Greek Tragedy : Female Characters That Symbolize Women

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Greek tragedy incorporates female characters that symbolize women in Ancient Greece. Through the portrayal of Antigone in the playwright, Antigone in Antigone by Sophocles and Penelope in the epic poem, The Odyssey by Homer, these two women play opposing roles depicting how they appear to society through their actions. In both of these stories, they embody the ideals of passionate women who are very loyal and brave. Through other female characters in each story such as Penelope and Ismene, we can construct a better view of traits illustrated by Antigone and Penelope. In Antigone, Antigone is the heroine who demonstrates the qualities of loyalty and bravery. Creon, the leader of Thebes, has declared that Polyneices cannot be given the proper burial since he went against his own city. But, Antigone took it upon herself to give her brother a proper burial so he can ascend to the afterlife. Right at the beginning of the play it is made apparent that she is willing to fight Creon, the state law, in order to what she thinks is right, the divine law. In the play, Antigone talking to Ismene states: “I’ll lie there, dear to him, with my dear friend, when I’ve / performed this crime of piety, for I must please / those down below a longer time than those up here” (Antigone, Page 23, Line 73-75). This example right away shows how she believes that it is better to bury her brother than succumb to the law that has been created for society to follow. This action of taking it upon her self to bury her brother separates her from all of the other characters because she is shown with the power and bravery to dispute a king. On top of that she exhibits the loyalty to her family over what the law has to say. Through the words of Creon, we are given... ... middle of paper ... ...mnestra is when Odysseus sees him in the underworld and he states, “So, there’s nothing more deadly, bestial of a woman / set on works like these – what a monstrous thing / she plotted, slaughtered her own lawful husband! … But she – the queen hell-bent on outrage – bathes in shame” (Homer, Odyssey, Book 12. Lines 484-490). Agamemnon’s description alone shows just how disloyal Clytemnestra was compared to Penelope and how her [Clytemnestra] way of dealing with her husband being away differed completely from the way Penelope dealt with it. Through the eyes of The Odyssey and Antigone, we are able to visualize and piece together how society viewed women and their roles, and how those women differed in their actions and beliefs with a big emphasis on loyalty, whether it was loyalty to the family, like Antigone, or loyalty towards your husband, like Penelope.
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