Midterm Exam - Question 2
Homer composed the epic poem Iliad, with its tragic tale set during the final years of the Trojan War, after the dark ages in Greek history. Three centuries later, Sophocles produced the Athenian tragedies Oedipus the King and Antigone, contributing to the development of Greek drama. Despite the vast contrasts between the two authors, Homer and Sophocles portrayed the female characters as secondary roles to the gallant heroes of their narratives. Homer created passive female characters with no control over the course of the tale with the exception of the goddesses; whereas, Sophocles painted his female characters opinionated and strong willed, yet inferior to the protagonists nonetheless.
Homer: Frail Women, Powerful Goddesses
Although Homer primarily focused on the societal conflicts between the valiant heroes, the poet fashioned his female characters into supporting roles. The Greeks regarded the Iliad as a source of ancient wisdom about how human beings should live. The varied female characters in Iliad clearly reflects the influence of the story on the Greek society, and the society’s perspective towards women as well.
Firstly, the two women that Homer introduces the readers, Chryseis and Briseis, belongs to Agamemnon and Achilles respectively. The story of Iliad begins with Greeks suffering due to the plague from the wrath of Apollo, after Agamemnon denied Chryses’ plea to return his daughter, Chryseis for ransom. As Agamemnon claims that he ranked her higher than his wife Clytemnestra, the poet’s view on an ideal women is revealed: “she’s nothing less / in build, breeding, in mind or works of hand” (Iliad, Homer, B. I, p. 81, 133-134). In the Greek soci...
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...ossessed through their works. Homer manifested the distinct gender roles that society cut out for women, as the fair, intelligent women who were skilled at weaving were considered excellent, with only the exception of goddesses. Sophocles made his female characters more willful than Homer, yet fragile. Throughout the dark ages in Greek history and later in the classical period, Greek society considered women inferior to men with passive roles at their household and in the society.
Homer. The Iliad. Trans. Robert Fagles. London: Penguin, 1998. Print.
Jaeckle, Daniel. "Homer 's Illiad I-III, Sophocle 's Oedipus the King, Sophocle 's Antigone."
HUMA 4312. University of Houston-Victoria, Victoria. 12 Oct. 2015. Lecture.
Sophocles. The Three Theban Plays: Antigone, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus. Trans.
Robert Fagles. London: Penguin, 1984. Print.
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