Aristotle And Tragedy Essay Research Paper A

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Aristotle And Tragedy Essay, Research Paper A tragedy is loosely defined as an event which ends in calamity or distress. However, Aristotle’s Poetics provided us with a more detailed set of guide lines with which to define the genre of Tragedy. He stated that the real pathos is effected by our awareness of some wasted, admirable quality/ies in the protagonist, the realization of which is invariably obstructed by the pride of that character. Thus the final fall, and subsequent death, of the protagonist is also a form of catharsis, the nemesis which counters the character’s misplaced pride. In Greek tragedy and even later imitations the plot would generally revolve around the aristocracy, royalty or important members of state. As a result the impact of the fall would be

emphasized. In English literature some of our most poignant tragedies of course come from Shakespeare, and his tragedies too move in these same spheres; King Lear, Macbeth, Hamlet and so on. Shakespeare’s use of soliloquy was an integral part in his creation of tragic pathos because it was in soliloquy that we were made privy to the private aspirations and emotions of the central character, ones which would often clash with the public picture we had of these men. For example, Hamlet’s mental torment is piercingly transcribed in his soliloquies. As a result we see clearly that his public duty to avenge his father’s murder and to fulfill his role as prince of Denmark is complicated and frustrated by his human doubts and moral anguish. It is his soliloquies that arouse our

sympathies and illustrate the full implications behind his task, that show that he is not just a prince but a man also. So, is it possible to call the plays in question, Arthur Miller’s All My Sons and The Death of a Salesman and Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie, Tragedies? What we see in dramatists like Miller and Williams are essentially the same principles at play. Where these plays differ from traditional Tragedy is that the world in which they function is a modern one. Theirs is domestic tragedy, drama that uses the battle ground of modern America as its setting. Rather than being concerned with the elite, the middle class family environment provides the focus of these plays. Nevertheless, the principles that turned the large, splendid cogs of Greek tragedy are

the same as those that fuel the little cogs in the world of mediocrity. We may then ask the question, can this be true tragedy if it tells the story of the ‘little man’? In the plays under discussion here, I intend to argue that it is entirely plausible to do so when we consider that, in their own world, each person is a big man. Who could deny, for example, that an integral part of Willie Loman’s tragedy is his own realization that he has fallen from grace in the eyes of his son Biff and that he is therefore no longer a whole man. In turn this triggers much of his self-delusion and his obsessive need to maintain the facade of success, to his son in particular. This of course is his tragedy, the failure to acknowledge who he really is. I shall also look at the allocation of

responsibility in these tragedies to see whether it lies with the protagonist or the society in which he functions. Something that is common to all three plays is that each child is left with the legacy of its parents’s mistakes. In the short space of each of play it is inevitable that the elder character plays the chief tragic role because that person is nearing the end of their life. Consequently, with the aid of flashbacks, we are made privy to an entire lifetime of mistakes which we may then weigh up and judge. For example, Willie’s regret about not following in his brother’s footsteps, Biff’s disillusionment that springs from his father’s infidelity or Joe’s guilt over of his malpractice and its eventual destruction of his son’s faith in him and so on. Whilst