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A tragic flaw is a fault of character such as inordinate ambition

20/12/2020 Client: saad24vbs Deadline: 14 Days

Tragedy


A tragedy, so Aristotle wrote, is the imitation in dramatic form of an action that is serious and complete, with incidents arousing pity and fear wherewith it effects a catharsis of such emotions. The language used is pleasurable and throughout is appropriate to the situation in which it is used.


The chief characters are noble personages (“better than ourselves,” says Aristotle), and the actions they perform are noble actions. The protagonist is not a perfectly good man nor yet a bad man; his misfortune is brought upon him not by vice and depravity but by some error of judgment.


The plot involves a change in the protagonist’s fortune, in which he falls from happiness to misery. The best tragic plots involve a reversal (a change from one state of things within the play to its opposite) or a discovery (a change from ignorance to knowledge) or both.


1. The tragic hero is a man of noble stature. He has a greatness about him. He is not an ordinary man but one of outstanding quality. If the hero’s fall is to arouse in us the emotions of pity and fear, it must be a fall from a height.


2. Though the tragic hero is pre-eminently great, he is not perfect. Combined with his strength, there is usually a weakness. Aristotle says that his fall is caused by “some error of judgment,” and probably he meant no more than that. Critical tradition, however, has most frequently interpreted this error of judgment as a flaw in character—the so-called tragic flaw. With all of his great qualities, the tragic hero is usually afflicted with some fault of character such as inordinate ambition, quickness to anger, a tendency to jealousy, or overweening price. This flaw in his character leads to his downfall.


3. The hero’s downfall, therefore, is partially his own fault, the result of his own free choice, not the result of pure accident or villainy or some overriding malignant fate. The combination of the hero’s greatness and his responsibility for his own downfall is what entitles us to describe his downfall as tragic, rather than merely pathetic.


4. Nevertheless, the hero’s misfortune is not wholly deserved. The punishment exceeds the crime. We do not come away from tragedy with the feeling that “he got what he had coming to him,” but rather with the sad sense of a waste of human potential. What most impresses us about the tragic hero is not his weakness but his greatness.


5. Yet, the tragic fall is not pure loss. Though it may result in the protagonist’s death, it involves, before his death, some increase in awareness, some gain in self-knowledge—as Aristotle puts it, some “discovery”—a change from ignorance to knowledge. Not unusually this increase in wisdom involves some sort of reconciliation with the universe or with the protagonist’s situation. He exits, not cursing his fate, but accepting it and acknowledging that is to some degree just.


6. Though it arouses solemn emotions—pity and fear, says Aristotle, but compassion and awe might be better terms—tragedy, when well performed, does NOT leave its audience in a state of depression, but rather effects a catharsis or cleansing of emotion.


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