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Greek Tragedy Vs Shakespeare Tragedy Essay

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Updated: Nov 25th, 2021

Introduction

The focal point of this paper is to analyze and evaluate the similarities and differences between Greek Tragedy and Shakespeare Tragedy. As a representative of Greek Tragedy the play selected is Antigone by Sophocles and Othello is the Shakespeare Tragedy. It should be noted that there are several similarities between the two in terms of characters and their ego, of justice, loyalty and love. However, there is also a fundamental difference between the two. Antigone is classical tragedy while Othello is romantic drama that ends in tragedy.

Main body

In the play Antigone, it is an interesting fact that the actions taken by Creon, the King of Thebes, is unsolicited by the citizens of Thebes but hardly anyone has the courage to utter it. Thus both these characters appear to be strong believers of their own judgments and are not open to any negotiation in this respect. Thus in certain ways both are similar in nature ever though their stand point is completely opposite to each other. The rigidity of the characters is best shown in the play when both Creon and Antigone appear together in the scene. Antigone is attached to her principal and states that “Courage! Live your life. I give myself to death, long ago, so I might serve the dead.” (Fagles, 88) To this comment Creon is equally inflexible and unyielding and he hardly considers any compromise by completely overlooking the aspects of conclusion from either Antigone or Ismene. He comments “They are both mad, I tell you, both of them. One’s just shown it, and the other’s been the way since she was born.” (Fagles, 88) This comment is very significant as it helps the readers to understand the rigid nature of Antigone and the manner she is looked upon in her surrounding and particularly Creon. Such ego based characters and story development is similar to classical tragedy and it is quite similar to Shakespeare’s Othello.

There are many elements held within William Shakespeare’s work of Othello that are consistent with tragedy, and support themes of justice, loyalty and love. Apart from these there are other aspects of the character too. In this context Cassio is also an expression of compassion and understanding, a profession of honour and faith in the existence of friendship, camaraderie, love and justice, as in the case of Antigone for her country, though derail by Iago. Cassio reveals that friendship exists in the idea that regardless of whether or not they all would believe what one would say, they all believe that the experience affected the comrade in some form and would prove sympathetic toward their emotional state. Understanding Shakespeare’s development of drama in the story of Othello requires an understanding of the particular elements that are considered. Those elements include a sense of pride, a sense of honour, justice, loyalty and camaraderie, love and devotion that are translated regardless of the era in which the reader would exist along with the specifications of the fact that Cassio is a combination of three major elements that shapes his nature. These are fundamentally his notion of spiritual knowledge along with his contemplative or reflective attitude but by fate he is used by the evil Iago to destroy Othello. All these elements are similar to Greek tragedy such as Antigone.

In Antigone, Creon is another such character with tragic ego. Creon is very unbending of his thought process. The support for Antigone is characterized by Haemon when he argues with his father, Creon, that the Theban folks are in fact backing Antigone. This point of view presented by Heamon agrees the fact that there is positive reaction from the citizens of Thebes about the actions taken by Antigone and that Creon is viewed on the wrong side. This is the main difference between the characters of Antigone and Creon as their position is situated on the opposite poles of justice and truth. This becomes more evident when Tiresias openly identifies Creon as “You are the one who is sick, Creon, sick to death.” (Fagles,113) Such words from a person of integrity and truth as Tiresias is evident enough to prove the actual position of Creon in the context of the play. This becomes more obvious when leaders of the King’s confidence appear sceptical of the decisions of Creon. It is seen when the reports cane that the corpse has been removed and the leaders fear that even the gods must be offended by Creon’s acts and they are about to punish the population. Thus it was obvious that even the closest of the King’s men were sceptical about the order.

Thus it could be ascertained that whatever actions that were taken by Antigone was just against the injustice of Creon. Creon wanted Polyneices’ body to be left without a ceremonial burial as he fought against the motherland and thus was labeled as a traitor. This was view as a sacrilege and disrespect by the ancient Greeks. As a result, Antigone found herself in a position where she must protect her brother’s dignity by proving him with a proper burial. Antigone feels that this is the right action and she is determined to complete the act no matter anybody supports her or not. Thus it is obvious that Antigone was doing the right deeds and deeds that were completely supported by the citizens too. This is the prime tragedy of the play which is in a lot of ways similar to the tragedy of Othello.

However, the basic intention that the noted Shakespearian plays like Othello is not really tragedies but they are in reality a piece of romantic tragedy or it can be stated that these works were example romanticizing tragedy. In the same context, the author remarked that as a dramatist, Shakespeare had little or no interest in the traditional romantic form of literature that were successful in the medieval era or the form of texts that were the most influential of the age. Thus, it is evident from the arguments of the author believes in the thought process that though not in usual pattern of the era Shakespeare constructed his works in the line of romantic nature but actually instrumented these elements of romance in tragedy and camouflaged the drama thus creating a new form of drama.

Understanding Shakespeare’s development of drama in the story of Othello requires an understanding of the particular elements that are considered. Those elements include a sense of pride, a sense of honour, justice, loyalty and camaraderie, love and devotion that are translated regardless of the era in which the reader would exist along with the specifications of the fact that Othello, the main character of tragedy, is a combination of three major elements that shapes his nature. These are fundamentally his notion of spiritual knowledge along with his contemplative or reflective attitude. Additionally, Othello is also shaped by the artistic or dramatic elements that reflect the internal confusions of the man. It can well be mentioned that the wondrous ability of Shakespearean works would be the very fact that translation into modern times is a simple endeavour and that the emotions, the reactions, in fact, the very basic instincts which are portrayed would and could easily be seen in this world as they were in the imagination of William Shakespeare. Thus, it can be easily stated that all the qualities of romantic drama are present in these texts so it is evident that the author was perfectly correct while making the statements. Here is a man who accepts misdeed but only after killing his beloved wife Desdemona. Here is a man who states, “An honourable murderer, if you will;/For nought I did in hate, but all in honour.” (Shakespeare, 256) The tragedy lies in this false honour driven by male ego of possession of a woman, his wife. Thus, it shapes up to be a romantic drama with tragic interfaces much like Antigone. This is quite similar to the tragedy of Antigone or Creon, who values honour and but actually is driven by ego.

Throughout the tragic affairs Creon remains arrogant and rigid to his verdict of disgracing Polyneices. He is so unyielding to his verdict that he renders death penalty for Antigone This makes Creon extremely rude as a ruler and ultimately paves the way for the eventual tragedy. He even warns his son Heamon about the dangers of going against the state, or his father in this case, and this makes Creon a person who is unwilling to evaluate other’s view point and thus becomes the tyrant ruler who can easily ramify other’s will for his own resolve.

It would be relevant to mention that like all rulers who became an oppressor, Creon too should be held responsible for the ultimate tragedy of the play. It should be remembered that Antigone was only performing the duty to her brother and her family and her deeds were viewed as justice by the Thebans. Thus it is clear that though there is a striking similarity between Antigone and Creon in their character and approach it is imperative that their positions are completely opposite to each other. One stands for freedom and justice and the other for oppression and domination and these qualities of characters are viewed all over the play and the two central characters, Antigone and Creon, can be epitomized by their personal beliefs of existence thus narrating all the aspects of a classical Greek tragedy.

Conclusion

Thus, in conclusion, it was found that the Greek Tragedy Antigone is very similar to the Shakespeare Tragedy Othello. Though there is a difference of form between the two, the overall context of both the tragedies are fundamentally same. The tragedies are shaped by the artistic or dramatic elements that reflect the internal confusions of ego among the characters. It can well be mentioned that the wondrous ability of these works would be the very fact that translation into modern times is a simple endeavour and that the emotions, the reactions, in fact, the very basic instincts which are portrayed would and could easily be seen in this world as they were in the imagination of these two playwrights.

Reference

Fagles, Robert. Trans. The Three Theban Plays By Sophocles. Wellington: National Book Trust, 2007.

Shakespeare, William. Complete works of Shakespeare. Wellington: National Book Trust, 2001.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Greek Tragedy Vs Shakespeare Tragedy." November 25, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/greek-tragedy-vs-shakespeare-tragedy/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Greek Tragedy Vs Shakespeare Tragedy'. 25 November.

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