A Poetics of Forgiveness: Cultural Responses to Loss and by Jill Scott (auth.)

By Jill Scott (auth.)

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Extra info for A Poetics of Forgiveness: Cultural Responses to Loss and Wrongdoing

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Achilles’ anger toward Agamemnon and Hector has nothing to do with what we think of as a grudge or feelings of bitterness. Rather, what we witness in Achilles is pure fuel and not emotion in the modern sense of the word. Here, fury is the burning need to enact revenge, untainted by blame and accusation. Resentment and feelings of ill-will seem to be a modern development, one which postdates Achilles’ crude means of dispute resolution. Aeschylus shows us characters with more self-awareness and more complex psychological states, what Fagles calls the “initiation into stronger states of consciousness” (20).

Although forgiveness does not enter the Greek vocabulary, Orestes requires Athena’s acquittal to end his torment. I turn to Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill (Book. 1, 2003; Book. 2, 2004) for an interesting modern counterpart to the ancient revenge myth. The screenplay tells us that, despite his many assassinations, Bill, Tarantino’s male revenge hero, is pure. While Bill is cinematically speaking impure—his character is blended and spliced from countless television and film genres—his lack of self-consciousness makes him pure, just like Achilles.

It could be argued that, for the duration of her revenge mission, she needs to follow Hanzo ¯ ’s principles of suppressing all human emotion and that when it is over she is free to display her passions once again. I would argue that forgiveness is absent in the Iliad, the Oresteia and Kill Bill because each of these texts is based on codes of conduct that have no currency in modern times or outside of a fictional world. If the principle quality of forgiveness is letting go of resentment, then forgiveness is only required where there is resentment.

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