Greek Tragedy Modern Essays In Criticism

Greek Tragedy Modern Essays In Criticism-43
In addition, Aristotle's work had an overwhelming influence on the development of drama long after it was compiled.

In addition, Aristotle's work had an overwhelming influence on the development of drama long after it was compiled.

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The hero's error or frailty () is often misleadingly explained as his "tragic flaw," in the sense of that personal quality which inevitably causes his downfall or subjects him to retribution.

However, overemphasis on a search for the decisive flaw in the protagonist as the key factor for understanding the tragedy can lead to superficial or false interpretations.

Aristotle mentions two features of the plot, both of which are related to the concept of ), where the opposite of what was planned or hoped for by the protagonist takes place, as when Oedipus' investigation of the murder of Laius leads to a catastrophic and unexpected conclusion; and "recognition" (), the point when the protagonist recognizes the truth of a situation, discovers another character's identity, or comes to a realization about himself.

This sudden acquisition of knowledge or insight by the hero arouses the desired intense emotional reaction in the spectators, as when Oedipus finds out his true parentage and realizes what crimes he has been responsible for.

Now character determines men's qualities, but it is their action that makes them happy or wretched.

The purpose of action in the tragedy, therefore, is not the representation of character: character comes in as contributing to the action. The plot, then, is the first principle, and, as it were, the soul of a tragedy: character holds the second place.

In a more sophisticated philosophical sense though, the hero's fate, despite its immediate cause in his finite act, comes about because of the nature of the cosmic moral order and the role played by chance or destiny in human affairs.

Unless the conclusions of most tragedies are interpreted on this level, the reader is forced to credit the Greeks with the most primitive of moral systems.

It is worth noting that some scholars believe the "flaw" was intended by Aristotle as a necessary corollary of his requirement that the hero should not be a completely admirable man.

would thus be the factor that delimits the protagonist's imperfection and keeps him on a human plane, making it possible for the audience to sympathize with him.


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