Woman in Athens of the 5th century B.C. Her role in society; her role in contemporary drama; a comparative study.

O'Neill, Jean Kathleen (1986). Woman in Athens of the 5th century B.C. Her role in society; her role in contemporary drama; a comparative study. The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000f925

Abstract

An evaluation of the role of women in fifth century Athens, through an examination of the contextual environment, presents the possibility that, although appearing to hold a subsidiary position in a male-dominated society, in actuality, the citizen-class woman had a covert power which was acceptable to, and accepted by, a society which respected and protected her.

This role of potential influence was carried over into the drama, where the choice of particular episodes by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, whose works form the sole extant corpus, emphasises the importance of the female position, and has assumed a universally applicable relevance through the realism and accuracy of the characterisations.

The development of institutionalised drama in this century was only incidentally as entertainment. Its primary functions were spiritual and didactic, thus providing an opportunity for the communication of truths, basic to existence, to an audience who, within such an environment of sensory totality, were receptive to, and capable of, influence by the dramatist's words.

Love and peace are essential for man's well-being and, indeed, for his survival. It is necessary constantly to remind him of this. Analysis of particular plays reveals that, whether intentionally or not, these two elements dominate and shape the form of the dramatist's message. Women the bearers of life, are the chosen media for this vital communication.

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