The Culture Of Violence Essays On Tragedy And History

The Culture Of Violence Essays On Tragedy And History-7
In the end, the gods themselves insist on what we might call “closure,” pointing out that even a man who loses a brother or a son “grieves, weeps, and then his tears are done.” In the final book of the poem, the aged king of Troy, Priam, ransoms his dead son’s body from Achilles, takes it home to the walled city, and there gives it a proper funeral.

In the end, the gods themselves insist on what we might call “closure,” pointing out that even a man who loses a brother or a son “grieves, weeps, and then his tears are done.” In the final book of the poem, the aged king of Troy, Priam, ransoms his dead son’s body from Achilles, takes it home to the walled city, and there gives it a proper funeral.

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(That other favorite tragic subject.) But the impulse to expose, to bring secret crimes to light, to present evidence of deeds done in the past to an audience in the present, is one that itself lies at the heart of Greek drama.

You could say that all tragedy is about the process of discovery, of learning that the present has a surprising and often devastating relationship to the past: King Oedipus, faced with a plague on his city, is told by an oracle that he must find the killer of the previous king, only to learn, as the play unfolds, that it was he.

When the Chorus speaks of suffering and pain, it looks as if they’re referring to current events: the queen Clytemnestra’s plot to murder her husband, Agamemnon, in revenge for his decision to sacrifice their virgin daughter Iphigenia to win from the gods favorable winds for his fleet to sail to Troy.

But this act, it turns out, is merely a grim continuation of a cycle of carnage that goes back generations, as the Chorus knows only too well: to Agamemnon’s father, Atreus, who murdered his brother’s children; to Atreus’s father, Pelops, who won his bride by violence and betrayal, and was cursed by the man he betrayed; to Pelops’ father, Tantalus, a king so favored by the gods that he used to dine with them, until he murdered his own son and fed his flesh to his divine hosts to test whether they were, in fact, all-knowing.

Then the body is burned, the bones are gathered and buried.

The Culture Of Violence Essays On Tragedy And History Turabian Style Dissertation Bibliography

The last line of the entire epic, with its mad quarrels and awful carnage and odd moments of privacy and tenderness, its battles and sex and scheming, emphasizes the importance of the ceremonial closure: “This was the funeral of Hector, breaker of horses.”The end of the Iliad is, in other words, a narrative about grief yielding to mourning, about the way in which civilization responds to violence and horror.Achilles subsequently takes revenge, slaying Hector in combat and desecrating his unburied body—knowing all along that his own death is fated to follow Hector’s. So while Achilles has the glamor of extremity, it is Hector, more than any other character, who feels real to us, bound by competing obligations, anchored to his world and its claims.Many readers are familiar with the poignant choice that Achilles has made—to die young and gloriously rather than live a long, uneventful life—and to a large extent that choice has, since Homer, defined our understanding of what heroism is. Homer poignantly dramatizes this conflict between the warrior’s public and private selves in a famous scene in Book 6.Many tragic plots, moreover, revolve around the ramifications of family curses, of “original sins” committed by a patriarch that come back to haunt later, innocent generations.Both of these narratives, in their different ways, haunt the story of the Kennedy family and of the assassination in particular.Because it is a trauma, we constantly revisit it, as much to convince ourselves that such a thing could happen as to hope, each time we go back, that it might turn out differently. When we talk about November, 1963, we are referring not just to the assassination but to the entire weekend: the brutal red murder, the roses lying abandoned and drenched in gore, the blood-stained stockings, the shocked absorption of the news, the grim business of handling the body, conveying it and preparing it for burial; and then, gradually, amidst the horror and confusion, the reassertion of order and ritual, the lying-in-state, the military guard, the procession of heads of state, the black-clad widow, the children in their Sunday best, the tiny salute, the religious ceremony, the cemetery, the bugle, the shots, the folded flag.There is another, larger, culturally more vital narrative that the events surrounding J. (John-John’s iconic salute is poignant for the same reasons that Astyanax’s recoil from his helmeted father is: in both cases, the intrusion of the military and its symbols into what ought to be the cocooned realm of the domestic sphere—of childhood itself—strikes us as unbearable.)The arc from harrowing carnage to high ceremony structures the final third of the Iliad, too.The family-curse theme, especially, is one we like to invoke in thinking about the Kennedys.The motif is nowhere stronger than in the “Oresteia” itself, the text that Robert Kennedy quoted that April evening forty-five years ago.“My favorite poet was Aeschylus.” So said Senator Robert F.Kennedy, speaking to a traumatized crowd in April of 1968.


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