Tragedy and the Common Man

Topics: Roman Republic, Roman Empire, Battle of Thermopylae Pages: 7 (1191 words) Published: July 20, 2008
Argumentative Essay based on Article
“Tragedy and the Common Man”

In Arthur Miller’s essay “Tragedy and the Common Man,” Miller mentions

tragedy as man’s struggle to gain his “rightful” position in his society, and whoever that

character may be—king or common man—that character is eventually brought down by

his or her tragic flaws and that’s what makes that character a tragic hero. In the past, there

have been many tragic heroes which can relate to Arthur Miller’s essay “Tragedy and the

Common Man,” in both past works of literature and in actual history itself.

Throughout history there have been many fallen heroes who have been key

subjects to be known in essence as “tragic heroes.” Famous tragic heroes include ones

who fought alongside their “common men” such as the ancient Spartan King Leonidas I.

While Leonidas fought alongside his men, some characters did not even have to

physically fight to be a tragic hero, such be the case of the popular character “Willy

Lowman” from the well-known play Death of a Salesman. Whilst some characters fought

alongside their men, and some didn’t fight at all, there were those who even fought

against the ones they loved for the common good of their society, such as the ancient and

well known Roman Senator Marcus Junius Brutus, who killed his once-beloved friend

Julius Caesar for the common good of his society and the fear of Julius Caesar’s

“dictatorship for life” in a democratic Rome.

As previously mentioned, some tragic heroes fought alongside their common

men, such as King Leonidas I of Ancient Sparta—and this helped reveal the true flaw in

Leonidas I (his desire to keep the Spartan reputation) which was his flaw for Spartan

glory. In the 2007 movie “Three Hundred,” the semi-realistic re-enactment of the Battle

of Thermopylae showed the Spartan king fighting for his country on the front lines

alongside his 300 fellow Spartan soldiers. Some would say that Leonidas I was tragically

flawed because he dishonored a special religious holiday to fight for Spartan glory. In

Arthur Miller’s essay, Miller states that “the common man is as apt a subject for tragedy

in its highest sense as kings were," and what Miller means by that is that regular people

are just as fit to be main characters and tragic heroes and make the same mistakes in a

tragedy as royal characters were, such as the three hundred Spartan soldiers who without

question accompanied him. In the past, not all main characters could be royalty figures,

because if they were the common audiences would have a harder time comprehending the

meaning to certain plays and movies—such as the movie “Three Hundred,” and plays

such as “Death of a Salesman.”

If the play “Death of a Salesman” the popular main character “Willy Lowman”

did not even have to physically fight to be a tragic hero, because the play wasn’t about a

significant ancient battle—it was about Willy Lowman’s tragic flaw of having unrealistic

dreams. Willy believed that to be successful in life (not being a “commoner”) one had to

be attractive and well liked, and this tragic flaw can be reflected in today’s society as well

though the media and it’s perception on beauty and success. Willy’s dreams are shattered

when his eldest son informs him that he’s just another commoner in society, so Willy

decides to commit suicide so Biff Lowman (his eldest son) can get the settlement of the

twenty thousand dollar insurance money and so Willy (in his suicide) can make worth

something of himself. In Arthur Miller’s essay, Miller states “I think the tragic feeling is

evoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life,

if need be, to secure one thing—his sense of personal dignity.” In the tragic play, “Death

of a Salesman,” Willy decides to sacrifice himself for the common good...
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