Iliad and Oedipus The role of women in society has been a matter of much debate and while the gender equal world of our time stresses upon equality for men and women, this was not the case in earlier ages. From Classical Antiquity to the early years of the 20th century, women were marginalized and treated as inferior to men, and their life was regulated by laws and norms and conventions stipulated by men. The works of Classical Greek philosophers and dramatists is testimony to the subjugation of women in those periods too, but it is also worth noting that women were integral to the action in Greek drama and thought, although they did not occupy as relevant a position in real society. The role of women, as conceived by Homer and articulated in his epic poem Iliad, and the position of women as perceived by Sophocles in the play Oedipus Rex reveals that in spite of the inferior position ascribed to women, they held sway in several matters due to the influence which a women could exert on a man in her position as wife, mother and daughter. Women, as goddesses were also very powerful in that they could influence mortals, especially warriors to behave in a manner which they believed was right.
That is, “the feminist critic may assume that the images of... ... middle of paper ... ...ial and cultural evidence of the role of women in ancient Greece. Despite the fact that he is indeed a man, Aristophanes does a good job capturing certain aspects of his female characters: their drive to succeed, their natural coquettishness, the general desire to end war diplomatically, and their devout servitude to the gods. Aristophanes also has a very firm grasp of the social situation of women in his time. For example, he knows where the line of rebellion would be drawn: if the husbands forced the wives into having sex, they must relent. He knows how the ultimately defer to their husbands’ judgment, particularly in political matters.
Aristophanes manipulates the Athenian reality by operating on common stereotypes of women, adding to the comic element but also highlighting the gaping gender division that existed in everyday life. In this comic utopian ideal, women are able to overcome their lack of agency in the public sphere by juxtaposing their domestic (primarily sexual) power with the general polis. It is important to note that in ancient literary portrayals of women, men depict women according to their perceptions and the common social stereotypes. Although this may, in some cases, create a certain amount of discrepancy between the depiction of women and their actual life, it can still be a beneficial tool to understand their attitudes and struggles. As Henderson writes, “…even by itself the male view is interesting: it enables us to study the rules and roles that men created for women and to glimpse the desires and fears that prompted their enforcement” (20).
"Silence is a woman's glory." Although this may have held true during the times of ancient Greeks, and although the un-silence of a woman is her glory today, one finds within Greek political theory, a critique of the idea. Regardless of that the ancient code for how women should be, especially exemplified in Athenian culture, philosophers, especially Euripides have questioned this idea in relation to the idea of Athenian democracy. I will use Aristotle's Politics, Suppliant Women and Children of Heracles by Euripides to show that although women weren't technically "citizens", they spoke and acted as if they were. Euripides's plays portray women who have the abilities to act politically.
Clytemnestra is one of Greek literature’s most famous villains while Aphrodite is seen as one of the most desirable women in literature. Greek Goddesses are celebrated for their manlike traits where as human females are thought to be undesirable for them. This relationship further proves that gods and goddesses are superior not only in power but also in social status. By comparing Aechylus’ Agamemnon with The Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite we can see how in ancient Greece, literature taught women to be inferior by showing them consequences of female actions to keep women in their subordinate positions in society. Clytemnestra is the anti-feminine queen in Agamemnon, which the reader (at least the ancient Greek) would have hated for stepping outside her place as a woman.
Creon takes swift control over Oedipus’ actions much like an Athenian man would for an unmarried woman. Ormand offers the idea of Oedipus in his current state isn’t fit to rule and so Creon steps up; stating Oedipus is the master of nothing. Moving on, Ormand states that ancient Athenians might have had gender specific social cues. For instance, women were more likely to gossip or masturbate (due to the belief that women had a lack sexual self-control). Ormand also notes that in comedies play upon the fact that the true gender of would-be imposters would keep recurring.
Whither can I fly, since all Greece hates the barbarian?" Her femininity was also be pacified by being played by a male actor, but perhaps most significantly Medea was written by a man. Euripides could be guilty of being too modern for his time, quite possibly explained by the later success of Medea after his death. He applied a focus on the realism of his character and created a realistic woman with recognizable emotions. She is neither hero nor villain and exists outside the pre-established constructs of character in Greek tragedy.
George Orwell displays a tendency to disregard women in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, showing none of his female characters to ever be equal to a male character, whether physically or intellectually. Orwell's portrayal of women shows them in a very unflattering light. Firstly, the female characters base the relationships they form solely on sex and are unwilling to form any other type of relationship. Furthermore, the women are all two dimensional characters, lacking the brains and personalities the male characters all posses. Finally, women are presented as having no interest in world issues and no differences of opinion with the Party on anything that truly matters.
Portrayal of Women in Antigone Although ancient Greece was a male-dominate society, Sophocles' work Antigone, portrays women as being strong and capable of making wise decisions. In this famous tragedy, Sophocles uses the characters Ismene and Antigone to show the different characteristics and roles that woman are typical of interpreting. Traditionally women are characterized as weak and subordinate and Ismene is portrayed in this way. Through the character of Antigone, women finally get to present realistic viewpoints about their character. The sexist stereotypes presented in this tragedy address many perspectives of men at this time.
The Strong Women in The Orestia by Aeschylus To most readers, the women of The Orestia are evil and vindictive, a disgrace to all chaste and righteous women. Aeschylus portrayed women as equals to men, which was not the opinion of most Greeks at the time. Although he showed some of his women characters as evil, he granted them power, and emasculated the men around them. Unlike Homer, the women of Aeschylus show both ranges of emotions, both the good and the bad. A woman portrayed as a villain may be thought of negatively, but the fact that a female is allowed to be the villain, to take action, and leave other men helpless to the choices that she makes, it is a great step.