Thursday, February 18, 2016
Today in class we discussed the different themes of Rhesus. Greeks vs. Barbarians seems to be a common theme in Greek literature. In Rhesus, the Barbarians would be considered the Trojans; even though they do not act as barbaric how society portrays Barbarians today. However, the main theme in Rhesus seems to be “bia”, which translates to be “force” in English, vs. “metis”, which translates to mean cleverness. The main question is which is more powerful, force or cleverness. Unfortunately, it seems like cleverness wins in the play of Rhesus. We see this numerous times in the play. The first encounter with this is when Dolon disguised himself so that he could spy on the Greeks. Although he did not make it far before he was murdered, he made it further than he would have if he were not disguised at all. Because Dolon was not the strongest Trojan, he would have failed instantly if he would have started with force; especially facing Odysseus. The second time we encounter cleverness is when Odysseus and Diomedes sneak into the Trojan camp and kill Rhesus. If they would have charged in instead of sneaking in, they would have been outnumbered and would have been murdered themselves. Another theme that appears in Rhesus is shame vs. honor. Although Odysseus did conquer his quest, I would argue that his acts appear to be shameful not only to society, but also to the gods. In the second half of the class, we made comparisons of characters from the play of Rhesus to the play of Iphigenia at Aulis. Rhesus is comparable to Achilles as they are both champions. Hector is comparable to Agamemnon as they both face rivalry, they are leaders, and they are both overconfident. This is why Rhesus was killed. Hector was overconfident that his camp was secure, and his overconfidence led to the fall of Rhesus. Aeneas is comparable to Nester as they are both a voice of reason. The Muse is comparable to Thetis as they both had to watch their children die.
We know that Rhesus is a tragedy because it ends in a funeral. If it were a comedy, most likely it would have ended with a wedding. Who is ultimately responsible for Rhesus death? There were many factors that played a part into his downfall. Odysseus and Diomedes can immediately be blamed for the death of Rhesus considering that they are the ones who killed Rhesus. When you look deeper into the story, you will see that there were other people who were responsible for his death as well. Athena could be blamed because she is the one who revealed the watchword to Odysseus and Diomedes. If she had not done this, Odysseus and Diomedes may have never gotten the chance to kill Rhesus. The other person who could be looked at as responsible for the death of Rhesus is Hector. His overconfidence caused him to be negligent of the camp security which allowed Odysseus and Diomedes to kill Rhesus in his sleep.
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Today we discussed if Iphigenia and Rhesus were sacrifices. This is an interesting question considering that the play suggested that Iphigenia was a sacrifice. However, I have never considered Rhesus to be a sacrifice. I always looked at the death of Rhesus as a tragic murder. The death of Rhesus was tragic because he could have saved the Trojans by killing the Greeks if he had not been murdered. Iphigenia was sacrificed so that the Greeks could go to war. According to Webster’s Dictionary, sacrifice is defined as an act of slaughtering an animal or person or surrendering a possession as an offering to God or to a divine or supernatural figure. With that being said, Iphigenia can be looked at as a sacrifice because they slaughtered her as an offering to the gods so that they could get something in return. In this case, what they got in return was to go to war. I would still not consider Rhesus a sacrifice because although he was slaughtered, he was not slaughtered as an offering. He was slaughtered for the benefit of those who slaughtered him, but this slaughtering was not related to the gods. Another issue that we discussed is why the Greeks put so much faith into the gods. This gave me a lot to think about. Why would somebody put so much faith into someone they cannot see? When I thought about this, I thought about me and my own religion. Being a Christian, I completely understand why someone would put faith into someone they cannot see. For me, it gives me a sense of purpose and a higher being to look up to. When we discussed this in class, a number of students shared their reasoning. Some students felt it was because they were living in a post-scientific world. Others felt it was because they lived in a world without explanations. Another reason was because they naturally believed in strong external forces. The last reason that we discussed was because they were constantly looking for a relationship a god that you believe will have power over the outcome of a situation. This is the reason that closest relates to my own for believing in a higher being. God’s are like high voltage electricity, they help you with power and give you a boost, but they do not do everything for you. They are there to exist. Even in the Bible it says that we are not supposed to rely only on God. He is there to help us, but not do everything for us. God does not help those who do not help themselves. This holds true for the Greek gods as well. The next point in class that we discussed what does it mean to have a good death and afterlife. I was not sure what having a good afterlife meant initially. My original answer to having a good afterlife meant resting in peace, which for me means going to heaven. There were a number of other reasons we discussed in class as well.