Tragedy and the Comparison of Greek Plays


Tragedy and the Comparison of Greek Plays


From time immemorial, Greek tragedy is based on the Greeks philosophy and mythology derived from Greeks worldview. The question now is what is Greeks tragedy? The definition of Greeks tragedy can be observed in the poetics of Aristotle.

Hence; defines tragedy as “an imitation of an action that is serious complete in itself and of a certain magnetic in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kind been found in separate point of the play; in the form of action not of narrative through pity and fear effecting the proper catharsis or purgation of this emotions”.

In the Greeks societies, tragedy is built around the noble character. i.e, the nobility is associated with tragedy. In this sense the supremacy of gods is always portrayed. The noble character in every Greeks tragedies always fall short, due to their excessive pride and hubristic tendencies in containing matters.

The Greeks have produced three notable tragedians: Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. Among all, Sophocles works are the most successful and most popular due to the fact that he is more poetic and writes in a more readable language hence many people have access to the works.

It is worth noting that the gods in the Greeks societies determine the future and destiny of every human, a critical analysis and observation of all Greeks place abides to this.

The gods are portrayed in Oedipus Rex as been supreme and the destiny of Oedipus killing his father and marrying his mother could not be averted.

In the Greeks society human been are presented as feed to the gods, whom they can just beckon upon whenever they need them. They are presented in such a manner that human being can’t control of what happens to them rather the gods do. They are posited as such they can’t decide their known fate, feeding fat on human flesh. However, summarizing the Greeks tragedy as that which depict the helplessness of the human being when it comes to deciding fate in the eyes of the gods, will not be wrong at least. That is why GLOUCESTER asserted in king Lear ‘as flies unto wanton boys are we to the gods they kill us for their spot’. With that, the summation of Greeks tragedy has further been buttressed. This shows how the Greeks gods view their subject as flies than can been killed whenever they feel like, depicting their superiority and supremacy.



A plague has stricken Thebes and the citizens of Thebes have all gathered, crying unto Oedipus to solve their problem. Oedipus sends Creon to seek advice of Apollo. As Creon gets back, he informs Oedipus that unless the murderer of Laius the former king is found, the curse will not be lifted. On hearing this, Oedipus dedicates himself to the discovery and prosecution of Laius murderer.

After series of questioning, Teiresias, the blind prophet tells Oedipus himself he is the murderer of Laius, problem of Thebes. This saddened Oedipus however, Jocasta his wife tells him not to believe in the blind prophet. The situations becomes interesting as Jocasta tells the testimony of Laius son that was prophesied to kill him (Laius) and marry her. At this point, Oedipus was uncomfortable as he also remembered an old man who accounted to him that he was adopted and one day he is going to kill his father and marries his mother. Oedipus remembered he once killed a man at crossroad. Jocasta urges him not to look into the past but stubbornness, hubris, pride and inquisitiveness could not let him. Until he consulted a messenger who had information about how he was born, abandoned, and was adopted by a new family. In moment of insight, Jocasta realizes that the prophecy has come to pass, kills herself and Oedipus gouges out his eyes in fulfillment and begs to be exiled from Thebes.


From the start of the play, curse is on the city of Thebes. Oedipus is fully confident of solving, believing that he can lift whatever curse or trouble that the city is under. He then begins to gather information on how to go about it. Due to his excessive pride and hubris, he promised to solve it and banish whoever is the cause for their tragedy. Out of arrogance, he became dedicated in gathering his resources to uncover the mystery of Laius death.

Due to the braggadocios attitude of Oedipus, things start deteriorating. He is soaked in the problem of unraveling his own search instead of Laius murderer’s search as the will of the gods seems to be happening. Oedipus has began to understand that his search is turning against him, been advised to stop, he blatantly refused and continues even at his detriment. This however showed the excessiveness of his pride and the supremacy of the gods in affairs of human.

Oedipus had realized his true identity, whereas Jocasta had also realized. But it is too late at this point. Jocasta hung herself following the shame and abomination she has engaged in unknowingly. In keeping to his promise, Oedipus gouged his own eyes and was banished.

This showed showed how the gods are controlling and determining the lives of heroes in Greeks society. At the near end of the play, where the complications and climax arose, there is the purgation of pity on Oedipus and proper catharsis at the end to caution man of the supremacy of gods.

Oedipus was recognized as a famous man, arrogant filled with pride and this thus brings the summary and underlying factor of Greeks tragedy; which brings him to his fall. At the end, what the gods had predestined for human is ultimately established, their supremacy came to manifestation.



Agamemnon begins with a watchman on duty, on the roof of the palace of Argos waiting for a signal announcing the fall of troy to the Greeks armies. A beacon flashes and he joyfully runs to tell Queen Clytemnestra. As the watchman left, the chorus tells the story of how and why the Trojan war begins. The Trojan prince Paris stole Helen, the wife of king Menelaus, Agamemnon cousin leading to ten years of war between Greece and troy.

Prior to the start of the war, Agamemnon had sacrificed Iphigenia to the god Artemis so they could triumph in the war. This act saddened and angered Clytemnestra and hopes to revenge.

On hearing the news, Clytemnestra was happy for the triumph and seek for thanksgiving sacrifice because she had been waiting patiently for her husband to return. Agamemnon is back from the Trojan war and brings with him Cassandra, Trojan princess, a slave and concubine. This of course worsened the case. Clytemnestra welcomes him back home and asked for a purple carpet for Agamemnon to walk on. Cassandra is silent, knowing what will happen after all, she prophesied of a curse on the house o Agamemnon and her own death and after revenge follows.

However, Aegisthus, Agamemnon’s cousin is having an affair with Clytemnestra, both conspired to kill Agamemnon and Cassandra which the did. They took over the government and ruled Argos. Clytemnestra’s son Orestes returned from exile and avenge his father’s death, he killed Clytemnestra.


Agamemnon is the first play in a trilogy, the Oresteia which is considered Aeschylus’ greatest work and greatest Greeks tragedy. Of the plays in trilogy, Agamemnon contains the strongest command of language and characterization. The play’s mood carries a heavy sense of impending doom. From the watchman’s opening speech through the chorus‘ foreboding words and Cassandra’s prophecies, the drama prepares the audience for the kings murder. The actual act of violence occurs off stage and was reported, a traditional practice in Greeks tragedy. Based on themes, the murder of Agamemnon ought to be understood in three contexts. The first is the theft of Helen and the Trojan war that followed. The second is Agamemnon sacrifice of his daughter, Iphigenia which tends to justifies Clytemnestra resolve to murder him. However the most terrible act of violence is that of Atreus who cooked Menelaus children. This act also tends to justify Aegisthus act; it is the source of ancestral curse that pervades this trilogy.

Agamemnon appears only briefly and comes across as a cold husband and arrogant king. Clytemnestra in her sense of self righteousness is far more attractive to the audience; though the audience sympathizes with her for the sacrifice of her daughter. Her entanglement with Aegisthus and her murder of helpless Cassandra reminds the audience in the larger context that she is an adulteress not an avenger.


From all ramifications, it is inarguably true that in the Greek society humans are seen as pawns in the eyes of the god. Their tragedies purgates proper catharsis and depicting pity and fear which tends to control the human affairs. The gods are described as been feeding fat on human flesh. This however summarizes the true nature of Greek tragedy.


Dramatic literature by Liwhu Betiang


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