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A look at the theme of violence and its role in The Odyssey and Antigone
In The Odyssey, Odysseus quickly rises to the forefront as a victim of violence. And it is typically his personal violent behavior that in turn troubles him later on. When Telemakhos visits Nestor even though investigating his father’s disappearance, the prince of charioteers recounts the value Odysseus would spend for attacking a Trojan town needlessly: “But when we plundered Priam’s town and tower/ and took to the ships, God scattered the Akhaians./ He had a mind to make homecoming hard for them” (III, 140-2). Even though Odysseus is famed for his prowess in battle, the sacking of this town is a outcome of folly, not approach or necessity he and his fleet are consequently punished and forced to stay. However, Nestor, Diomedes, and Menelaos, three Akhaians who have not participated in this foolish act, recognize that the battles they fought during the Trojan War bring them adequate grief and sorrow, and sensibly withdraw from fighting any further. They are permitted by Zeus to escape.
The significance of Odysseus’ mistake of sacking Priam’s town can be witnessed in the long and hard journey he and his fleet are subjected to for the subsequent ten years. If Odysseus does not attack the town, he can anticipate a secure departure from Troy but considering that he does, Odysseus is compelled into his long and perilous journey across the seas. And throughout his exile from residence, Odysseus commits an additional violent act that prolongs his journey to Ithaka. He blinds the Kyklops Polyphemos, son of Poseidon. Again, the use of violence to resolve his issues lengthens Odysseus’ unfortunate and perilous journey to his homeland. Though 1 may attribute Poseidon’s punishment of Odysseus to the reality that he reveals his identity to Polyphemos upon leaving the island, major the Kyklops to beseech his father “that Odysseus, raider of cities, never ever/ see his home” (IX, 578-9), the reality remains that Odysseus’ earlier selection to raid Priam’s town is the trigger of the errors he is making now. Underlying the hubris that gets Odysseus in problems in his exchange with Polyphemos is the reckless, unrewarding violence he resorts to back at Troy.
The illegitimacy of violence in The Odyssey can once again be seen in the revenge cycle that appears both with Poseidon and Odysseus, and the Ithakan king and the suitors. When Poseidon tries Odysseus and throws his ship around the globe, the god of earthquakes is fueled by rage and sadness for the harm done to his child. Poseidon’s grief, fed by Odysseus’ violent doings, feeds his own belligerence and desire to preserve Odysseus away from house and family. The cycle of violence, discomfort, and revenge is unending. When Odysseus decimates the suitors, the extreme vehemence and insensibilities of violence are revisited. Odysseus launches the attack on the suitors in order to restore honor to his loved ones, and, obtaining defeated them, is described by Eurykleia, Penelope’s nurse, as “a lion/ splashed with mire and blood” (XXIII, 49-50). Later, Eupeithes rises to avenge the murder of his son Antinoos and the violent struggle is perpetuated. Odysseus responds by killing him and advancing on the old man’s supporters even as Athena warns all from pursuing “this bitter skirmish” (XXIV, 593). Only at the direct warning of Zeus’ wrath does the son of Laertes command himself and finish the senseless fighting. This ending to The Odyssey suggests that Odysseus’ final actions somewhat lack honor simply because they are uncontrolled and purposeless the violence gets out of hand and threatens to place Odysseus into problems once more. The ending also reminds the audience that violence is such a consuming, effective, hurtful, ineffective answer to conflict and adversity. Violence only begets a lot more violence, and in this way bears none of the honor commonly assigned to Greek warrior heroes.
The inherent tragedy of violence is even far more apparent in Antigone. The opening to the play, which immediately follows the fatal battle in between Eteocles and Polyneices, sets the tone for the rest of Antigone. A violent war in between two brothers starts the tragic cycle that will at some point destroy the whole former and present royal household, and put a curse on Thebes.
The fate that befalls Antigone outcomes from her public defiance of Creon’s mandate that Polyneices not be provided appropriate burial rites or honors. Instead, Antigone’s brother “must be left to lie unwept, unburied,/ For hungry birds of prey to swoop and feast/ On” (28-30). Antigone buries her brother anyway, resulting in Creon’s judgment that she will be executed for insubordination against the state. The deaths that happen later on in the play are the fate that Creon must face for his impiety and opposition to the laws of heaven.
But underlying all the deaths and the problems Creon causes for himself is the very event that begins this domino effect of pain and suffering: the war in between Eteocles and Polyneices. Polyneices wages this war on Thebes to regain honor and energy, marking the starting of a curse that will afflict Thebes and ruin its royalty. The all round misfortune of the characters in Sophocles’ tragedies could be traced back to Oedipus and his fated doom Oedipus leads a life of misery and regret as a result of his destined rule of Thebes, and his descendents naturally carry the burden of his curse right after he has died. Nevertheless, in Antigone, what begins the final stage of the Sophoclean tragedy is a violent clash that ends lives and leads to catastrophe in Thebes.
There is not a lot violence in Antigone in contrast to The Odyssey, wars are not waged and battles are not fought even so, where violence reveals itself a single can detect a disturbing hyperlink amongst tragedy and violence. Every single incident of violence in the play is graphic and unrelenting in gloom. Birds and dogs tear apart Polyneices’ body. Antigone hangs herself in quiet anticipation of reuniting herself with household in hell. Haemon “in remorse…leaned upon the blade/ And drove it half its length into his body” (1234-5). Eurydice does herself in, pressing a sharp-edged dagger via her bosom. Creon begs for death in the end, realizing the error of his rule. When again, violence produces more violence, till at last the gods lift the curse. Regrettably, in Antigone, the curse is lifted only when violence has consumed all.
Violence, an inevitable component of Greek society, reveals its dark shadows and painful legacy in both The Odyssey and Antigone. Although in some circumstances the fighting and warring in poem and play showcase the honor and bravery of violence, the important impression to be drawn from each tales is that violence is 1 of the roots of suffering, adversity, and anguish. Violence, even when carried out honorably, only causes much more violence, and in most circumstances, when regarded as from a distance, is unnecessary and ineffectual. Violence, perhaps noble and fantastic in some circumstances, is in and of itself ignoble, conferring tiny honor to those who engage in it.
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