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Question:

Compare and contrast the idea of the heroine found in the person of Iphigenia in Euripides’ tragedy Iphigenia in Aulis with that of Bouboulina found in the work of April Kalogeropoulos Householder. To what extent do these examples demonstrate that the idea of the heroine is a product of the society in which it is created?
 
 

Answer:

From the ancient times the women are seen to be different from men both physically as well as psychologically. As all the modern society has evolved from the once agrarian society, the work division and power politics played important role in the building of perspectives regarding the individuality and capabilities. The male endurance value as well as physical strength was directly translated to gain the political power which is the base of power division among the men and women. Since the ancient time, the men fought in wars, erected buildings, hunted beasts and possessed the power to dominate other based on their physical stamina. Women thus have gradually become the subordinates to the males and had been associated with beauty, fragility and purity. She is the haven where the man can rest and hence an entity meant to support the men[1]. They do not need to work outside or exercise their own intellects to gain equality and power like men. Since the ancient times, thus there are some women who did not comply with this typification and revolted against this social setting. Therefore, these powerful women are termed as heroin as they became entities to be worshiped and followed by others both from the aspect of sacrifice like Iphigenia in Greek mythology as well as remarkable intellect and strength like Laskarina Bouboulina.

Joan of Arc, one of the national heroines of France, created a history at the age of eighteen by leading the French army to victory by defeating the English troop [2]. She was captured after one year of this incident and was burned alive as a heretic by the English army and their French companions. The war was known as hundred years’ war, began over the French throne. Initially, Joan was a daughter of a farmer, used to take care of animals and was a skilled tailor. Being a part of a society where women are expected to get married, have kids and handling the household chores; Joan of Arc decided to differentiate her from conventional women character by raising a protestation against their time-period. Mark Twain had written an account on Joan of Arc where he has mentioned that she was accused for ‘insubordination and heterodoxy’ and was burned as a punishment. Later on, considering her innocence she was declared as a martyr. Yet being a teenager girl her bravery to overcome the norms of the contemporary French society, makes her unique.  William Shakespeare had portrayed a number of strong female characters in his works. The character of Cleopatra from his creation Antony and Cleopatra is another instance of strong and unconventional female protagonist [3]. In the first course of the play, the queen of Egypt, Cleopatra is portrayed as an emotionally unstable woman. It was not typical for a woman to be in the charge of ruling an entire empire alone. She was brave and intelligent enough to manipulate Antony by addressing him as her love. In the later part of the play, the character was presented as a tragic one as she chose her own fate by giving up her life instead of confronting the humiliation of becoming Octavius’ slave or prisoner. The patriarchal setting of the society demands women to be docile and restricted under a certain locus. However, both in history and in literature numerous examples can be found where women have proved to be the strongest creature alive on earth.

 


Breaking the stereotypes of the society is not an easy task to do irrespective of genders. The history of the world does not support the theory of equal rights between men and women. Since the beginning of the civilization, patriarchy has existed in every society and women have always been considered the inferior gender throughout all the ages. Their life is confined to certain social norms like getting married, continuing the family lineage, engaging themselves into household chores. If some of them start to think differently or have a better perspective of the world, they turn out to be rebellious. It is needless to say, society does not approve unconventional behaviour from a woman. Prominent women figures from history and literature are viewed rather critically as they have usually more often than not gone against convention to defend their people or communities. In Greek mythical literature, like the Iliad and the Odyssey for example, Queen Helen of Troy, was not accepted by her people after the Trojan War ended and she was recused and brought back to Sparta [4]. It was believed that she had been disloyal to King Menelaus and that she had willingly allowed herself to be kidnapped away to Troy by its ruler, Prince Paris. In this respect, it may be worthwhile to point out that the practice of polygamy was sanctioned for men in ancient Greece, but not so for women. Thus, Helen of Troy was very unfairly accused for infidelity. Cleopatra, the Queen of Egypt received much opposition in her day and age for being a bold and brazen woman, for daring to enter into a relationship with Roman General Mark Antony, and who was strong enough to engage in physical acts of aggression to defend the weak and vulnerable among her people. Joan of Arc on the other hand, in spite of her pristine and religious nature, and her complete devotion to God received flak as well, for daring to be an outspoken woman who stood up ferociously for her religious beliefs. In today’s day and age, women continue to be objects of criticism, usually for daring to be different and to stand out from the crowd [5]. Women political figures like Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin in the United States have been at the receiving end of much criticism for contesting for political office, a domain that has traditionally been considered to be dominated by men [6].

 


Iphigenia is a heroine in Greek mythology who was the princess of Mycenae. This heroin is an embodiment of sacrifice which her father Agamemnon had performed as a punishment by the goddess Artemis. She is a heroized feminine personage and recipient of heroic honors[7]. Through her sacrifices, she is perceived to have great combination of attributes which can bring glory as well as pride to her family as well as community. Iphigenia as a heroine possesses qualities which includes doing right things, obedience to the gods, serve all the responsibilities to her family and community so that their sacrifice can be fruitful above her self-interest. In Greek mythology Iphigenia refers to ‘strong born’ or ‘who causes birth pf strong offspring’. This somehow leads to the understanding of the perspectives of the society which relates women to be a machine to give birth of offspring comparatively stronger. The story of Iphigenia relates to the war between Greece and Troy where the Greek fleet gathers in Aulis. Here Agamemnon, the father of the heroin was the chief criminal to be punished as he had accidentally killed a deer sacred to goddess Artemis[8]. She punished Agamemnon by prying with winds in the sea so that the war fleet could not sail to the destination. The seer of the kings revealed that, he needed to appease Artemis, as he killed her sacred deer. In order to do this, Agamemnon needed to sacrifice the eldest daughter, princess Iphigenia. Despite the fact that Agamemnon first refused but, when pressured by other commanders agrees. This revels the fact the ancient society of Greece accepted the women to be the property of their fathers or husbands. They can be sacrificed like animals when their masters would want. However, Iphigenia remained unaware of the fact till the last moment that she was bound to the imminent sacrifice rather she believed that she was led to alter for being married[9]. After she and her mother found out the actual reason of the plotting of Agamemnon who wanted to sacrifice her daughter or the welfare of the community prayed to save this innocent girl. Despite the fact Agamemnon though that he had no choice to save her own daughter from being sacrificed in the alter, Achilles vowed to defend Iphigenia for the purposes of his own honor. Clytemnestra the mother and Iphigenia tried fruitlessly to persuade the king, Agamemnon to rethink the situation as well as change his mind, they took help from Achilles. He prepared to defend this innocent girl by force. Iphigenia on the other hand, finally realized that she had no hope to escape her destiny, begged Achilles not to waste time or life in a lost cause like her. Over Clytemnestra’s protests and Achilles's admiration, Iphigenia gave consent to her sacrifice to the deity so that the wind started to blow and the Greek army could proceed to Troy unharmed. Like a hero, she declared that she wanted to rather die heroically by winning the pride as the savior of the Greek, than be pulled reluctant to the sacrifice altar. Thus, she went to sacrifice her life for this Nobel cause like a heroine to be worshiped.

 


In one hand the reference of Iphigenia is linked with sacrifice which had made her heroine of the Greeks through sacrifice, Bouboulina was actually a heroine who owned a successful merchant fleet of Greece. She was the first female in the naval history of the world to gain the title of Admiral. Along with this, she grew into an international diplomat and joined the Filike Etairia to fight against the Ottomans. Her life was the radical re-imagining of the gender roles as well as the Greek identity. The life and actions of Bouboulina completely concentrates the perspectives if the Greeks related to women as these explore the most important revolutionary from the Greek history[10]. In one word, Bouboulina had broken free the constrictive paradigm maintained by the men that used to keep the women from becoming a self-actualized[11]. The idea of Greek Revolution was the fruit of her own choices of books which she used to read unlike other women of her time. Starting from revolutionary enlightenment thinkers like Friedrich Schiller and Voltaire. From these books, she gained the essence of the French Revolution and learned to sail with her stepfather and brothers. Unlike all other women of her time she became a stern business woman and spent a large amount of money to create a flourishing merchant fleet as well as armed herself flagship in the secrecy to anticipate the impending revolution. She was associated with male features as the security viewed her to criticize but her physical and psychological strength answered all. Her feats had become the legend as she was the one who despite of being woman led the Spetses navy to capture the Ottoman capital, Nafplion. Unlike other heroines of history, Bouboulina was also condemned by the islanders as witch and heretic hence falsely imprisoned by them. Finally, unlike Iphigenia, Bouboulina was also shot dead by during alleged domestic argument by family members. However, after her death she was given the honorary title of Admiral and she remained the first female Admiral in world naval history

 


Women are exceptional creation of the almighty and literature is indeed influenced by real life characters and their deeds. According to the conventional society norms, women are demanded to be quite and submissive. Throughout the ages, women are bounded to follow some regulations yet many of them decided not to behave the way they are expected to behave under a society. While some of these strong and exceptional woman characters were extremely well-behaved, saintly and dedicated their life for the welfare of mankind; on the other hand some of the rebellions are evil and turn out to be entirely opposite from womanly instincts. There are numerous examples of courageous literary woman characters that can inspire contemporary women to break all the stereotypes of the society.

 

References:

Blondell, Ruby. Helen of Troy: beauty, myth, devastation. Oxford University Press, 2013.

Gill, Jerry H. "Zorba the Greek." Kazantzakis’ Philosophical and Theological Thought. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, 2018. 73-90.

Haines, Elizabeth L., Kay Deaux, and Nicole Lofaro. "The times they are a-changing… or are they not? A comparison of gender stereotypes, 1983–2014." Psychology of Women Quarterly 40.3 (2016): 353-363.

Meeks, Lindsey. "All the gender that’s fit to print: How the New York Times covered Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin in 2008." Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 90.3 (2013): 520-539.

Papadimitriou, Lydia. "Heroines of the 1821 Revolution in Greek Cinema: Bouboulina (1959) and Manto Mavrogenous (1971)." Eroi ?i antieroi balcanici/Balkan Heroes and Anti-Heroes, Editura Funda?iei Culturale Est-Vest, Bucure?ti (2015): 43-48.

Rassidakis, Alexandra. "Der natürliche Übergang zum neugriechischen Kostüm. ETA Hoffmanns provokative Bezugnahme auf das Zeitgeschehen." Wilhelm Müller und der Philhellenismus 50 (2015): 69.

Siegel, Herbert. "Self-Delusion and the" Volte-Face" of Iphigenia in Euripides''Iphigenia at Aulis'." Hermes (1980): 300-321.

Sorum, Christina Elliott. "Myth, Choice, and Meaning in Euripides' Iphigenia at Aulis." The American Journal of Philology 113.4 (1992): 527-542.

Stanton, Kay. "The Heroic Tragedy of Cleopatra: The ‘Prostitute Queen’." Shakespeare’s ‘Whores’. Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2014. 69-114.

Warner, Marina. Joan of Arc: The image of female heroism. Oxford University Press, USA, 2013.

Willink, Charles W. "The prologue of Iphigenia at Aulis." The Classical Quarterly 21.2 (1971): 343-364

Rassidakis, Alexandra. "Der natürliche Übergang zum neugriechischen Kostüm. ETA Hoffmanns provokative Bezugnahme auf das Zeitgeschehen." Wilhelm Müller und der Philhellenismus 50 (2015): 69.

Warner, Marina. Joan of Arc: The image of female heroism. Oxford University Press, USA, 2013.

Stanton, Kay. "The Heroic Tragedy of Cleopatra: The ‘Prostitute Queen’." Shakespeare’s ‘Whores’. Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2014. 69-114.

Blondell, Ruby. Helen of Troy: beauty, myth, devastation. Oxford University Press, 2013.

Haines, Elizabeth L., Kay Deaux, and Nicole Lofaro. "The times they are a-changing… or are they not? A comparison of gender stereotypes, 1983–2014." Psychology of Women Quarterly 40.3 (2016): 353-363.

Meeks, Lindsey. "All the gender that’s fit to print: How the New York Times covered Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin in 2008." Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 90.3 (2013): 520-539.

Sorum, Christina Elliott. "Myth, Choice, and Meaning in Euripides' Iphigenia at Aulis." The American Journal of Philology 113.4 (1992): 527-542.

Siegel, Herbert. "Self-Delusion and the" Volte-Face" of Iphigenia in Euripides''Iphigenia at Aulis'." Hermes (1980): 300-321.

Willink, Charles W. "The prologue of Iphigenia at Aulis." The Classical Quarterly 21.2 (1971): 343-364.

Gill, Jerry H. "Zorba the Greek." Kazantzakis’ Philosophical and Theological Thought. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, 2018. 73-90.

Papadimitriou, Lydia. "Heroines of the 1821 Revolution in Greek Cinema: Bouboulina (1959) and Manto Mavrogenous (1971)." Eroi ?i antieroi balcanici/Balkan Heroes and Anti-Heroes, Editura Funda?iei Culturale Est-Vest, Bucure?ti (2015): 43-48

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