Reality Vs. Storytelling: How Ancient Greek Playwrights Rewrote The Female Role Suny Geneseo, Theater History Essay

2864 words - 12 pages

Hannah Zimmer
History of Theater
Steve Stubblefield
“Reality vs. Storytelling: How Ancient Greek Playwrights
Rewrote the Female Role”
Throughout Ancient Greek plays empowering female roles are very common and important. Strong female characters like Clytemnestra in Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, Euripides’ Medea, Sophocles’ Antigone, and Aristophanes’ Lysistrata capture the emotion and mentality of strong females in the world making the character relatable to many. While these female characters are integral to Greek society most of them directly disobey the gender roles that Ancient Greeks hold true. These examples of women in dramatic plays view females and their male counterparts as equals, whereas the women in ancient Greece were restricted to specific rules and expectations, limited to the household and for the most part separated from the males in the society. Greek playwrights fought this construct through the development of strong female characters like Clytemnestra, Medea, Antigone, and Lysistrata.
Going through each of these female roles in greek theater, three questions will be answered in order to analyze and discuss gender roles in greek theater. The first question is going to define the overall importance of the character throughout the story. This will allow for context to be given about the impact of the character in the story where the strict gender roles of the ancient greek culture doesn't exist. The second question will state specific instances where the character strayed from the guidelines that Ancient Greeks expected their women to live by. Finally, the Greeks opinions of the previously stated females will be researched and questioned. The answers to the previous stated questions will provide enough background information to compare Clytemnestra, Medea, Antigone, and Lysistrata to the standards held for women during the same time period in Ancient Greece.
Gender roles were very strict in Ancient Greece, everything was black and white and things a man could do was completely opposite from what a woman could do. Examples of this is that in Athenian women were not allowed to make contact with any man who was not related to them after they got married. On top of that these women move directly from their father’s house into the house of the man she marries, and furthermore women were rarely allowed to leave the house and if they did they had to have a man escort them around. The restrictions previously mentioned were deliberately created to ensure that women wouldn't have an interaction with another man and then be romantically tempted. In this particular power structure, men had all the power and had free domain of everything, whereas women were segregated from the men in their home and had little control over anything (Blundell 139).
The first character analyzed is Clytemnestra from the Ancient Greek play Agamemnon. Clytemnestra is a famous female role that is in a position of power over the remaining men in her society after her...

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