Great Books Paper 2 - Oresteia Herodotus

Great Books Paper 2 - Oresteia Herodotus - Jerald Shi...

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Jerald Shi Professor James Bos Great Books 191 November 22, 2011 The Oresteia and Histories: Suffering, Wisdom, Violence, and Peace. In the Greek tragic paradigm, pathei, or suffering, is an inevitable topic, as Aeschylus and Herodotus describe time after time. They emphasize that suffering is often an end result of the cycle of koros, ate, hubris, and nemesis, while wisdom is not always prevalent. Adherence to oracles, gods, and dreams can prevent suffering, but characters misinterpret or ignore them frequently, suffer for their misjudgments, and sometimes gain wisdom through their suffering; yet, other characters often fail to learn from these sufferings and suffer themselves because they too misinterpret or ignore others’ experiences and advice. The relationship between wisdom and suffering is that arrogance, a lack of wisdom, or a high position in society is often the cause of suffering, whereas suffering does not always lead to greater wisdom; nevertheless, suffering in itself always resolves itself in eventual peace, whether it arises from the wisdom attained by those who break the tragic cycle and become the strongest in their communities or from the fall attained by those who trap themselves the tragic cycle and destroy their own empires. Suffering is an end result of the Greek tragic cycle. Koros leads to ate , which causes characters to commit acts of hubris . Agamemnon is a prime example of the end result of the cycle. He displays koros in believing himself to be invincible, acting arrogantly by boasting of his great deeds in battle and showing off his mistress Cassandra in front of his wife Clytemnestra. Yet despite his strength, Agamemnon lacks a much more important aspect: wisdom. Clytemnestra exploits his ate by first feigning sadness, “at night [weeping] over the beacons long ago” (Aeschylus, Agamemnon, 855-865) to give the impression that she is a loyal wife. Then, she appeals to Agamemnon’s pride by telling him to step on the purple tapestry because Priam, a man Agamemnon defeated, did (Aeschylus, Agamemnon, 913). Because of this
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act of hubris in which Agamemnon perceives himself as equal to the gods, the gods strike him down to bring suffering for his family, particularly for his son Orestes. Orestes is able to learn from this suffering, though. He gains wisdom from understanding that the curse of pedophagy has befallen the family and that he must be the one to avenge his father, even if it leads to more suffering for him. While he is torn between his mother and the gods’ will, he is wise enough to know that going against the gods will lead to far greater nemesis than killing his mother and continuing the chain of pedophagy will. This allows him to avoid the same death that befalls his father. Even when Clytemnestra shows Orestes her breasts and uses a deeply emotional and symbolic appeal that it was her and her breasts that raised and nurtured
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This note was uploaded on 01/17/2012 for the course GTBOOKS 191 taught by Professor Cameron during the Fall '08 term at University of Michigan.

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Great Books Paper 2 - Oresteia Herodotus - Jerald Shi...

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