disobeys this edict,

hear what I propose to do. I solemnly forbid the people of this

country. Where power and throne are mine, ever to receive that man or

speak to him, no matter who he is, or let him join in sacrifice,

lustration, or in prayer. I decree that he be driven from every home,

being, as he is, corruption itself to us: the Delphic Voice of Zeus

has pronounced this revelation. (Sophocles pg 157-158)

Based on all of these statements of Oedipus, it is therefore

agreeable that Oedipus was a strong and a leader that took action.

In the play Antigone, there is a character who responds to situations

with leadership and this character is Creon who is King of Thebes.

After the battle between Polyneices of Argus and Eteocles of Thebes,

Polyneices successfully defends Thebes but he got killed in the battle

as well as his brother. Creon gives a full military honor funeral for

Eteocles for defending the city but as for Polyneices, Creon says,

Polyneices, I say, is to have no burial: no man is to touch him

or say the least prayer for him; he shall lie on the plain, unburied;

and the birds and the scavenging dogs can do with him whatever they

like. This is my command, and you can see the wisdom behind it. As

long as I am King, no traitor is going to be honored with the loyal

man. But whoever shows by word and deed that he is on the side of the

State, he shall have my respect while he is living and my reverence

when he is dead. (Sophocles pg 534) Based on this, Creon shows

excellent leadership under this situation because a war just finished

and to make sure others will not do the same as Polyneices, that is

commit treason, he gives this command so others would heed his

warning and not to do what Polyneices has done. His actions are

justifiable since any good leader would do the same to prevent another

similar war from occurring. In the epic Odyssey, one character

responds to situations with leadership is Odyssey. When Odyssey and

his men find an unknown island, Odyssey takes charge and says to his

men, Old shipmates, friends, the rest of you stand by; I ll make the

crossing in my own ship, with my own company, for they may be wild

savages, and lawless, or hospitable and god fearing men. (Homer p150)

Another situation where Odyssey displays leadership is when he and his

men are trapped in the Cyclops s cave and are at the mercy of the

Cyclops. Instead of just sitting there and letting his men be eaten

alive by this cruel beast, Odyssey hatches a plan. He chopped out a

six foot section of this pole and set it down before his men, who

scraped it; and when they had it smooth, Odyssey hewed it again to

make a stake with a pointed end. (Homer p154) Then Odyssey got the

Cyclops drunk with wine so much that Cyclops collapsed from

intoxication. Then with the wooden stake he and his men bored that

great eye socket while blood ran out around the red hot bar. Eyelid

and lash were seared; the pierced ball hissing broiling, and the roots

popped. (Homer p156) This action of Odyssey shows that even under

any situation, he will always guide his men to the correct course

under his command. Based on these three great epics, they are all in

similar because they characters of each epic have a great common point

in terms of their leadership under situations.

Though these three epics may have a similarity, these epics

greatly differ in with one another in terms of the Greek Gods and

Goddesses roles. In Oedipus the King the Gods and Goddesses play only

a minor role, meaning that they themselves do not participate in the

epic directly in terms of actions but participate based only in terms

of them being only mentioned in the drama and them being mentioned of

their great power and their decrees. Such indications in this epic

are especially noted in the Chorus. In one such example, the Chorus

say, Divine Zeus and Apollo hold perfect intelligence alone of all

tales ever told, and well though diviner works, he works in his own

night. (Sophocles pg 164) Another example is when the Chorus says,

What is god singing in his profound Delphic of gold and

shadow? (Sophocles pg 156) Antigone also similar to Oedipus Rex in

terms of the limited action of the gods and goddesses. Such

indications in Antigone is when the Chorus says, What mortal

arrogance transcends the wrath of zeus? Sleep cannot lill him, nor

he is young forever , and his house is the shining day of high

Olympus. (Sophocles pg 542) Just like in Oedipus Rex, this quotation

in Antigone shows that the gods and goddesses do not directly affect

the characters of the drama but rather they are just talked about.

However in Odyssey, the gods and goddesses play a very active role.

One such example is the conversation between the one of the gods named

Hermes and Odyssey. Hermes says to Odyssey, Why take the inland path

alone, poor seafarer, by hill and dale upon this island all unknown?

Your friends are locked in Kirke s pale; all are become like swine

to see; and if you go set them free you go to stay, and never make

sail for your home upon Thaki. (Homer pg 173) Another incidence of

the gods and goddesses active role in this drama is when Odyssey

spoke to Athena, O Mentor, join me in this fight! Remember how all

my life I ve been devoted to you, friend of my youth! (Homer pg

416) Based on this, Oedipus Rex and Antigone are similar because of

the gods and goddess s limited role in terms of their action unlike

Odyssey, which has a greater role for it s gods and goddesses.

In conclusion the three great epics; Oedipus the King,

Antigone and Odyssey are similar in terms of the characters taking

leadership when the situation demanded it. Also these three epics

differed in terms of the actions of the gods and goddesses and how

they were presented in the epics. Perhaps the reason why these great

epics have endured over thousands of years is perhaps because of their

universal content. Perhaps they have endured because they were just

enjoyable stories to be told around a large gathering. Whatever the

case, these stories provided a source of entertainment for a people

that lived long before technology and for these stories to even make

it in these times is surely must mean it is a great story.

1. Homer. Odyssey. Translator: Robert Fitzgerald. New York:

Vintage Classics 1990

2. Sophocles. Antigone. Translators: Robert Fitzgerald & Dudley

Fitts. New York: Vintage Classics 1990

3. Sophocles. Oedipus the King. Translators: Robert Fitzgerald &

Dudley Fitts. New York: Vintage Classics 1990


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