The Unique Power of the Greek Tragedy in Sophocles Tragedy Ajax

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

Only late through our rehearsals did I begin to appreciate the compelling impact of ancient Greek tragedy on individuals. Based on my experience as both, a mediator and observer, this report asserts that ancient Greek tragedy provides a unifying experience, and further illustrates its importance in ancient and modern society.

During my speech as a mediator, when I talked about Ajax’s decision to commit suicide and its consequences on Tecmessa, I noticed a progressive change of facial expressions in the audience from being static and indifferent to being affected and attentive (Sophocles, The Ajax). Independent of their specific feelings about death, it mattered most that spectators showed emotions at all. There, I felt the inspiring and unifying power of Greek tragedy.

After the play, Mr. Bouchard commented on the irony of war. While soldiers firmly believed in violence as a legitimate tool, at home they had to realize that killing is socially unacceptable. By sitting together in the theater, this conflict can be reconciled. Watching Ajax’s madness being mocked by the generals, soldiers collectively witness the shame of being seen as murderers (Sophocles, The Ajax). This togetherness creates an environment of mutual understanding and comfort.

Sophocles’ plays dramatize the timelessness of human suffering. Whether dissecting Ajax’s mental disintegration, or the pain of Philoctetes, Sophoclean tragedy revolves around feelings spectators often suppress or fail to verbalize. These emotions are not merely ancient. They lie in human nature and, thus, even today touch our communities as evidenced by people like the New Canadian who was exposed to brutalities identical to those experienced by ancient poleis.

Sophocles’s work is versatile because it triggers a wide range of feelings. Philoctetes’s nine-year desolation may be associated with depression, while Heracles’s injury can be linked to physical suffering. Ajax perhaps embodies the sequelae of PTSD or stands for someone suicidal. Ancient Greek tragedy, therefore, acts as a kaleidoscope for the whole spectrum of human affections.

Scholarly literature claims that Greek Tragedy was only used to entertain ancient communities. Encouraging the audience to become conscious of their own vulnerability may be more powerful today as demonstrated by Theatre of War, but Sophocles consciously targeted an audience with war experience. Although a mediated conversation did not take place after a performance and theatregoers were not explicitly encouraged to express their feelings, spectators were still able to live these emotions together in silence.

My group altered Philoctetes in order to criticize the Government’s failed promise to augment veterans’ salaries. Explicitly attacking public and military life in ancient Greek society as such was prohibited. However, Sophocles delivered some hints. For instance, by portraying Tecmessa and Deianeira as strong and rational he challenged the notion of women as being naive and passive (Sophocles, The Ajax & The Women of Trachis). Neoptolemus’s disobedience towards Odysseus counters military hierarchy. Tragedy’s utility in ancient and modern society merely differed in its explicitness.

Human nature guides Sophocles’ plays by narrating mankind’s understanding of right and wrong. For instance, Neoptolemus prioritizing Philoctetes over his mission symbolizes humane qualities (Sophocles, Philoctetes). Professor Seale contrasted this with the Wannsee Conference where Nazi-soldiers chose murder over sympathy. Moreover, a spectator blamed power-hungriness for selfish behavior as depicted by Odysseus’s treatment of Philoctetes, which can be parallelized with today’s corruption.

The tragedy event showed me ancient Greek tragedy’s ability to create a connection amongst individuals and provide a space for expression. Though Sophocles’ messages were implicit, they continue to shape theatrical performance because of their versatile, timeless and human nature.


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