Greek Tragedy

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 17 September 2016

Greek Tragedy

Tragedies are a common genre of literature which began during the ancient. Many narratives or stories found its way to libraries and household shelves in this form. Like other genre’s of literature, tragedies also have standards with which the power of it being an effective tragedy is measured. According to Felski (2008), tragedy is a form of literature that tells of suffering as well as aspects of society which are typically discussed as a social norm. Tragedies present life differently and its effectiveness as a piece of literature relies on its ability to show conflicts which are already existing or yet to exist in society.

Thus, a tragedy may never be considered such if it has no capacity to arouse in people to take note of the conflicts between their self belief and the traditions or norms imposed by the society. The piece must carry an aggressiveness or a form of roughness that will relay the difference to the audience. In the case of popular tragedians, speculations point that among Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, it is Euripides who fail in these standards. While he is the most popular during his time among the three of them, his works are considered lesser a tragedy than that of the other two.

This perhaps is due to the fact that unlike the two, Euripides’ work lacks a certain roughness that opens up the eyes of the audience. It is classy and eloquent in totality, making it more a rhetorical piece rather than poetic. Due to this, critics believe that the pieces are more of a drama rather than a tragedy with sarcasm, irony, and paradox. The nature of Euripides’ works has already created such conversation in the world of tragedy. There had been instances where the speculations are said to have been proven true.

However, reviewing some of the writer’s popular works, there may be found holes in the claims and that despite the eloquence, subtleness, and classiness, Euripides’ works are actually true tragedies. This is based on founded standards of tragedy paralleled with some parts of the writer’s works. Euripides In the world of literature, there are three great names that resound when it comes to matters related to writing tragedies. These three names are Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. All of them are popular in their own right, however, it is Euripides which is said to stand out among the two.

Euripides unlike Aeschylus and Sophocles is a voluminous writer. His works are mostly done in a secluded area in which he can contemplate about norms as well as the ideas he had collected from getting quality education from his tutor, Anaxogoras. This however, is not the writer’s quality which separates him from the other two famous tragedians. The aspect which draws more attention is that Euripides writes in a manner that even the set standards of tragedy are defied. While he effectively conveys his message to the audience, his so called dissemination strategy varies from that of Sophocles and Aeschylus (Bates 1906).

Euripides’ works leave the audience with the impression that what has been presented is both a tragedy and not a tragedy at the same time. The deviant nature is characterized by the eloquence of the work, which radiates a triple combination of confusion, entertainment, and interest. Euripides is thus considered a tragedian who is more rhetorical rather than poetic. The writer’s tragedies are said to be more humane and subtle in touching difficult matters in comparison to the works of the other two writers (Bates 1906). Euripides: A great tragedian

While many are claiming the failure of Euripides as a tragedian, one of the greatest critics in history can stand as witness of its falsehood. In a statement, Aristotle pointed that rather than a failure, Euripides is actually the most effective among the three famous writers. The statement said that Euripides is the most tragic among all the writers. For some, this statement may be interpreted as a negative critic but looking at it more closely, it may be found that the strength of Euripides’s work may actually be found in his being the most tragic of all.

Being the most eloquent and and elegant writer, Euripides is able to reach out the audience better. Through this, the writer is more able to express the pain and the sadness which is the emotion typically invoked by a presentation of a tragedy. The writer feels like no other writer and for this reason even the pain and sadness that seem incomprehensible is easily felt (Hamilton 2009) Not only does Euripides make the world feel the pain and sadness of reality, the writer’s works also make the audience feel the sympathy of the writer with those who are involved in the tragedy being presented.

For instance, in the story of Alcestis, it was shown how death touches the lives of all men and how a death of loved can be the suffering of an entire household (Aldington 2009). The irony, in this story is that despite the pain of the household’s lost, the society’s rules as regards hospitality hindered in the mourning process. It points on how the norms are at times being in the way of personal decisions as well as self beliefs and promises. Euripides’ passion in writing and conveying this message made this piece one of the most memorable ones in the world of Greek tragedies.

This is one of those works which did not have a bad ending. Despite not leaving the story with the main protagonist dead, Euripides was still able to give emphasis on the message he wishes to convey. Had it not been for the elegance of Euripides’ writing Alcestis would have been considered a comedy, given the happy ending it possesses. However, by touching sensitive issues in society, like the need to entertain guests at all costs in the name of hospitality the work remains under the genre of tragedy. The tragedy is not actually the lost of Alcestis but the lack of chance to mourn because of societal duties.

Another reason on which the claim that Euripides is the more effective tragedian is because of his language. The style of his writing being more rhetorical rather than poetical, as well as articulate makes him a very flexible and versatile writer. Most audience who encountered the works of Euripides claimed of being able to relate to his language (Hamilton 2009). Hence the message of all his narratives becomes more easily grasp as compared to that of Aeschylus and Sophocles. It is easily grasp by audience of various generations.

From the ancient times to the early 1900, until today, the writer’s work has the same appeal and effect. It is more acceptable in all aspects and is thus more read by the masses. For the same reason, some of the most famous tragedies included in collections and libraries to this day are authored by Euripides. The versatility of Euripides’ words may be glimpsed in a close look of the works of the writer. It has been found that above all psychic terms used in his work, Euripides chose to use phren and phrenes rather than psyche (Sullivan 2000).

For some this may seem defying the claim of his works being easily understandable. It should be noted, however, that the two terms the writer chose over other psychic terms have more meaning as compared to psyche which is a very common term. This points that the writer’s decision to supply the word in his works is to give the readers or audience a chance to adjust the meaning of terms in relation to how they understand the tragedy. It also points that the meaning of the tragedy may then be morphed into something simpler if necessary or more complex for those audience who desire it as such.

The writer’s choice of words is then not wrong for this gave the stories more meaning depending on the circumstance on which it will be applied by the audience or the reader. As regards the versatility of Euripides’ language and technique present in his works, another interpretation on which the claim may be grounded is the fact that the characters of Euripides, as compared to that of Aeschylus and Sophocles, is presented double sidedly. For instance the the character of Medea is not only an antagonistic woman, scorned and vengeful.

Medea was also presented as a woman with average emotions. These same emotions triggered the tragedy that has come about in her life. The character was introduced as someone people may relate to and later exposed further in order for the message of the writer to be disseminated (Cassius 2010). Hence, by fashioning the characters of the story into an average person, Euripides allowed the people to further understand the meaning in his works. The writer was able to share that difficult situations in life may result to a drastic change in a person or a character.

The effect may be negative. The fact that it was innate, however, makes it more understandable and nothing but a natural reaction or coping mechanism. By starting off the characters as common or typical then the audience easily found reasons on the possible drastic changes in the persona. The audience also easily sympathized with the character. By knowing how things started out to be normal the audience have become more understanding. This is how far the versatility of Euripides’ works goes. It does not only transcend the human mind but also emotion.

It can call for sympathy and grief, the emotions invoked by a tragedy. Thus, there is no arguing that Euripides is an effective tragedian and not as many other critics claim. The effectiveness of Euripides and the power of the writer’s tragedies does not only extend to the audience who listen and watch the presentation of the narratives. Further evidence of the power of the writer’s tragedies is the influence it has on other playwrights. The versatile characters he created and the language the pieces spoke is one which mocked the standards of typical tragedies.

This nature however, also makes the works stronger than any pieces during the writer’s generation. This is evidenced by the admiration of other writer like Aristophanes and Sophocles (Greek Dramatist 2010). Aristophanes and Sophocles are also great writers. Knowing, however, the need for art to be free and presented the way the artist desired it presented, they recognize the genius behind Euripides’ works, as well as the power of the tragedies on its own. The twisted characters and reality in the works make it more real and acceptable.

Even Plutarch dedicated a work for Euripides. In one of his statements, Plutarch indicated the power of Euripides tragedy as a proof to the claim that the effectiveness of a tragedy is enhanced when there is conflict. The man pointed that Athenian prisoners won their liberty through the inspiration relayed through the works of Euripides (Greek Dramatist 2010). The eloquence and being rhetorical rather than poetical of the work made it even more powerful rather than weak as other critics’ claim. Conclusion

Taking into consideration, Gilmour’s claim, where he stated that a tragedy gains its force from being able to confront and challenge established social norms, it may be said that this is not less true in Euripides’ works. Rather, this is exactly what Euripides’ tragedies are. It is effective, powerful, and as the time passes, it gains more strength. There are several proof that points on the effectiveness of the writer’s genius as a tragedian. The very first one among them is the elegance and articulateness of Euripides in writing tragedies.

While the standards indicate that there must be some form of roughness to give emphasis on the message of the piece, Euripides work is rather subtle. This subtleness, however, is the key which made the pieces more understandable for all generations and types of audiences. The technique of the writer made the pieces versatile and more acceptable. The versatility of Euripides’ work is further seen in the characters of his narratives. They are realistic and may easily be understood by the audience. This makes the plays more understood and all events in the story becomes comprehensible.

The third and and probably the best reason why Euripides’ works are actually true tragedies is that they are widely recognized by playwrights and other great writers. This points that what critics are mocking are actually pieces found admirable by other artists. The flaws which critics so greatly emphasizes on are actually the attributes of the work that makes it a piece to be remembered. The tragedies of Euripides are not merely the writer’s means to get personal thoughts out to the public. Their strength which is enhanced by the elegant way of twisting reality and typical occurrences made powerful as a tragedy.

In addition, its ability to show the conflicts between a man’s personal belief and the collective traditions make it even more potent as a piece. The claims of Gilmour is disagreeable. Euripides’ works are even the most tragic among all tragedies despite the said tragi-comedy nature it has. The writers ability to make the audience feel the suffering through his words, his characters as well as the entire story makes its strength undeniable. Thus, the claims of critics of Euripides not being an effective tragedian and his works, not tragedies at all are disagreeable.

While it is true that they are subtle as compared to the works of Sophocles and Aeschylus, they are potent as tragic pieces because they touch matters like social norms, politics, and all flaws of civilization. Annotated Bibliography Felski, R. (2008). Rethinking Tragedy. Johns Hopkins University Press. Maryland. The book tackles the meaning of tragedy as well as some of the standards set for the genre. In the paper, this book is used as reference for the meaning of tragedy and as basis on some of the claims of critics against Euripides. Hamilton, E. (2009). Euripedes. English. emory. com. 28th May, 2010.

Available at <http://english. emory. edu/DRAMA/Euripedes. html> The article discussed the superiority of Euripides’ works against that of other tragedians. Some of the evidence discussed in the paper were derived from the idea of this article. Sullivan, S. D (2000). Euripides’ use of Psychological Terminology. McGill-Queen University Press. Quebec Canada The book is the presentation of the data gathered from the study of the works of Euripides in relation to psychological terms. This reference was used on the paper to point that the choice of words of Euripides is uncommon yet more versatile in nature.

Aldington, R. (2009). Alcestis. Internet Classics Archive. May 31. Available at < http://classics. mit. edu/Euripides/alcestis. html> Bates, A (1906). Life of Euripides. Theatrehistory. com. June 28. Available at < http://www. theatrehistory. com/ancient/euripides001. html> Cassius (2010). Criticism of Euripides’ Technique. Cyberessays. com. May 31. Available at <http://www. cyberessays. com/Term-Paper-on-Criticism-Of-Euripides-Technique/6029/> 2010. Greek Dramatist. Enotes. com. June 1. Available at <http://www. enotes. com/classical-medieval-criticism/euripides>


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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 17 September 2016

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