Tragedies have been a big and important part of Greek culture and history. Greek tragedies are dramas performed before a large audience, usually during festivities of gods, that narrate the story of a hero and all the unusual challenges and sufferings that he has to go through in order to achieve something or learn an important lesson. Tragedies usually have complex plots wherein disasters happen one after the other and their resolutions reveal important lessons or realizations.
These dramas have apparently started around the 5th century BCE, a pivotal time in Greek history that also marked a lot of their other contributions like democracy. Thespis, known as the father of drama, introduced the idea of one actor acting on stage that started the flourishing of tragic dramas (“Greek Tragic Drama”). Later on, three masters of tragedy emerged namely Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. Many of the tragedies that have survived from their time were written by these men who made Greek tragedies a real part of literature.
But tragedies are not merely stories popularized just to be performed before an audience. Tragedies serve as an important expression of culture and creativity of Greek society. They are well supported by the Greek society because tragedies serve as means of reminding the Greeks of the moral lessons values that their culture upholds and believes in. The arrival of tragedies was in Greece was a very significant timing in history because it was around the time when Greek culture gaining momentum and flourishing. The “great surge in creativity catalyzed the concept of the Greek tragedy” (Reed 1).
It encouraged the creation of dramas with crucial themes by presenting them as one of the highlights of festivities. A tragedy usually “depicts the downfall of a noble hero or heroine, usually through some combination of hubris, fate, and the will of the gods” (“Tragedy: the Basics”). Heroes are great men and women but remains imperfect humans capable of doing good and committing mistakes. They are not totally good nor totally bad, but they are usually prominent or greater than other people around them. They are also packaged as people destined to experience big transformations in their lives.
Tragedies became avenues for the creative minds of playwrights to let their imagination and talent out. In the Greek society, tragedies also function as “lessons in behavior” because of the way they incorporate moral teachings into the changes of the lives of the heroes (Reed 1). The trials, successes, failures, and losses that the heroes experience serve as effective teaching tools for the Greeks. Tragedies convey different realities and some of the most common themes they present are that “actions do not go unpunished, and the gods work in mysterious – an often ironic – ways” (Reed 2).
Since the characters of tragedies are not always perfectly virtuous, they are given certain tasks that challenge and influence the actions they take in their lives. The twists in the plots also give constant reminder of the intertwined quality of human life and the power of the wills of the gods. Tragedies function as manifestations of the reality that life is never perfect for men. They also serve as reminders for Greeks of the different experiences that could possibly happen to a human person, giving them idea what path should one take and what should be avoided.
Tragedies are very easy to appreciate despite having heavy themes because they deal with specific instances of life. They revolve around adventures in families, in battles, and in religion. Tragedies usually follow relationships of people with others and with their gods as guides for their plots. Divine presence in everything in this world is a very significant character of Greek culture and many tragedies highlight the importance of faith in one’s daily life.
Tragedies are very important to the Greek society because they give lessons about virtue and warnings how people should live their life morally by using immense disasters that complicate a hero’s life. It is not easy being a hero in a Greek tragedy although “the hero need not die at the end, but he or she must undergo a change in fortune” in order to understand and live out the the different virtues of the Greek society (“Tragedy: the Basics”). The goal of every tragedy is to make the audience see what may come out with good values and what are the probable tragic events for every mistake or wrong action.
These are specific warnings or reminders about life, about the use of power, and about morality as a part of everyday life. “Greek tragedies speak volumes about the lives of those dwelling in this ancient society” (Reed 3). They are representations of what was the culture of Greece in its early years. Through their plots, their characters, and the ideals incorporated in their stories, tragedies are able to preserve the culture and beliefs that the Greeks have. Tragedies have a unique way of teaching and passing on knowledge to people through the presentations on the stage.
The Greeks “responded so well to this approach because their core values are being addressed in a way that enables everyone to participate” (Reed 3). Performed art was very close to the hearts of this creative and rich nation. “Classic Greek drama was a community art, not a business venture” and the dramatists are regarded with high importance in their society (“Greek Tragic Drama”). Tragedies serve the effective purpose of educating people about examples of moral actions, cleansing of souls, and other related religious and virtuous beliefs. Another significance of these tragedies is that they bind the Greeks together as one society.
Tragedies are affairs that serve as a “community gathering largely sponsored by the government”(Reed 1). Presentations usually take a form of contests and have emerged to become annual events in Ancient Greece. Large venues are allotted for them because “performance of tragedies fostered a sense of community amongst the Greek people”and every citizen in the society are expected to witness them. Therefore, performances of tragedies gather thousands of people together to performances that entertain and educate, effectively passing on of political and religious messages promoted in Greek culture.
Although very entertaining and usually presented in festivals, tragedies were not intended only for entertainment purposes only for they also unit the Greeks as one community. “With so many individuals, ranging from prominent politicians to peasants, a tragedy was something all people could share” (Reed 3). In a theater where tragedies are performed, people from different classes, educated or not educated, men and women, are all given the chance to appreciate and witness the tragic dramas.
And through these events, people learn more about the roles of their government, their communities, and their religion in their lives. Tragedies are considered very important and significant in Greek society. Indeed, they are capable of making people more responsible in their roles in their communities and more respectful of their gods. Greek tragedies are also expressions of devotion to their gods because they describe the important role that gods play in the lives of humans. Today, a lot of tragedies still prevails and recognized as some of the most important contributions of the Greek civilization to people.
They were elaborately supported by the Greek society because of the benefits they were able to share in making their community educated, prosperous, and peaceful. Tragedies usually challenge ideas of too much pride, injustice, foolishness, and other human flaws. They encourage knowledge and moral living. Tragedies present frank and definite examples of what happen to people who question the powers of gods or the intentions of the government. Because of this, they are able to nurture a citizenship well aware of the purpose and significance of their culture.
Works Cited “Greek Tragic Drama. ” Memphis University School. n. d. Web. 20 July, 2010. Retrieved from <http://faculty. musowls. org/Sheltont/Literature/HO(gtd). htm>. Reed, Sloane. “The Critical Role Greek Tragedies Played in Greek Society. ” Associated Content. com 13 Nov. 2008. Web. 20 July 2010. Retrieved from <http://www. associatedcontent. com/article/1180307/the_critical_role_greek_tragedies_played_pg3. html? cat=37>. “Tragedy: the Basics. ” Grand Valley State University. 2008. Web. 20 July 2010. Retrieved
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