Hubris in Ancient Greek Tragedies

A tragedy is an act of human suffering. This act invokes feeling in viewers’ hearts which seem to enjoy the process of someone suffering. In view of culture, tragedy refers to a form of drama in a given tradition. The term drama in the context of tradition has been the route cause of what is now termed as western civilization.

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Due to the fact that several traditions are nowadays characterized by generosity and discontinuity, it is worth mentioning that tragedy has continuously been used to maintain the identity of different cultures as well as their history. Different people, therefore, continue to gain power from the nature of tragedies as they are an unfailing source of negotiations, struggle, change and cultural experimentation (Wesley 13-16).

Hubris refers to excessive pride and confidence. It may be viewed as the issue caused by specific gender characteristics because it is more profound in men probably due to male ego. During the ancient period in Greece, hubris definition was based on the context of gratification or pleasure. It was considered as an act in which one individual humiliated another person finding pleasure in this process. However, in some cases, this act may be done by mutual consent.

In Greece, however, hubris had a slightly different connotation. It is an act of perpetration with a connotative meaning. It is sexual perpetration. Laws that were termed as the laws of hubris were established by the Greek society, and its people had to adhere to them, otherwise they risked to be punished for breaking the law. The term, therefore, covered sexual crimes in the country at large. Raping was considered one of them as it involves use of force and lack of consent from one of the parties. In this case, the perpetrator is inflicting pain and shame on the victim of the act. The violation of hubris in Greece is parallel to what is nowadays termed as battery.

The crime hubris involved sexual crime like rapping children and women. This was mainly done by men and can be attributed to many reasons. The rape itself becomes hubris when one party involved refused the consent to perform an act, or it was viewed as an improper activity. Hubris also included anal sex. This manifested itself in two ways. First, it may be an act of having anal sex with an underage individual. It also includes having sex against the other person’s will. Another perspective arises when a free man is having anal sex with an individual by mutual agreement (Mark 7-23).

Several nations have come up with rules to help in mitigating the effects of these acts as they have been condemned and outlawed. Different nations have adopted various legislations. This would counter and inflict judgement on perpetrators in a bid to reduce the negative effects of an act. For example, in Greece, several people including political leaders have stood up to condemn the hubris. Two prominent plays have come up to support the above arguments.

Prometheus Bound is a play that has a protagonist and an antagonist, while the primary issue is hubris. The protagonist is static and less talkative than the antagonist because the first one is immobile. This play involves Prometheus and Zeus. Prometheus was chained to a mountain by order of Zeus through strength and force. Zeus made Hephaestus to perform this act, and though having been ashamed of doing it and sympathizing Prometheus, Hephaestus did not help him out.

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He just expressed his pity while having stayed reluctant to help before he had departed. Prometheus in this case got punished because he had stolen fire which he presented to people, thus having contributed to the failure of Zeus’ attempt of wipe out human race. The hubris, in this case, emanates from an effort that Prometheus made to go against the will of Zeus.

Oceanids try to comfort Prometheus with a conversation, in which Prometheus gifted with ability to foresee the future claimed that there would an impending downfall of Zeus as a result of an anticipated marriage. Oceanus pleaded with Zeus to take it easy on Prometheus and have pity on him. Zeus, however, defended his position mentioning that giving fire to the people was not the only reason why he had chained Prometheus. He said that the Titan had done much worse things as he was responsible for civilization that men had managed to build. Prometheus helped them to understand astronomy, mathematics and medicine (Mark 7-23).

Another play representing hubris is Hippolytus, an ancient Greek tragedy written by Euripides and first performed in Athens. The plot of the story is the following; Theseus, the king of Athens, killed another king’s family. He went to go for exile to evade the punishment or any retaliation. The king’s illegitimate son, Hippolytus, refused to honor the Goddess of love, Aphrodite. He instead honored another Goddess. Aphrodite, therefore, planned vengeance because she did not like such treatment from Hippolytus. She made his stepmother to fall in love with him. the woman had become ill because of that love and finally confessed to her nurse and the chorus.

However, the nurse eager to help Phaedra revealed her secret to Hippolytus who blamed the Queen for being rooted. An offended Phaedra decided to hang herself, having left a letter claiming that Hippolytus had raped her. The king, therefore, cursed his son for that. Hippolytus tried to claim that he was innocent but he could not prove that due to the secrecy oath taken earlier.

In conclusion, these two scenarios clearly show that hubris tragedy presents human’s sufferings (Wesley 13-16).

Works Cited

Barrett, Wesly.Euripides, Hippolytos, edited with Introduction and Commentary. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1964. Print.

Griffith, Mark. The Authenticity of the Prometheus Bound. London: Longman, 1977. Print.

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StudyCorgi. (2020, December 19). Hubris in Ancient Greek Tragedies. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/hubris-in-ancient-greek-tragedies/

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