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On Traditional Tragedy and Tragic Heroes
To be completed as a structured note guide prior to reading Oedipus the King
Due Friday, 2/20
The roots of traditional tragedy in drama stem from the Greeks, and most importantly the philosopher Aristotle who wrote extensively about it in his Poetics. Aristotle believed art should be an "imitation" of life. It should hold a mirror up to life. It should be "truthful," or "true to life." He went on to say this about tragedy:

• The finest tragedy is complex rather than simple
• Tragedy is a "representation of terrible and piteous events"

If a play is complex rather than simple, it will challenge its viewers in some way. Perhaps Aristotle felt that "simple" plays were a waste of time, or an insult to his intelligence. When he says that tragedy should represent terrible and piteous events, the purpose of this is to elicit an experience he called "catharsis" in the audience.
Aristotle also spends considerable time discussing one of the most important characteristics of a good tragedy: the characters, particularly “the tragic hero.” He tells us that, for tragedy, we can't have-

• A good man falling from happiness to misfortune (this will only inspire revulsion, not pity or fear)
• An evil man rising from ill fortune to prosperity (that won't inspire sympathy, so it can't arouse pity or fear)
• A wicked man falling from prosperity into misfortune (that might inspire sympathy, but not pity or fear, because (1) pity can't be felt for a person whose misfortune is deserved, and (2) if we don't identify with the character's wickedness, we won't be afraid of his fate falling on us).

The appropriate tragic hero, then, is the character who sits between these extremes. He's not "preeminent in virtue and justice," but on the other hand, he isn't guilty of "vice or depravity," just some "mistake." He is a person of some importance, from a "highly renowned and prosperous place," a king, like Oedipus.
The best tragic plot, he concludes, moves the hero from prosperity to misfortune, occasioned not by depravity, but by some great mistake he makes.
Information adapted from http://brainstorm-services.com/wcu-lit/tragedy.html
Your Notes:

After reading the information above as well as doing further research on the topic, write out a clear, complete definition of traditional, dramatic tragedy in your own words.



Complete further research on the following terminology. For all the words, write a definition in your own words so you can clearly demonstrate your understanding of the concepts. You might also want to document any sources you consulted. (I recommend looking at sites beyond dictionary.com.)






For the following, spend some time discovering the essential, traditional characteristics/qualities of the tragic hero. Flesh out/define your understanding of each quality typically attributed to a “true” tragic hero. Finally, give an example from Hamlet, which you read last year, to illustrate each quality. [And yes, Prince Hamlet himself is the hero of that play.]

The Characteristics of a Tragic Hero

Characteristic Further Definition Example from Hamlet

































And last, but not least….
Now that you have an understanding of tragedy and tragic heroes, consider the other drama you read last year with Ms. Levine: Death and the Maiden. To what extent does that play, and the character of Paulina, fit the molds of “traditional tragedy” and “traditional tragic hero?” Thoroughly discuss this below by working through the essential characteristics of each as they relate (or don’t relate) to that play.