The characters in a novel or play are attributed certain characteristics by the author. The opinions one might form of a character are based on these; therefore, the characteristics suggested by an author are intrinsic to the reader having a complete and subjective understanding of a work. Characteristics are often displayed through a character s actions, in what is said about them, and what they themselves say, which shall be the focus of this essay. Both Oedipus, in Sophocles’ King Oedipus and Odysseus, in The Odyssey of Homer, oftenare spoken of by others, but their own words are telling, as certain emotions and traits can be seen. Traits of a character can often be masked or distorted by favorable or unfavorable descriptions by others, but their own speech, however calculated or controlled, often clearly shows character flaws and attributes that one might not come across otherwise. Strict narration often polarizes a character, casting them as black or white, good or evil. However, in most writings, and certainly in The Odyssey and King Oedipus, the speech of a characterallows us to see the various shades of grey, thus portraying the character more fairly. One might see Oedipus and Odysseus as being in some ways quite similar, but their speech and the characteristics revealed therein is what sets them apart.
Oedipus and Odysseus were both powerful men, each lording over their own small kingdoms. It would seem they should share certain characteristics and one would not be incorrect to say they did. Both showed themselves to be respectful of their duties toward their people. Oedipus, when faced with the people s petition (specifically, the Priest, act…
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…portray them as such, but their speech remains one of the strongest methods of characterization. Through speech, the characters became multi-dimensional, and the evolution of the character was apparent, as was the case with the desperation and demise of Oedipus. Certainly, the words of Oedipus and Odysseus shaped the image a reader might construct of either one, even if this image was not what Sophocles or Homer had intended. Whatever this image may be, the speech of the principal characters of King Oedipus and The Odyssey proved both Oedipus and Odysseus tobe complete, multi-faceted characters, neither good or evil, black or white.
Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Vintage Books, 1962.
Sophocles. “Oedipus the King.” The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. 6th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2002.
The Role of Chorus in Euripides’ Medea
The Role of Chorus in Medea
In section 18 of the Poetics Aristotle criticizes Euripides for not allowing “the chorus to be one of the actors and to be a part of the whole and to share in the dramatic action, . . . as in Sophocles.” Aristotle may be thinking of the embolima of Euripides’ later plays (satirized also by Aristophanes), but he is certainly wrong about the Medea. Its choral odes are not only all intimately related to the action but are also essential for the meaning of the play, particularly because here, as elsewhere (e.g. Hecuba), Euripides forces us reevaluate his main protagonist in midstream and uses the chorus (in part) to indicate that change.
In her first speech Medea wins over the chorus by a plea to solidarity in the face of women’s victimization by a male-dominated society, and this response by the chorus is an essential step in the poet’s paradoxical task of winning sympathy and understanding for a mother who kills her children. But as that first speech itself indicates, Medea both is and is not a typical (Greek) woman: she is a foreig…