“Aristotle’s Definition of the Tragic Hero and Irony in Tragedy” Oedipus Rex, Othello, and Death of a Salesman

Powerful Essays
Topics: Tragedy, Poetics
Classification and definition of tragedy are among many things widely disputed in the all too equivocal realm of composition and literary studies. These erroneous concepts happen to be directly correlated in Aristotelian theory which leads us to his definition of the tragic hero. Aristotle’s conceptualization of tragedy and all that it encompasses is widely revered and accepted; setting the standard previously and contemporaneously. The interpretation of his definition of tragedy is ambiguous, but generally states that tragedy should evoke pity and fear within the viewer for the purpose of catharsis, or purgation of senses sequencing the climax of a tragedy. (Battin) This elicits his definition of the tragic hero, which states that a character of exceptionally high stature is relegated (literally, figuratively, or both) and is forced to succumb to misfortune due to some flaw of character or failure to find/some deviation from the moral and righteous path, which is referred to as the hamartia. (Myers) However, he cannot be of paramount virtue or righteousness for this would objectify him, in turn isolating him from human perceptivity and compassion though he must be of high or noble character. The hamartia at some point must be realized by the character and this experience is known as an anagnorisis; it is to be noted that the relationship between these aspects of the tragedy is in itself ironic. Moreover we cannot define the tragic hero without giving heed to irony, which may find its origin in ancient Greek playwriting and sustains its prevalence in modern times. (Hutchens) Irony allows us as the audience to collectively comprehend the situation on a level that the characters themselves can not. Oedipus Rex, Othello, and Death of a Salesman are three tragic and relatively prominent plays, all written in different time periods, which can be examined comparatively with Aristotle’s philosophy of the tragic hero and may draw certain parallel to one another by means of


Cited: Andrews, Michael C. “Honest Othello: The Handkerchief Once More” Studies in English Literature 13 (1973): 273-284 Boston:Wadsworth, 2006. Battin, Pabst M. “Aristotle 's Definition of Tragedy in the Poetics.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 33 (1975): 293-302 Brown, Dr. Larry A.. Aristotle on Greek Tragedy. Jan. 2005. Field, B. S. Jr. “Hamartia in Death of a Salesman.” Twentieth Century Literature 18 (1972): 19- 24 Golden, Leon, trans. Aristotle 's Poetics. With Commentary by O. B. Hardison, Jr. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1967 Hutchens, Eleanor N. “The Identification of Irony.” ELH. 27 (1960) 352-363. Tragedy.” By J.M. Bremer The American Journal of Philology 92 (1971): 711-715. JSTOR. < http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0002> Mullens, H.G

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