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Tragic Heroes in Greek Mythology (& Related Topics)

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Bethany Hung

on 1 May 2015

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Transcript of Tragic Heroes in Greek Mythology (& Related Topics)

By Tiffany Chen, Bethany Hung, Jay Jinjuwadia, Kevin Lau, Alex Leung, & Elizabeth Xu
Period 4

Tragic Heroes & Mythology
What is a tragic hero?
Greek Theater
Tragedy? What's that?
Put simply,
In modern terms, tragedy = sad story.
Aristotle, the great ancient Greek philosopher, disagrees.
Hello, I'm Hera.
Today, we're going to discuss your favorite topic.
Any guesses?
(No, not
Nectar in a Sieve
Tragic heroes!
a tragic hero is a hero who is very tragic.
While this is true, Aristotle, with his fancy terms, defined six parameters for a true tragic hero.
"Tragedy, then, is a process of imitating an action which has serious implications, is complete, and possesses magnitude; by means of language which has been made sensuously attractive, with each of its varieties found separately in the parts; enacted by the persons themselves and not presented through narrative; through a course of pity and fear completing the purgation of such emotions."
From the Poetics of Aristotle [384-322 BC]
What did Aristotle really mean?
1. "Imitation"
Artist does not copy events in the world
Creates a new reality
Universal vs accidental; whole, holistic view of how things happen ≠ reiteration of one specific event
2. "an action with serious implications"
» srs bizniz
serious because it raises and removes negative emotions
3. "complete and possesses magnitude"
Magnitude? Physics?
not just a series of segments; actually presents an entire story from alpha to omega
relates to

4. "language sensuously attractive...in the parts"
only some parts allowed to be attractive (what a tragedy)
e.g. choruses must be more melodious
5. "enacted by the persons themselves..."
depends on dramatic interpretation
cannot be confined to narrative, unlike epics
6. "purgation"
emotions of fear and pity
does not create them
catharsis - the spectators can then expel these emotions
Are you calling me hard to understand?!
A tragic hero is noble in two ways: by birth and by personality.
The hero has
, or a tragic flaw.
is a common example.
The hero experiences
, or a reversal of fortune or downfall due to his or her tragic flaw.
Tragedy does not leave audience in a state of sadness; instead, the audience undergoes
Greek theatre evolved from festivals where people would honor gods.
(e.g. honoring the wine god,
, during the festival known as City Dionysia)

People have performed plays at these festivals since 5th century BC.
Development of the Chorus
Actors, directors, and dramatists were all the same person.
Later, a few non-speaking roles were allowed to perform on-stage.
large circular or rectangular area at the center
plays, dances, and religious ceremonies occurred here
large rectangular building behind the orchestra used as a backstage
actors prepared for their scenes here
Theatres were large, open-air structures constructed on the slopes of hills.

Consisted of four main elements: the skene, the orchestra, the parodos and the theatron.
20000 seats to accommodate large number of people in the audience
the place where spectators looked at sacrifices, dances, or theatrical performances
entrance for chorus and actors from either side of orchestra
first song sung by the chorus
Costumes and Masks
multiple roles
exaggerated facial expressions seen by audience

Comic masks were smiling or leering.
Tragic masks carried mournful or pained expressions.

reveal characters' change in appearance
amplify actors' voices
Contrary to popular belief, masks were not used to hide hideous faces; rather, they were used to amplify the actors' voices so that the back of the theatron could hear the actor.
"Modern theater has got
on ancient Greek theatre."
: the tragic hero realizes
where he or she went wrong and becomes humble
while accepting the consequences for his or her actions.
(This isn't always a happy process, though.)
Who is Medea?
Why is she important?
4) The Chorus tells her about the horrific deaths she caused, and she listens calmly. She realizes that she is at fault.
Orestes is the son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra. When Agamemnon returns from the Trojan War with his new concubine Cassandra, Clytemnestra and her lover, Aegisthus, kill him. After he reaches adulthood, Orestes contrives the murder of both Aegisthus and Clytemnestra. Consequently, the Furies torment him. They only stop when he seeks judgement for his crime at the Aeropagus in Athens. He is acquitted.
What makes Orestes a tragic hero?
1) Noble stature: son of Agamemnon, the King of Mycenae
2) Hamartia: Holding grudges for years and willingness to kill
3) Reversal of fortune: Exiles himself after his father's death; also hunted by Furies (Hades' best friends)
4) Enlightenment: Goes to Athenian court and pleads to the jury; acknowledges his downfall is because of his flaws
How does it end?
Orestes inherits his father's kingdom and marries Hermione, the daughter of Helen of Troy and Menelaus. (No, not the witch.) Eventually, he dies of snakebite.
5) Catharsis: There is pity or fear when Orestes is followed by the Furies, but after his successful trial, this fear is gone.
Comedy vs. Tragedy
Great comic playwrights include Menander and Terence. However, Aristophanes was the most prominent.
This time, we're making it more interactive. Identify the trait of a tragic hero shown in each slide as we go through the myth.
Hello, I'm Medea.
I'm the best sorceress there is.
1) Medea is the daughter of King Aeëtes of Colchis and the granddaughter of the sun god Helios. She is also one of the best sorceresses of the time.
2) When Jason seeks the Golden Fleece to claim his inheritance and throne, Medea falls in love with him and promises to help.
However, as they leave the island, Medea's father Aeëtes does not let them leave, so Medea kills her brother as a distraction.
5) How do you feel about Medea? (Or, how are you supposed to feel?)
Jason abandons Medea for Glauce, a Corinthian princess
Medea is jealous - sends Glauce a poisoned dress and coronet
Glauce and her father Creon die
Still angry, Medea kills the two sons she had by Jason
Marries Aegeus, King of Athens - has a son, Medus
Theseus, Aegeus's long-lost son, returns
Medea realizes Medus will not have an inheritance
Tries to poison Theseus but fails and is exiled
There is always
- fate that the hero cannot escape.
Plot twist!
Many analysts do not actually see Medea as a tragic hero (or heroine). Why?
Nobility: She is more evil than good.
Hamartia: Hubris was specified as a flaw, but Medea lacks this. Her only hamartia is her excessive passion.
Peripeteia: She does undergo a tragic downfall: the loss of her children. However, she is entirely at fault. She kills them herself.
Anagnorisis: She never learns her lesson. She just listens calmly when the Chorus tells her what she has done.
Nemesis: Yes, Jason did leave her first. But, she caused all of her later suffering.
The Oedipus Cycle by Sophocles is the truest Aristotelian tragedy. However, two other great tragedy playwrights were Aeschylus and Euripides.
hello I am very attractive
by Euripides
The Oresteia
by Aeschylus
The limited number of actors
on-stage (1 or 2), made the chorus an active component of Greek theatre.
Number of actors increased to 3,
making the chorus a little less important
Music still played while actors acted
496-406 B.C.
increased the number of actors to 3
grew in up Colonus, hence the tragedy Oedipus at Colonus
started career as successful playwright at sixteen
was so excellent at tragedy that Aristotle based his concept of a tragic hero off of Oedipus
Over time, comedy has diverged into two varieties: old and new.
Old Comedy
Old vs. New
most complete work is Dyskolos by Menander while the rest
come from translations made by Romans, Plautus and Terence
focuses on family matters & personal themes, e.g. love relations
absence of the chorus
features fictional characters & average citizens
New comedy writers include Menander, Plautus, and Terence.
New Comedy
known as political comedy; similar to modern political cartoons
outspoken criticisms on literary and philosophical topics and figures
Aristophanes' plays are the only examples that exist.
I'm the only real one out there.
I wrote over forty plays, all of which are the best.
I'm Aristophanes, and I believe that old comedy is the best kind of comedy.
However, that may just be because I wrote all of the old comedy.
Shhh, small details.
Please, there's a reason you're Aristophanes and not Aristo-funnies.
My new comedy is the best, not your archaic stuff.
The following are examples of tragic heroes, although none are as true as Oedipus of Sophocles' Oedipus Cycle.
Hamlet: a very unfortunate Danish prince
Macbeth: a power-hungry Scotsman
Othello: a suspicious Venetian general
Summary: Everyone dies.
Jean Valjean of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables
Do you guys remember which components make a Greek tragedy?
1. Noble by birth & personality
2. hamartia - tragic flaw
3. peripeteia - reversal of fortune due to flaw
4. anagnorisis - self-realization while accepting consequences
5. nemesis - inescapable fate
6. Audience undergoes catharsis
You're horrible, Kevin.
I'm back!
Greek Chorus
stayed through duration of play
long, formal speeches in verse

size: one dozen members, or up to fifteen depending on playwright
half a year of preparation led by a chorus leader or
provides commentary on recent actions and events
» promotes better understanding in the audience by serving as recap
To modern readers, the Chorus seems like a verbose interruption from the main action.
Marius Pontmercy may not be a tragic hero, but he is tragic nonetheless.
Severus Snape of J.K. Rowlings' Harry Potter series
Notice how that hexagon was shaped like a cycle? It was an (unintentional, at first) allusion to how the Oedipus Cycle is the ultimate example of a tragic hero story.
Orestes, from "Oresteia" by Aeschylus
Medea, from "Medea" by Euripides
Antigone, from The Oedipus Cycle by Sophocles
They're missing out, though.
It's alright. We already know your secret.
You don't read the chorus. (And if you do, impressive!) However, we're here today to fix that.
Function of the Chorus
prepares the audience for certain key moments in the storyline by building up momentum or otherwise altering the tempo
» emphasizes certain elements and downplays others
more conventional: distracts the audience while the actors change costumes or prepare for their next role
» function of the chorus may be more practical than artistic or philosophical
They're missing out, though.
Type of costume/mask character-type, age, gender, social status and class
And that's it!
Thanks for listening to our presentation. Hopefully it wasn't too difficult to endure...
Functions of Masks:
Works Cited
Abdullah, Mansur, Melissa Albert, Michael Anderson, and Adam Augustyn. "Orestes." Encyclopaedia Britannica. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 June 2013. <www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/431814/Orestes>.
Abdullah, Mansur, Melissa Albert, Michael Anderson, and Adam Augustyn. "Old Comedy." Encyclopaedia Britannica. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 June 2013. <www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/426870/Old-Comedy>.
"Ancient Greek Theatre." Ancient Greece. University Press, n.d. Web. 028 May 2013. <http://www.ancientgreece.com/s/Theatre/>.
"Aristotle." N.p., n.d. Web. 025 May 2013. <http://vccslitonline.cc.va.us/tragedy/aristotle.htm>.
"Aristotle & the Elements of Tragedy: English 250." Ohio.edu. Ohio University, n.d. Web. 025 May 2013. <http://www.ohio.edu/people/hartleyg/ref/aristotletragedy.html>.
Bouguereau, William-Adolphe. The Remorse of Orestes. N.d. Chrysler Collection, Norfolk. Mythinkdex. Web. 01 June 2013. <http://www.mythindex.com/images/painting-orestes-sm.jpg>.
"Costume & Masks." Greek Theatre. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 May 2013. <http://greektheatre.wordpress.com/home/>.
"Dionysus, God of Wine." Mythman. N.p., 1995. Web. 27 May 2013. <http://www.majorolympians.com/dionysus.html>.
Donn, Don, and Lin Donn. "Ancient Greek City-States." Ancient Greece for Kids. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 May 2013. <www.greece.mrdonn.org/city-states.html>.
"Drama (Comedy and Tragedy) by Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripides, Aristophanes, Plautus, Terence and Menander.." Ancient / Classical History - Ancient Greece & Rome & Classics Research Guide. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 May 2013. <http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/drama/Drama_Comedy_Tragedy_Playwrights.htm>.
Gill, N.S. "Aristotle's Tragedy Terminology." About.com Ancient / Classical History. About.com, n.d. Web. 25 May 2013. <http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/greektheater/tp/0711307Arist_tragicterminology.htm>.
"Greek & Roman Costumes." The History of Theatre: Costumes. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 May 2013. <http://theatrecostumes.webs.com/greekroman.htm>.Haamer, Kris. "The Function: Chorus in Greek Drama?." Kris Haamer . N.p., n.d. Web. 02 June 2013. <http://krishaamer.com/2008/03/26/function-chorus-greek-drama/>."Introduction to Old Comedy." Ancient / Classical History - Ancient Greece & Rome & Classics Research Guide. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 May 2013. <http://ancienthistory.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi=1/XJ&zTi=1&sdn=ancienthistory&cdn=education&tm=6&f=22&tt=14&bt=0&bts=5&zu=http%3A//ablemedia.com/ctcweb/netshots/genrecm.htm>.Jimenez , Joanna. Simon Petrikov and the Ice King. N.d. Similar Deviant, Mexico City. Devianart. Web. 26 May 2013."Masks, Costumes and Props." City Dionysia: The Ancient Roots of Modern Theater. The Kennedy Center, n.d. Web. 30 May 2013. <http://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/interactives/greece/theater/playersProps.html>.N.d. Photograph. CornellCollege.edu. Cornell College. Web. 26 May 2013. <http://www.cornellcollege.edu/classical_studies/cbenton/theater/grtheat/delphi_theater1.jpg>.N.d. Photograph. Web. 27 May 2013. <http://www.elizabethhuffman.com/masks.jpg>.N.d. Photograph. Web. 27 May 2013. <http://www2.cnr.edu/home/bmcmanus/mask1a.gif>.N.d. Photograph. 1995. Web. 27 May 2013. <http://www.majorolympians.com/dionysus13.jpg>.Russ, JR. "Being in a Greek Chorus." Blogspot. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 June 2013. <awayoflife0.blogspot.com/2012/04/being-in-greek-chorus.html>."The Furies." Tumblr. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 May 2013. <24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mdo8muqQaV1rl6ynno1_500.jpg>.
satirizes the life of the polis (concept of city-states)
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