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The Politics of Desperation

5
Mandy Cass
10-14-2002
12:17 PM ET (US)
1.) Both Antigone and Iphegenia "choose death".
How are the motives different for the two young women?


 Though each of these martyrdoms are committed in order to remove blood curses from the martyr's families, the two women are otherwise motivated by very different things. By looking at the actions leading up to each death, one immediately sees that the law is an important aspect in deciding the fate of both; Iphegenia goes to her death to obey the law, Antigone dies as a result of her willingness to flaunt it. However, one also immediately notices that "the law" is not a constant entity. In Iphegenia's case, she bends to the will of the masses and not necessarily the leader (her father). Antigone on the other hand, is not a victim of the masses, but instead of Creon's direct order, against the will of others. Another important distinction between the two martyrs is the resignation of the martyr to their fate. Iphegenia is not a wholly willing victim, she does protest her fate (an aspect of her trial emphasized in the movie, but also evident in the play). This attitude of self-preservation is absent in Antigone. Where Iphegenia protests, Antigone actively brings about her own death. When reading the plays neither situation is ridiculously unrealistic, as Iphegenia is faced much more directly with the consequences of her submission than is Antigone. Antigone's actions were driven not by a wish to die, but rather a wish to see her brother buried, a cause in which she believed deeply and where her actions were not assured a death sentence. Iphegenia, on the other hand, early on makes it clear that she is not committed to the cause for which she is to die (the retrieval of Helen), and she is very aware that by giving her consent, she will inevitably face immediate execution. A final point of contrast is with regard to their families honor. Though both martyrs lift curses from their households, by her death Iphegenia brings great honor to her family, where Antigone brings shame to hers.
4
Ana M. Pardo
10-07-2002
06:43 PM ET (US)
Exercise for reviewing Antigone and Iphegenia.


     Antigone accepts death as part of her mission. She places her duty above any system of rules and decides to honor her brother by giving him a proper burial and decides to end the family curse. Letting go of her life is worth accomplishing what she believes is right for her and her family. Therefore, unlike Iphegenia, I think that Antigone’s motives for choosing death are personal. Iphegenia’s motives are not personal in the sense that she gives her life more than anything for the benefit of her people, the Greeks. She makes death the purpose of her life (“Take me, kill me, and bring down Troy. That will be my wedding, my children, the meaning of my life”) but more importantly the purpose of the Greeks when believing that her sacrifice will ensure her country’s military victory and consequently its prosperity.
     Both Antigone and Iphegenia choose to die but only after assuming their position of victims. The characters are not given many options and therefore they end up being martyrs. Antigone feels that she is part of a curse and that she is able to choose either to continue to be part of it or to end it (“can anyone living, as I live, with evil all about me, think Death less than a friend?”). Iphegenia is the victim of a trap and can only choose to die willingly or to die because she is being forced into her death.
     The process of going from being a victim to being a martyr is one of great suffering. In my view, it is the pain endured by Antigone that makes her a martyr. Fighting the curse makes her someone who actively seeks death; she refuses to wait for death by starving and decides to welcome it by killing herself. On the other hand, I think that even though Iphegenia endures pain (“ Do not send me into death before my time. It is sweet to see the light”(1203-12228)“Only the mad choose to be dead. The meanest of life is better than the most glorious death”(1276-1316)), it is the pain endured by the people around her that makes her a martyr (specifically Clytemnestra’s and Agamemnon’s pain). When Iphegenia is about to die she is no longer suffering and on the contrary gives the impression of being content with her pursue of an action that is bringing positive things: honor, victory, fame, prosperity.
     We can see the differences in the way that both of the characters approach or are being brought to death but I believe that the essence of their act of dying is very similar. I think that Antigone and Iphegenia are giving their life to the gods, they are offering them for different reasons but they both expect something back: the end of the curse and the victory of Greece. In this sense it could be said that both of the deaths, by their intentions, constitute sacrifices. Antigone and Iphegenia become by dying a mean to achieve something. They are trading with the cosmic world for a better future on earth.
3
Phoebe Ndoro
10-07-2002
03:19 PM ET (US)
In response to Hannah's questions on Christ's sexuality, there are so may different scholarly opinions on this topic that range from the absurd to the illogical. For a more accurate interpretation one should consult the bible which gives a detailed account of his life and no where does it mention that Jesus had sex with any woman whatsoever.
The question i am going to answer is - "How is the tension and conflict between individual and society, selfishness and altruism, personal honor and divine or transcendent goodness play out in each of the plays?"
In relation to 'Iphegenia at Aulis' we can powefully see the conflict between the individual versus the society. There is Argamemnon who loves his daughter dearly and does not want to sacrifice his own child to appease the God, but Agamemnon realises that he is not just a father but also a king and he cannot simply act in his own interests but he must also serve and defend the interests of his people/subjects. His will to be a good King overrules his desire to be a good father and he reluctantly hands over his daughter.
We also see the same confict of the individual versus society with Iphegenia. When she discovers the real reason her father has summoned her for, she is not ready or willing to die and desperately begs her father to save her life, as she argues "why should i pay for Helen's mistakes?" She is clearly thinking of herself not that we can blame her. But as the play progresses and the soldiers demand for her death, she recognices the hopelessness of her situation and accepts her fate as a pawn in the tit-for-tat chessgame of the gods.
Theferore we may perceive her as being weak and helpless, but we see a change in Iphegenia when she choses to approach her death with fortitude and serenity while wearing a bridal veil. It is her determination,resolution and courage in the face of death that makes her becomes almost powerful in our eyes because she gives into the wishes of society but on her own individual terms. Thus her death represents a unique instance of when both the society and the individual have a decisive influence on the events that occur.
2
Hannah
09-30-2002
01:09 AM ET (US)
Okay. I hope this works. I'm going to respond for a bit to one of the questions which was what makes a good sacrificial victim and what are the similarities between Iphegenia and Christ. In this instance, Iphegenia seems to have had no reason to be the victim, unless I completely missed something. She isn't fighting nor is she the cause of the war. She is, however the daughter of a King, so she's noble, her life counts for something. She's young, apparently pretty and a virgin. Those three qualities seem to make her a particularly appropriate choice for Artemis. This idea of a virgin is something that always interests me. Virgin means pure, but how exactly does not having sex or not knowing about sex make someone pure? Is it not until we marry and have children that we reach adulthood? I digress. Anyway, Why wouldn't an adult be a good sacrifice. I wonder if a virgin is a more valuable choice, since her life is before her, she could marry well, make an alliance with her chosen husband, have children, etc. An adult has already accomplished these things. They say that Christ was a virgin. Well, maybe they don't say that, but no one really seems to talk about his sex life. I wasn't raised Christian, so I only have what I've gleaned from reading the New Testament and from historical studies of Christianity. From this, he appears to have been very unworldly, not participating in carnal things. Unless of course you count this story that i heard a few years ago about Christ and Mary Magdalene. They were walking up a mountain and suddenly Jesus produced a woman from his leg or something and started having sex with her. That's from a credible source too! This British guy gave a lecture at Smith about the historical Jesus and he told us this story. Whether or not Jesus was a virgin, he is certainly very pure, reasonably young, attractive- though possibly more with the radiant-ness of God than with physical beauty. One of the biggest differences that i noticed was that Jesus, I think, was tormented about his death. Isn't there a "let this cup pass me by" part in the New Testament? In the end, he goes to his death on the cross, but I guess I never saw him as the martyr all along. He did die beautifully though. Iphegenia is possibly the most silent character in the play. I think even the old Servant says more than she does. All the action revolves around her, but that is just other people saying what they think ought to be done. Eventually she breaks in, we have no clue whether she's been pondering this all along, or whether she just breaks out of the wings onto the stage and says she's ready to die. Euripides leaves her very much a hollow character. I was disappointed that we didn't get more insight into her decisions and possible struggle. Based on what I see as a difference between Iphegenia and Christ, I wonder whether the best victim is a willing one? Having reservations about death or just plainly not wanting to go makes us human. Willingness makes us superhuman or just crazy. So, is Iphegenia a better victim or I should say better choice of sacrifice than Christ? I think this is a very difficult comparison. (It just dawned on me). Iphegenia is a princess, but Jesus is the son of God! But it is his destiny, so what about her? It's getting late and I don't have answers to these things. Maybe you do. See you tomorrow.
1
Carolina CamargoPerson was signed in when posted
09-18-2002
09:29 PM ET (US)
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