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Shakespearean Tragedy

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1 Shakespearean Tragedy
Romeo and Juliet: Archetypes and the theory of the tragic flaw

2 Romeo and Juliet Archetypes
An archetype is a pattern from which copies can be made. Archetypes fall into two major categories: characters and situations/symbols. Characters include: The hero: the courageous figure, the one who's always running in and saving the day. Example: Dartagnon from Alexandre Dumas's “The Three Musketeers.” The outcast: The outcast is just that. He or she has been cast out of society or has left it on a voluntary basis. The outcast figure can often also be considered as a Christ-like figure. Example: Snowball from George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The scapegoat: The scapegoat figure is the one who gets blamed for everything, regardless of whether he or she is actually at fault. Example: Piggy from William Golding’s The Lord of The Flies. SOURCE:

3 Romeo and Juliet The star-crossed lovers: This is the young couple joined by love but unexpectedly parted by fate. Example: Romeo and Juliet from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Romeo and Juliet have been immortalized as the archetypes of true love because they are willing to sacrifice everything —including themselves —for their love.

4 The Tragic Flaw Three views of tragedy:
Catastrophe results from a flaw in the character of the hero. The hero’s tragic flaw results from fate or coincidence. Tragedy results from an error of judgment committed by the hero, one that may or may not have as its source a weakness in character.

5 The Tragic Flaw Typically, tragic protagonists make mistakes; they misjudge other characters, they misinterpret events, and they confuse appearance with reality. Often, the hero’s fall from glory crushes not only himself but other related characters.

6 The Tragic Flaw Aristotle’s criteria for tragedy:
The hero is of noble birth or occupies a highly respected, public position. In a tragedy, the hero is not necessarily good or just, but his misfortune is brought about by some error or frailty, rather than by vice or depravity. A tragedy tracks the hero’s gradual downfall, usually brought about by his own misjudgment.

7 The Tragic Flaw The play progresses logically, showing the audience the step-by-step events that lead to destruction and death. This is the tragic flaw: It may be caused by bad judgment, inherited weakness, or any of several other possible causes of error.

8 The Tragic Flaw Shakespeare’s tragic heroes are made of the stuff we find within ourselves and within the people around us. In almost all instances, we see a marked one-sidedness, a predisposition in some particular direction; a fatal tendency to identify the whole being with one interest, object, passion, or habit of mind.

9 The Tragic Flaw So how does this apply to Romeo and Juliet?
Romeo can be seen as a tragic hero. He is from a highly respected family. Some have identified his flaw as falling in love too deeply and too quickly. His rash behavior comes out in other ways: For example, he would not have rushed to kill himself as soon as he believed that Juliet was dead.

10 The Tragic Flaw Romeo also makes a series of bad decisions. He doesn’t think before he acts: He goes to the Capulet party. It was unnecessary to step in between Mercutio and Tybalt. He rashly kills Paris. He decides to commit suicide.

11 The Tragic Flaw Romeo’s actions affect others:
Mercutio, Tybalt, and Paris all die. Lady Montague dies of grief. Because of Romeo, Juliet kills herself. All of these are ingredients for a tragic hero.

12 The Tragic Flaw Some disagree with the notion of the “flaw,” especially in Romeo and Juliet. Theorist Russ McDonald says: Brash and independent children, the young lovers look to unite in a deceptive and corrupt world. While there is haste in their romance and carelessness with which they act (“They stumble that run fast,” as Friar Laurence says), it is passionate love, both physical and spiritual, that destroys them, but that is also what draws us to them. Shakespeare does not present their passion as a flaw. Their tragedy is attributed to fate.

13 The Tragic Flaw The simple honesty of youth is set against the obstacles of their heritage, present against past. Shakespeare invites the audience to sympathize with the lovers and to wish for a world in which the quarreling parents could be brought to their senses; Tybalt could welcome his enemies to the party; Friar John could have delivered that darn message to Romeo. “If only” is the persistent theme.

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