Women in Sophocles Motifs

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As a wise man once said “Asking for help isn’t weak, it’s a great example of how to take care of yourself.” The chorus, of Sophocles’ play “Antigone”, portray this as they sing to the God Dionysus, asking for his help. The Exodus, or ode number 6, use the motifs woman are carriers of the family, yet frail, divine law s city law, as well as repeat the word dance in the last stanza to explain to the Ephebes how not to rule their city.

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First, the chorus explains “Bacchus, living in Thebes/the mother-city of all your frenzied woman” in the second stanza (Sophocles 1245-1246). This quote is explaining the motif woman are carriers of the family because, yet frail because the woman will be wailing soon due to all the deaths occurring in this part of the play. Bacchus, or Dionysus is said to make woman become frenzied which is why they are wanting him to come down for Mount Olympus. They mention Dionysus when they pray “down you come in your storm of wild women/ecstatic, mystic cries/Dionysus,” calling him out for his effect on woman (Sophocles 1256-1258). They people are praying to him. Telling him not to make the woman wail after all of these deaths because it is not enjoyable. After all the deaths, the frail women will be in the streets during the funerals which will make the people unhappy.

The Ephebes must learn from this so that in the future, when they have power they might find out a way to deal with these wailing women. Sophocles also uses the motif divine law vs city law when the chorus tells us “Dionysus/down to watch and ward the roads of Thebes!” The city claims that Creon is the leader, but at the moment the chorus is wanting Dionysus to lead. They are hoping that a god to be their leader rather than a person. They people are preferring Divine law at the moment as Tiresias, the blind prophet, has said that the gods are mad at Creon. This causes the citizens to lean towards divine law in order to make them happy again. The Ephebes can learn from this by ensuring that they stay in rule, so their people won’t see them as a secondary ruler. Another example of the divine law vs city law is when the chorus exclaims “First of all cities, Thebes you honor first/ you and your mother, bride of the lightning/ come, Dionysus! Now your people lie/ in the iron grip of plague,/ come in your racing, healing stride/ down Parnassus’ slopes” and explain the contrast between the two laws (Sophocles 1259-1264).

The people are telling Dionysus that Thebes comes first, which is the cty law, but on the other hand the citizens are praying to Dionysus at an altar, which is an example of city law. This quote shows the Ephebes that you must have balance is your city to have peace. Lastly, The chorus repeats the word dance in the last stanza “Lord of the dancing/ dance, dance the constellations breathing fire!” in order to relate themselves with Dionysus. The word dance translates to “ or chorós” which can also be used for the word chorus (Hippo Word 1). When the audience hears it in the theatre, it sounds like the chorus is calling Dionysus the king of all people. They are chanting lord of the chorus saying that he is now the true leader of thebes. They mention dancing again in the last stanza when they praise “Dance, Dionysus giver of all good things!” exaggerating the fact they he have now become the peoples God. They are telling the people that he is the giver of all good things. At the moment, the people are praising Dionysus because he is their holy grail, their one true hope. The Ephebes need to learn from this in order to realize how important the balance between divine law and city law is.

In all, Sophocles uses the motifs women are carriers of the family, yet frail, divine law vs city law, and uses the greek translation of the verb dance as a play on words. He also made sure that the Ephebes of Athens learn what they need to learn in order for them to become powerful and successful leaders. With these two objectives in mind Sophocles writes an exodus that not only sums up what is happening in the play, but also use motifs and keywords in order to teach a lesson.

 

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