All writings of literature have a theme and specific symbols that are important to the work all throughout. Every writer is influenced by what is going on in the world around them when they sit down to write. In the play Agamemnon the theme is revenge, in the poem Inferno the theme is justice, and in the novel Don Quixote the theme is illusion vs. reality. In all the works there are many literary devices that add to the meaning of the literature. In the beginning, in the Ancient time period, most works were influenced by Greek mythology and had a story line that began with a well-known legend.
Aeschylus did the same when he wrote the trilogy Oresteia. The first play in the trilogy is Agamemnon, which was written with a theme of revenge. The background information says justice is the theme, but I think once you take justice into your own hands it then becomes revenge. This theme of revenge goes back in history before where the play actually starts. The first act of revenge is Agamemnon, the protagonist, wanting to invade Troy because the Trojan Prince, Paris, stole Helen. Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter, Iphigenia, so that the winds would blow the fleet toward Troy.
Therefore, the second act of revenge is when Clytemnestra, the antagonist, murders Agamemnon to avenge their daughter’s death. Aegisthus, Agamemnon’s cousin and Clytemnestra’s lover, helps Clytemnestra kill Agamemnon because he is seeking revenge for Agamemnon’s father killing his brothers and feeding them to his father. Agamemnon’s murder could be seen as justice for the murder of his daughter, but his death was not a sacrifice as was his daughter’s. His death is not justice but revenge.
Cassandra says that Orestes will come to kill his mother, which would be an act of revenge for killing his father. In this play revenge only leads to more killings. The revenge, seen so many times in this play, was the normal system of governing in the primitive society of ancient Greece. Fortunately, Aeschylus continues his story until a system of government is made where the people have true justice not revenge. The plot of the whole trilogy, Oresteia, is symbolic because it shows how the Greeks have moved from a revenge form of justice to justice by the court of law.
Aeschylus uses many different literary devices in his play. In Agamemnon, eagles, hares, spiders, and other creatures exhibit the behavior patterns of humans, figuratively speaking, and thus become symbols for those humans. For example, spiders and snakes are associated with Clytemnestra because she has spun a web of treachery, like a spider, and has poised herself, like a coiling snake, to strike at Agamemnon. The purple carpet symbolizes the pride that afflicts Agamemnon as conqueror of Troy and the bloody death that awaits him.
Also the saffron, or purple, colored robe worn by Cassandra also appears to symbolize her death. Aeschylus uses flashbacks through many people throughout the play to describe past events. The events that are flashbacked to give background information which is vital to a complete understanding of the play. Many instances of flashbacks come from the chorus, which is very important to the play. Also the use of foreshadowing is seen, for example, through Cassandra who has the gift of insight and tells the reader about Agamemnon’s death as well as her own.
The next time period in literature was the Middle Ages, during which Dante Alighieri wrote the poem Inferno. During this time, most literature praised the Roman Catholic Church. Alighieri’s involvement in the political affairs of Italy, and in particular Florence, helped to shape his views of the Church. In Inferno, Alighieri not only levels specific attacks on his political enemies, but also transcends the personal to make a convincing argument against the contemporary Catholic Church as an institution. The theme of justice is shown throughout the poem Inferno.
This poem reveals a great deal about Alighieri’s views about justice. God, the Supreme Being, saw all the sin being committed and had to do something about the outrageous behavior of humans. God created Hell to put all the sinners there because they do not deserve His love. They are all then brought to justice by means of great torment for the sins they have committed. For every injustice, justice must be served. Alighieri divides Hell into many different parts according to what his belief on the level of punishment the sinners, the crime, and the sin should get.
Alighieri then commits them to a torture that corresponds to the sins they committed during their life, this is how it is justified. For example, all the souls in the seventh circle where the Violent against Neighbors reside shed the blood of fellow men in their lifetimes. They wallow in blood just like they did during their lives, and now are boiled forever in the river of blood. The souls are placed in deeper or shallower parts of the river according to the degree of their guilt. The theme of justice is visible in their suffering.
The greater the sin they committed the deeper they are in the blood they are boiled in. God does not make exceptions and is fair and just about the punishments and distribution of justice. Each circle of hell in Inferno is in itself a symbol of justice, where justice is distributed throughout to the sinners. For example, in the fourth circle Dante, the protagonist, and Virgil come across the Hoarders and Wasters. Their suffering is a symbolic representation of their sin. It shows that what they did was pointless.
Alighieri shows that strength is needed in times of great difficulty when he and Virgil climb up Satan. Virgil tells Dante that climbing up Satan’s very fur is the only way to move past him. Alighieri uses this climb as a symbol for the hardships people must overcome in everyday life if they want to end up in Heaven. Following the Middle Ages was the Renaissance Age. Miguel de Cervantes wrote the novel Don Quixote during this time period. Cervantes was one of the first to write in depth about a hero who sets out to reinvent his own identity by sheer force of will.
This ides has carried on for many years even appearing today in books and movies. He used experiences from his own life to write this novel which shows the change in society from when chivalry was valued, to the time when it was laughable or even forgotten. The central theme in the novel Don Quixote is illusion vs. reality. In the beginning, it is easy to distinguish between what is real and what is fantasy. By the middle of Part II, however, the distinctions are sometimes unclear.
For example, when Don Quixote, the protagonist, has a bad dream in the cave of Montesinos, one is no longer certain whether the dream is just another delusion or whether it is a product of the mind of his sane alter ego, Alonso Quixano. First, there are Quixote’s own mad delusions. Later, his friends begin to play tricks on him and disguise themselves in order to get him to give up his quest and return home. Also, the shifting points of view in Don Quixote emphasize the theme of illusion vs. reality. The story is told by an author, presumably Cervantes himself, who sometimes interrupts is tale to speak directly to the reader. In the Prologue to Part I, for example, this author even complains about how much trouble he has had finishing his work. The author claims that he is only retelling a true story related by an Arab historian, Cide Hamete Benengeli. Of course, there is no such person as Benengeli. The author made him up. Benengeli’s comments on the story represent another level of unreality that lies between the reader and the adventures of Quixote. Sometimes Benengeli’s observations point out certain aspects of the novel to the reader.
While other times Cervantes uses Benengeli to make fun of Cervantes the author, for example, when he warns the reader that if “anything good” is found missing in the story “it is the fault of its dog of an author rather than any default in the subject. ” Eventually Don Quixote declares his name to be Alonso Quixano once more and appears to have regained his grip with reality. The books in Don Quixote symbolize the importance and influence literature in everyday life. The use of mirrors is symbolic when Samson Carrasco appears in a suit of armor covered with tiny mirrors.
Samson, who even calls himself “Knight of the Mirrors,” is pretending to be a knight only in order to trick Don Quixote into giving up his quest. Samson’s trick “mirrors” Quixote’s madness. I think it is symbolic at the end of the story when the two characters reverse their previous ways of thinking, Cervantes is trying to show the reader it is worthless to only adopt one single way of thinking. Also, I think, for the majority of the story, Don Quixote actually symbolizes the illusion part of the theme, while Sancho Panza symbolizes the reality part.
After reading these works of literature one can realize literature is very interesting if they can look deeper into the meaning of the work and not just take it at face value. Each work of literature has a theme, but it is obvious to see that without all the different symbols it wouldn’t be quite as great. Aeschylus, Dante Alighieri, and Miguel de Cervantes used many literary devices as well as their opinions about life around them to write pieces that still influence the lives of readers many, many years later.