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Oedipus The King And Greek Culture

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 949 words Published: 8th May 2017

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If we had to make a critical decision upon which ancient civilization has greatly influenced our culture and ways of life today, I would defiantly have to choose the Greeks. In some aspect of our everyday lives as Americans, we use something that started with the Greek Civilization. Whether it’s the buildings we work in, the education we received, or our favorite movie, it most likely includes some type of Greek influence. By looking at dramatic plays like Oedipus the King and Lysistrata, we can see the similarities between the two cultures.

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By looking at these stories as a whole, we can see a major influence the Greek have made. The fact that drama and plays still exist in our society today shows a major aspect of Greek culture. The Greek are given credit for drama and theater, and today in our society, these still play a large role. Theater, film, acting, and literature still serve as forms of entertainment as well as knowledge just as it did in Greek civilization. It has grown to develop plays, television shows, and movies. Drama is taught in our school systems and is in most of our homes.

In Oedipus the King, we see a very anthropocentric civilization; every man is interested in a better life for himself. Even God does not hold power to man. Oedipus wanted to be looked at not only as a higher power in society, but almost as a God. We still see this anthropocentric viewpoint in our culture today. Many politicians and celebrities still seem to crave this kind of power. Although America was found upon a religious government, our society tends to stray away from that belief and place mankind higher up the food chain. Another similarity in Oedipus occurs when the plague attacks the city of Thebes and the entire people look to Oedipus for a solution. “Oh Oedipus, king of the land, our greatest power! You see us before you now, men of all ages, clinging to your altars.” This is a common trait seen in America today. Many Americans feel it is the government’s responsibility to care for them and to fix all the problems in society. In Oedipus and Lysistrata, we see that men are also the main decision makers for the society. This trend is still apparent in our culture today. Although recently women have begun to take stage in the political scene of America, men have always been seen more powerful and it was their duty. Still today, we have never had a female president. In Lysistrata, we see the women step up to take power in society just as we have seen in America. Lysistrata tells her friend Kalonike, “But if the women gather together here-the Boiotian women, the Peloponnesian women, and ourselves-together we’ll be able to rescue Greece!” Within recent years, women have gained the rights to vote, own property, and even run for office in America. Women originally were homemakers that were bound to their husbands, just like that of Greek culture. In Greece, women were not allowed to even participate in plays that were written about them; men actually played their parts.

One word that really describes the philosophy and life behind Greek culture is Reason. Unlike the Hebrew, the Greek wanted to find an answer for everything. If it was real, there was a reason. In Oedipus the King, we see examples of Reason and how the Greeks wanted to find an explanation for everything. One example is when they send Creon to Delphi to find an answer to the plague that has attacked the city. Even after Oedipus is told the truth of his childhood by the prophet and how he killed his father, he still seeks out proof. He explains to his wife Jocasta that he must solve the mystery of his birth. “Listen to you? No more. I must know it all, must see the truth at last.” In our culture today we seem to need an answer for everything. We try to use science and anatomy to understand things like religion instead of having faith. The Greeks also believed in destiny, that your life was already chosen for you. Oedipus was chosen to kill his father and marry his mother the day he was born. Many people in our society still believe in destiny as well.

Another large influence in our civilization that comes from the Greeks is comedy. Lysistrata was not only written to make a point to the people of Greece, but it was also meant to be funny. Aristophanes used sarcasm in order to get a point across to his audience. He knew they would enjoy humor much more than a public speech. Comedy is still a large part of our culture today. Something that has become very openly discussed and prevalent in our society is sex. At one time, sex was only discussed behind closed doors and shared openly between a husband and wife. Today, sexuality is very open and used in drama just like the play of Lysistrata. It’s mostly the Greek that influenced our culture to feel free about the idea of sex. The beauty of a woman’s body was also cherished in Greek culture. In Lysistrata, we see Myrrhine tease her husband Kinesias with her body and cause him even more agony. Pride in a woman was also seen as a sex symbol much like it is today. “She seems much younger than I remember, and she has a sexier look in her eyes. She acted prickly and very stuck-up too, but that just makes me want her more!”

By studying the Greek culture, I believe it can help us understand who we are today and how many of our customs in our culture originated. By reading Oedipus the King and Lysistrata, you can see the similarities in Greek and American lifestyles. Their entertainment, reason, education, architecture, and political powers have influenced the world around us.


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