Lecture 18 - Cracks in the Heroic Code: Sophocles Ajax...

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Cracks in the Heroic Code: Sophocles’ Ajax 11/06/08
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Homer and the Trojan War Symbiotic relationship: the war is famous because of the poet, but the poet is famous because of glorifying the war Homer’s epics – primary purpose is to glorify the heroes and their exploits in the Trojan war Homer portrays the war as a horrific but essential part of the heroes’ world The only way for heroes to acquire immortal glory ( kleos ) is to fight in the war AND be glorified in epic for fighting in the war
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Homer and the Heroic Code A set of unofficial rules/expectations by which the heroes live: 1. Glory is more important than anything else, and is tied to personal honor 2. One’s glory and honor are enhanced through excellence in battle AND through token prizes that recognize that excellence 3. Hand-to-hand combat is more honorable than archery, and results in more glory 4. Two types of activities in which the heroes should ideally excel: fighting and council 5. Appearance matters!
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Potential Problems in Homer’s Heroic Code In its nature, the heroic code over-values individual accomplishment and selfishness anti-hoplite While the Greek heroes are fighting for individual glory, the Trojan heroes are mainly concerned about collective survival! All the heroes want to be the best, but there is only ONE who can be the best internal competition For Homeric heroes, their families and continuation of the line takes second place to pursuit of individual glory doomed to die out
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The Trojan War in Athenian Tragedy Tragedy zooms in on what doesn’t work in any given situation, rather than on what works Athenian tragedy highly political in nature, and focuses on events in Trojan war relevant to contemporary 5 th century Ath. politics Outright condemnation of war Portrays war as creating monsters and victims, rather than heroes reversal of Homer Shows suffering of heroes because of their adherence to the heroic code Shows the soldiers as not wanting to fight
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Heroes of the Trojan War as Tragic Heroes Aeschylus – Memnon, Ajax, Odysseus, (each was subject of a trilogy), Agamemnon Sophocles – Ajax, Philoctetes, Ajax the Locrian Euripides – Rhesus, Philoctetes, Alexandros (Paris) Chaeremon (1 st half of 4 th century BC) – Achilles Slayer of Thersites
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Athenian Drama and Political Participation Athenian tragedy – attending tragic performance as much a political act or more so than voting or participating in the Assembly of citizens Layers of participation and connection to army: 1. Soldier-citizens in the audience 2. Soldier-citizen characters on the stage, being played by actual Athenian soldier-citizens, and using the same language that real Ath. soldier- citizens would have used 3. Temp. release from military service for chorus members
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Athens in Athenian Tragedy Audiences identify best with characters/issues relevant to their lives necessity to update myths
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This note was uploaded on 08/31/2010 for the course CC 32770 taught by Professor Popov-reynolds during the Spring '10 term at University of Texas at Austin.

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Lecture 18 - Cracks in the Heroic Code: Sophocles Ajax...

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