Sophocles vs. Euripides
Uploaded by kalvinklen on Nov 07, 2001
While both Sophocles and Euripides are considered writers of Greek tragedy, their plays (Antigone, Oedipus Rex, Medea) have some subtle and some profound differences. In both Antigone and Oedipus Rex, the ‘tragic heroes’ suffer from a major character flaw- hubris. The tragic hero of Medea does not appear to have such a contrived flaw, as she is not forced to suffer from her actions in the play (killing her children, etc.). Because Euripides made little mention of the forces of divinity as they effected Medea (e.g. there was no Teresias equivalent), her actions were not necessarily unlawful in terms of the gods’ law. In fact, Medea, not hindered by seemingly direct influence from ‘above’, allows her to alter the stereotype of women. Medea shows a great character development, more complex than either Creon or Oedipus. She is strong-willed, passionate, scheming, revengeful, and even considered a sorceress. Euripides expresses this theme (and character development) that women, though seemingly submissive and shallow on the surface, posses very deep feelings, emotions, and traits. Sophocles, however, was more simplistic in his rationing of character traits. Both Oedipus and Creon were very linear; they sought the goal without hesitation or contemplation of the consequences. Noting the differences in the endings of these three plays is most profound. In Sophocles, both the characters were greatly afflicted by the wrongs committed by their character flaws. Oedipus became blind and was exiled, and Creon lost all of his family. In Euripides, to the contrary, Medea seems almost proud of the revenge she has made upon Jason, not very remorseful for having murdered her children. This is perhaps where the differences in philosophical perspectives between Euripides and Sophocles is most apparent. Euripides, more modern than Sophocles, believed that the reader should sympathize with the tragic hero and understand the moral dilemma, that all men and women are equal in nobility and ability, and that ill-treatment of women or humanity will lead to disaster. This caused Medea to be justified in her actions as revenge to Jason for the unscrupulous affair. Sophocles was more interested in the idea of catharsis and the large mistakes made by the tragic hero.