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Tragedy and Tragic Hero

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1 Tragedy and Tragic Hero
Characteristics from Aristotle’s Poetics

2 TRAGEDY A serious play that depicts the fall and/or death of a noble character Character in conflict with forces beyond his/her control

3 Tragic Hero Of noble birth (highly regarded) Acts nobly or honorably
Makes choices that lead to a situation from which there is no escape Has a tragic flaw that leads to his destruction

4 Aristotle's Definition of a tragic hero:
1. Comes from nobility (high position such as a king or outstanding person) 2. Tragic Flaw (caused by a simple mistake or a character flaw - a virtue carried to the extreme, maybe pride or jealousy) 3. Undergoes a Reversal of Fortune (Falls from high to low / happiness to misery) 4. Has a Downfall (misfortunes) 5. Recognizes his mistakes (in a catharsis/cleansing of emotions or purgation of pity and fear)

5 Tragedy 1. Tragedy is meant to reaffirm the fact that life is worth living, regardless of the suffering or pain that is part of human existence. 2. Tragedies are about people in conflict with the universe. Tragedies are always about spiritual conflicts, never about every day events.

6 Tragedy 3. Tragic actions arise from a character's inner conflict.
A tragic protagonist must have magnitude; his struggles are great because he is important to society. 4. The tragic protagonist must fall from high to low; they will have a noble soul. The audience must care about the tragic protagonist.

7 Tragedy 5. The tragic protagonist is a decent person, but not perfect (not completely virtuous or villainous). He usually suffers from hubris (Pride) as shown through hamartia (character flaw or error in judgment). Once the transgression is realized, the character enters the stage of anagnorisis  (recognition) and will undergo a peripeteia (reversal of fortune or fall from high to low). In other words, the character grows and gains self-knowledge.

8 Tragedy 6. The protagonist's actions should arouse feelings of both pity, fear, and compassion in the audience. Pity because the protagonist is better than we are, so we place ourselves into his position (empathy). Fear because we too do not know our future or fate. However much the audience may feel for the character, it does not leave with depression.

9 Tragedy 7. By the end of the play, the audience should be purged of pity and fear, so they go through a catharsis (purgation of pity and fear). 8.The tragic protagonist must ask the first and last of all questions: What does it mean to be? He must face the world alone, unaided, and kick against his fate. He can never escape his fate, but he will insist upon accepting fate on his own terms.

10 Additional characteristics
The character is responsible for his own downfall because of the choices. The punishment seems to exceed the crime which is a waste of potential. The character does not want to get ahead, but does want to die honorably. The character goes beyond the call of duty and takes responsibility for others.

11 HAMARTIA An error of judgment. Hamartia, “fault”, is sometimes known as the tragic flaw because it represents a fatal weakness that causes the downfall of a protagonist in tragedy. This hamartia may be caused by inherited weakness, by faulty character traits, or by poor judgment; whatever the cause, the result is action or inaction, that leads to destruction or death.

12 HUBRIS Arrogance; excessive self-pride and self-confidence. Hubris, “insolence”, referred to the emotions in Greek tragic heroes that led them to ignore warnings from the gods and thus invite catastrophe. Hubris is that form of hamartia that stems from overbearing pride and self-assumed superiority. The original sin of the Greek tragic hero is hubris, believing that one is god-like. Nobody can be tempted into hubris except one who is exceptionally fortunate.

13 CATHARSIS A Greek word, “kathairein”, means to clean or to purify. Refers to any emotional discharge that brings about an emotional or spiritual renewal or welcome relief from tension and anxiety. An audience filled with confusion and unhealthy emotions, such as pity and fear, comes to see a play developing make-believe actions that would be harmful if occurring in real life. It participates emotionally in the dramatic action and goes away psychologically cleansed, purged of injurious feelings and sensations.

14 Catharsis continued Literary critics have never agreed whether catharsis means that members of an audience thus learn to avoid the evil and destructive emotions of a tragic hero or that their inner conflicts are quieted by an opportunity to expend pity and fear upon such a protagonist. 

15 Aristotle's Six Elements of Drama
1. Plot (the incidents or story line) 2. Character (physical, social, psychological, moral--people represented in the play) 3. Thought/Theme (insights into humanity and life 4. Music (all sound) 5. Spectacle (scenery and other visual elements) 6. Diction/language (the dialogue and poetry)

16 Conventions of Greek Drama
UNITIES – a way of providing a central focus to a play. Aristotle believed perfect tragedies had: Unity of Action – simple plot with no mixture of tragedy and comedy Unity of Time – single day Unity of Place – one location of scenes


18 Shakespearean Play Plot
Act 3 – Turning point Act 2 – Rising Action Act 4 – Falling Action Act 1 - Exposition Act 5 - Resolution

19 For More About Greek Drama:
The Glory that was Greece Greek Drama and Culture Greek Drama Aristotle Ancient Theatre Greek Theatre Dr. J's Illustrated Greek Theater

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