Aeschylus And Euripides About Woman Roles

Published: 2021-06-14 16:50:04
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Due to the fact of similarities between authors writing in the same place andtime, we often make the mistake of presuming their viewpoints are identical onthe given subject. It would be a mistake to expect Aeschylus’ Agamemnon andEuripides’ Medea to express identical views on the subject; each author had aunique way. The opinions of these two writers on this subject are actuallydifferent. Aeschylus’ plays revolved around ethics, and commonly he presentedas objectively as possible, by asking the audience to judge the ethicalquestions for themselves. Agamemnon is not really about Agamemnon as much as isabout Clytemnestra, his wife. Clytemnestra tells us early on that she hassuffered terribly in her life, and mentions the loss of her daughter Iphigenia.
Aeschylus has making us sympathize with Clytemnestra. After Agamemnon arrives,Clytemnestra treats him almost like a god, insisting on wrapping him in a hugeroyal robe as he descends from his chariot. Agamemnon protests that this kind ofwelcome is unnecessary, but Clytemnestra is insistent, and he finally gives in.

Clytemnestra, however, has an another motive; she uses the huge robe to make itdifficult for him to fight against her; as Clytemnestra later confesses, “Ournever-ending, all embracing net, I cast it/ wide for the royal haul, I coil himround and round/ in the wealth, the robes of doom” (Norton, 559). Oncetrapped, she stabs him three times. Killing a king is a very public act, andClytemnestra makes no effort to hide what she has done. Rather, she comes outinto the public square outside the palace, bearing the bloodstained robe, andtells the Chorus that she has killed their king, and why. Agamemnon hadsacrificed his own child. Despite the fact that Agamemnon looked upon his deedas a public necessity, Clytemnestra saw her daughter’s death as a privateloss, and consequently could not forgive it. The point is that Aeschylus hascreated a woman with whom his audience could sympathize, and whose pain feltreal to them. This was no small effort, considering the fact that in ancientGreece women were looked same as slaves. Euripides, in writing Medea, presentswomen in a much different way. There is a similarity between Euripides’ storyand Aeschylus’; both Clytemnestra and Medea is strong, passionate woman whocommit a horrendous crime. But then the similarity stops. In Agamemnon, weunderstand why Agamemnon did what he did, but somehow we feel that Clytemnestrawas completely justified in planning ten years worth of bitterness against theman who killed her child. And under her circumstances, we completely sympathizewith her desire to kill the man who separated her of the daughter she loved.

Part of the reason we have so much sympathy for Clytemnestra is that Aeschyluspresented her as a tragic character. We feel her pain, she does not seem insaneto us. In the other hand, with Euripides’ Medea is the opposite. In theopening speech the Nurse warns us that Medea is dangerous; she is not presentedlike a suffering creature as much as the wrong woman to mess with. Later, theNurse cautions Medea’s children to stay clear of their mother for a while:”What did I said, my dear children? Your mother Frets her hart and frets heranger. Run away quickly into the house, And well out of her sight. Don’t goanywhere near, but be careful Of the wildness and bitter nature Of that proudmind. Go now run quickly indoors.” (Norton, 644) In the very next speech Medeacurses her children, she is not a nice woman. The reason why we can forgiveClytemnestra but not Medea is based in the innocence or guilt of their victims.

Medea has killed her brother; she kills her husband’s new bride; and later shekills her children. One cannot sympathize with these acts; they are all out ofproportion to Medea’s reasons for doing them; and they clearly show Medea tobe out of her mind. But what does it say about Aeschylus and Euripides’ viewson the role of women? Aeschylus would seem to have a much more open view ofwomen, he gives Clytemnestra some credit. Moreover, he makes her sympatheticenough that even his audience would have understood Clytemnestra’s view, andexcused her one-time intrusion into an area normally reserved for men — seekingvengeance. On the other hand, Euripides seems to fear women, if hischaracterization of Medea is any indication. Medea is not the least human

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