The Culture Of Violence Essays On Tragedy And History

The lines he cited on the night of King’s death were used as the epitaph on his own tombstone. However Jacqueline Kennedy may have labored to make Camelot the official myth of the Kennedy Administration, when we have tried to make sense of the Kennedys and their story—to try to find the larger, “mythic” structure beneath the details—we have turned to the Greeks; to Greek tragedy, in particular. Athenian drama returns obsessively—as we do, every November 22nd—to the shocking and yet seemingly inevitable spectacle of the fallen king, of power and beauty and privilege violently laid low.Another way of saying this is that all tragedy is about the way that we live: slowly uncovering the deeper meanings of things, often long after we can do anything about them.However extreme its manifestations over the years, the tragic yearning to go back, to get it right this time, to use our present knowledge to understand what we couldn’t understand then, is a vital part of our response to the Kennedy drama—another reason why it remains so insistently alive. himself powerfully recalls a key character from epic—from Homer’s Iliad, the grandest of epics and the source for so many tragic plots. K.’s story resonates strongly for us, it’s because he reminds us of a slightly less glamorous—but equally powerful—character: Hector.After Achilles slays Hector, the hero, maddened by grief for his lost comrade, drags the body back and forth before the walls of Troy (where the dead man’s family and countrymen watch in anguished horror, like the audience of a tragedy) and around the tomb of Patroclus.The desecration of the dead body, the refusal to obey religious convention and give it back to the family for burial, is a mark of Achilles’ inability to let go of—to “bury”—his own grief.Then the body is burned, the bones are gathered and buried.The last line of the entire epic, with its mad quarrels and awful carnage and odd moments of privacy and tenderness, its battles and sex and scheming, emphasizes the importance of the ceremonial closure: “This was the funeral of Hector, breaker of horses.”The end of the Iliad is, in other words, a narrative about grief yielding to mourning, about the way in which civilization responds to violence and horror.Here, Hector comes off the battlefield to seek out his wife and infant son, but the baby recoils in terror from his father, who, still in armor, is unrecognizable to the child.It’s only when Hector removes his helmet that the family unit can cohere once more.“My favorite poet was Aeschylus.” So said Senator Robert F.Kennedy, speaking to a traumatized crowd in April of 1968.


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