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A Response Paper on Drama

In: English and Literature

Submitted By nilosh
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29.09.2012 ‘Tragedy is an imitation of an action’ is what Aristotle said about the theater genre, tragedy. I have been curious about the ‘imitation of an action’ part and asked myself question such as what could the’ imitation of an action’ as a phrase in this context of tragedy mean so, under the light of the emphasis our instructor put on the chapter ‘the definiton of tragedy’ in ‘Aristotle’s Poetics’ reading that we were assigned to read and since I wanted my question to be cleared and I also wanted to understand the foundation of tragedy and prepare myself, base knowledge wise, for readings that were to come, I started my reading with that particular chapter. Through the chapter I partially understood, through my own reading without anyone’s help, the combination of artistic beauty of changing the places of the words, harmonious rhythms of songs that provide an emballishment to the ongoing play on the stage and the crucial components such as ‘the soul of tragedy’ and another component as important as the plot that I am not too confident about whether I absorbed its meaning and relation with other parts of a tragedy, that element is thought. I think through the chapter I found an answer to my question of what is imitation of an action, let me expand my question for beter understanding and my own answer through the information I gained through my reading . I think my question of what imitation of an action is pretty straightforward to understand, in literal base I know the meanings of those words-imitation means, in my mind, to mimic or copy someone or something, action means the behavior and movement of anything and everything around us, in literature though especially in tragedy I learned that ,action in point of view of Aristotle, refers to life itself not humanity, it can be true because the plays of ancient times such as Sophocles’ ‘Oedipus the King’ tried to teach the audience a value or a morale through the sensations of pity and fear, the content of those plays are production of human mind about what could happen in our lives. In overall the answer to my question of what imitation of an action can be showing to the people the possible scenarios the life could bring through an imaginary written plot. My reasoning can be completely false but my prior knowledge about drama and tragedy of Ancient Greek’s awakened an impression like this in my mind.
A confusion that I came across when I was reading the chapter was the component of thought as an element of tragedy. I understood the definition Aristotle posed in terms of explaining the concept, thought, main concern or the foundation of whole play originated from, but in 7th paragraph where the writer merged the concept of thought with what the characters are ought to do and their speeches in the script made me slightly confused, I couldn’t quiet combine the necessity of thought and the speeches of a character that Aristotle thought as ‘are not expressive’. After asking my friend Ayten about what this meant, she provided a thoughtful explanation that shaded light in my understanding, what I understood about relation between thought and speech is this, speeches are written words in the script that an actor should say during their performance and I think, Aristotle by saying ‘speeches are not expressive of character’ tried to mean that the words of a character do not determine or show what that character choose or avoid according to their morality, in opposite they show their thought pattern about a particular issue that was explored in the play through their hand and body movements, in other words actions. It seemed like a considerably good reasoning to me because I already learned what Aristotle thought about what tragedy was thought as-‘the imitation of actions’ as though through the actions actors voice their opinions through their own understanding and personality about the main concern of the play.

30.09.2012 After gaining a base knowledge about what tragedy was roughly about, I decided to read ‘Oedipus the King’ that was written by Sophocles. I need to mention the fact that the play had been already introduced to us in our first year, second semester introduction to literature course, I had almost no problems in understanding the dialogues between the characters since I knew the structure of events the play revealed. In times of Ancient Greek theater establishment and its flourishment the plays that were performed in front of an audience beared a sensation of pity towards the fallen characters that were once regarded as an important figure of the play and hoped to give a thought to the people that could provide an enlightenment in their lives. ‘Oedipus the King’ in my point of view achieved its goal of making the readers or audience to think about seeing versus blindness concept.
Let us think like this- when Oedipus in order to find an answer to the emerging darkness in Thebes summoned the prophet Teiresias, I can make an assumption about Oedipus’ character that, by pure intention he only wanted a solution from the prophet to conclude the destroyed state Thebes was suffering from, he is thinking about wellfare of his people which is a noble intention as a king in my opinion. Though when Teiresias arrived and rejected Oedipus’ prayer for his wisdom words, I noticed the flaws in Oedipus’ personality, he seemed too hasty, wanting to reach a conclusion in a blink of an eye and because of this impatience his anger increased by the insolent words and unwillingness to cooperate of Teiresias such as ‘Is it so? Then I charge thee to abide by thine own proclamation; from this day speak not to these or me. Thou art the man; thou the accursed polluter of this land’ (on page 10)or ‘Well it will come what will, though I be mute’ ( on page 10). I think Teiresias is also one to blame in their verbal argument, Oedipus himself as king needed his help to protect and erase the evil power in Thebes city and Teiresias for some reason or another did not want to give his aidance, I wonder, why he was so unwilling to help, maybe that could be because he knows that Oedipus is the ‘wretch’ one that murdered his own father and wedded his mother that gave him birth. When Teiresias revealed the prophecy that suggested Oedipus was the man that himself as king wanted to capture and give punishment for murdering the former king, Laius, I think Oedipus was right to shoo him from his presence because since he didn’t have a knowledge about the curse that was placed on him , at the beginning of the play, by saying, ‘Aye, take him quickly, for his presence irks and lets me; gone, thou canst not plague me more’ in a very angered manner(on page 13) . Until this time Oedipus was completely blind to the truth, although his eyes were healthy and seeing very well unlike Teiresias who is physically blind but has a deeper perception and knowledge about his surroundings. What could have happened if Oedipus did not seek the truth despite his stubborn nature that could be seen in his dialogue with Jocasta ‘No, with such guiding clues I cannot fail to bring to light the secret of my birth’(starts at the end of page 33, continues to page 34)? Maybe he would continue to live without a burden of truth inside his mind and concentrate on solving the problem of the city, he would continue to be blind despite his seeing eyes. As it can be seen the people in audience would have asked the similar question that I posed, what could have happened if-? By this way the play in some way or another thought them to choose to be blind to any truth in their lives or choose to see the truth and accept the consequences.
Today in our class discussion about the assigned readings that were called ‘Aristotle’s Poetics’ and ‘Oedipus the King’ the instructor provided simplified explanations for Aristotle’s thoughts about specified points in tragedy structure and explained the deeper meanings and their connection with tragedy terminology in Oedpius the King. Most of the terminology of a throughly crafted tragedy Aristotle depicted brought examples to my mind from the tragedy Aristotle himself showed as an example of a successful play, which is Oedipus the King.
I especially concentrated on the terms of hamartia, one can explain this word as an error in someone’s character traits and catharsis, simply means the rise of sensations of pity and fear for the misfortunes that made a character fall down from his grace. In terms of Oedipus’ personality despite being a caring leader for safety of his plagued city like a responsible political figure, we can also observe the visible flaws of Oedipus that provided a base for his fall, for example we can see a glimpse of his arrogance when he was listening the words of priest who informed him about the plague that traveled around the corners of Thebes-‘’Ah! My poor children, known, ah, known too well’’(on page 2)through these words I think he makes audience and the priest understand that he already knew the trouble that brewed inside his city, as the king I thought he wouldn’t be ignorant of the happenings through once peace filled Thebes. Another flaw he showed through the play, in my point of view, is overconfidence though I think that the overconfidence was to come because of Oedipus’ success in solving the riddle of the terrorizing Sphinx and gaining the abandoned throne of former King Lauis, indeed if we are to analyze the spontaneous events we can say fortune was blessed on Oedipus, we can see an example of his overconfidence so much that he laid a curse on the murderer of King Laius to show his glowing confidence and determined self-‘’And on the murderer this curse I lay:Wretch, may he pine in utter wretchnedness!’’(on page 7)Throughout the play because of the rise and fall of emotions he beared we can recognize many flaws in Oedipus’ character however there is one hamartia that mainly prepared his fall which was his short-temper. There are many examples throughout the play where Oedipus displayed an excessive anger towards the characters around himself, one of the characters that suffered from Oedipus’ anger is Herdsman that was brought to him to learn the truth about his own birth-‘’Arrest the villian, seize and pinion him!’’(on page 37) I think I can understand why his temper became the faciliator through his fall, whenever someone, this can be prophet Teiresias or the Herdsman, did not provide the answers he sought he became too impatient and hot-headed before making these characters spill the unfolding truth that brought Oedipus presumely an enormous sorrow, learning that he was the murderer of King Lauis , whom was in reality was his father, that he sought determinedly and that he wedded his mother whom was his mother and mother of his two daughters.
When I described catharsis I mentioned the aroused emotions of pity and fear in audience’s minds and hearts through the convincing body movements of actors including their trained intonation of voices and the anticipation of watching what would the following event or misfortune can be. If we observe the popular reaction Oedipus the King gathered in Ancient Greek, we can see that most of the population of that time in some way or another watched the play whenever it was performed, so it is safe to assume that the men and women that formed the audience knew the prophecy and the ending of the play each time they watched it performed on the stage. So, how can the same events of countless performance of one play can stil stir emotions of pity and fear in the audience as though it was being performed first time? As Aristotle mentioned the phrase of ‘inner structure of the piece’ which simply means for a poet or playwright to be successful in their literal works, the fear and pity should be resulted from internal structure of play and characters, I believe that in terms of Oedipus the King and the way that the tragedy maintains to induce these emotions in audiences minds shows ‘the inner structure of the piece’ Aristotle pointed towards and in a personal level I also think the repeated appearance of pity and fear in audience, although the play itself known through the population, shows the mastery of Sophocles had in creating such scenes that brought the same pitying expression and rise of tension and fear back in his time and even in contemporary period that we live in.

Today I finished reading one of the materials that were sent to the members of our class by the instructor. It was in a form of an essay, which had a clear language usage I might add, that was written by Arthur Miller, named ‘Tragedy and the Common Man’. Miller’s own reflection as a playwright about the definiton of tragedy- ‘tragedy, then, is the consequence of a man’s total compulsion to evaluate himself justly’ and the way he combined this thoughtful words with the ordinary men that we could see around the streets of a randomly chosen city made me wonder what was the purpose of emergence of tragedy as a literature genre? My answer would be to this question like this-to educate the ignorant people of Ancient Greek in morality aspect, formed inside the mind of a man, in this case an educated playwright, to provide an aidance to the mankind, another question became aroused with the argumentation of Miller, if tragedy was an imaginary production of human race and a reflection of humanity why it became ‘held above us’ as Miller pointed out in his introductory paragraph of his argumentation? Miller mentioned a couple of reasoning of why common men should be highly regarded as much as the imaginary kings and princes in tragedy that in return answers why tragedy became held above humanity, which I found relatable and understandable. I understood without any explanation from class discussions two important issues that Miller mentioned among many points of argumentation, one is the mentioning of ‘Oedipus complex’ that had its own term in study area of pyschology and second one is the relationship between the learning humans go through in reality and an imagined tragedy that bear an enlightenment through out the performance of the play.
In physchology ‘Oedipus complex’ simply refers to the natural development in young boys that want to have a deeper bonding with their mother and brew growing hatred, presumely from a emerging jealousy, towards their father, in terms of the mentioned tragedy the prophecy talked about wedding the mother and murdering the father. So, Oedipus complex became known to the crowd of people through the performances of the play in time of Sophocles by through the royal family of kings and queens however in contemporary period Piaget, whom became a famed scientist in physchology domain through his suggestion of developmental stages of a child, found the male gender in their developmental stage feel this Oedipus complex(I learned the Piaget’s five stages of development from my EDUS 200 course that I took in my first year of university which reminded me Oedipus complex that our teacher mentioned while explaining Piaget’s five stages of development). Putting this scientific knowledge in a corner of our mind, in terms of literature the Oedipus compex that was conveyed through a high class family, became quiet common to observe among the common man that Miller suggested. Returning to my question as to why tragedy became helded above us according to reasoning of Oedipus complex, in my opinion, can be because this type of complex was thought to be happen only inside the compounds of a royal family however it turned out to be common man was also influenced from the applied feelings of Oedipus complex, which explains the human race should be highly regarded as any king or prince the tragedies talk about.
If we took Oedipus the King as our example , we can observe that Oedipus in order to learn his shadowed past ‘questioned what was has been previously unquestioned’ as Miller pointed out however this does not mean questioning only happens in tragedies to learn something unknown to us before, common man knew the process of learning came from questioning. In this light human race continuously demonstrate one of the key elements of tragedy, learning through questioning. This reasoning also, in my point of view, explains why the tragedy helded above us, because it was thought the learning through questioning would only emerge from tragedies that were performed on stage and once more as it was proven with Oedipus complex common man should be regarded as highly as any king or prince tragedies portray because human race like the imaginary kings that were production of human mind and imagination are not distant from learning through questioning.

12.10.2012 Before our class discussion, which was held yesterday, I think that I understood the main argumentation of Arthur Miller’s own approach to tragedy genre and without a doubt, the combination of the imaginary events a tragedy unfolds and humanity which is one of the essences that forms tragedy. However, after the clear explanations of the childhood and the adulthood of Miller himself, the essay and the his famous play ‘Death of Salesman’ created a visible fascination in my mind that had greater impact than ‘Oedipus the King’ in me. I don’t know the reason why I found myself in sadness for Willy’s struggle to become more than what he already is in corruption and lie of the American dream , in which Willy’s desire to find a ‘well-liked’ position(as Willy himself countlessly mentioned ‘well-liked’ phrase to himself and to his sons in order to influence them throughout the play) for himself in this corrupted city and his inability to reach his inner desire of being recognized that created a base for his confused state(the way he continuously contradict himself- for example in a point he called Biff a lazy bum and a couple of lines later he said Biff was a such a hard worker) and ultimately his death. Though I am not implying that Oedipus’ misfortune that was foretold by a prophecy that said he would kill his father and wed his mother, did not create a pitying expression inside me for how Oedipus fell from his graceful position and reign in Thebes to a low-class ‘wretch’ state. Maybe the reason why I felt a genuine sadness for Willy can be because I can to an extent understand how merciless life can be to a middle or low class individual in a corrupted setting such as America, in contrast to Oedipus the King where there was a prideful king, a foretold prophechy and an extraordinary story that could not happen in the real life(although I thought that this play achieved its goal to teach moral values to the community of Ancient Greek), Miller in Death of a Salesman created a scenario that we could see with our naked eyes (without meaning to) in a real life situation. For example, in remote or crowded corners of Turkey or any random street of any industrialized and rich country, we can without meaning to spot a middle aged man that search for any applicable job from a newspaper to meet the needs of his family without a smile on his face and according to his socioeconomic class in that country, in this case he would be either middle class or low class, his want would only be earn enough money to pay the taxes and to buy home essentials with a inner dream of raising in that job he would find. I don’t think this type of a situation is not uncommon in Turkey or any other part in the world, there are indeed middle class working population that try to make ends meet in end of moth. So, with this reasoning Death of Salesman touched a soft spot inside my heart because I can understand the reality the middle class people suffer from, no matter which country those middle class population live in.
Taking a small step back from the imaginary story telling of Death of a Salesman(which under the imagined plot bears a critization of corruption that American society embraced) to look at the complete picture which was combined with the underlying reasons for Willy’s inability to struggle against the lies of America, I can, coupled with today’s informative class discussion, say that his death at the end of the play strenghtened my thoughts of him being a victim of fruitless dreams and hopes that he thought he could accomplish inside his dreaming mind, which he carried within promises of the selfish American society. I don’t, however, claim Willy was an innocent victim of the threatening corruption of America. Despite his clearly understandable wish of being a successful salesman, who could sell items to the eager buyers from only conversing through phone, that everyone recognized and respected without a doubt, Willy, in my opinion, was too stubborn(fixated on a single thought). Ben, his brother that became rich after his travel to Africa, offered to take him to Alaska where they would search for their father and benefit from a new continents opportunities however Willy refused, claiming that he could earn money through his current position as a salesman in the American society he lives in. Charley, Willy’s friend who unlike him owns a successful business, offered a job inside his company with a higher payment than what Willy earns, which was also rejected by Willy. Now, let me explain why I thought Willy as a stubborn man, remember that I mentioned the wish he had, which was becoming a successful salesman, at a point when he was trying to convince Howard to transfer him to NewYork he mentioned a salesman named Dave Singleman, whom he met in Parker House. According to Willy this man at the age of 84 by only picking up a phone and calling buyers made his living and not to mention the mass of people that atttended his funeral when he died, from the respect they showed to this salesman, successful and well-liked, which was what Willy wanted to be-‘’And when I saw that I realized that selling was the greatest career a man could want’’ from his words we can actually see how amazed he was from the achievement of that salesman and how he immediately categorized selling as ‘greatest career a man could want’ without even analyzing his own abilities whether he could actually go and sell items. This is the reason why Willy stubbornly refused his brother’s offer as well as Charley’s job offering, he had a strong belief that he could also reach an honorable state that salesman achived however as I mentioned Willy, I think we can say, blinded by his dreams of being recognized and as a result become successful, could not recognize his inner ability of creating something(not resembling his father’s gift in crafting instruments that produces a beauty, however Willy was able to use his hands to repair and fix various household items) rather than selling an item. Aside from being stubborn and perhaps being ambitious(since he wanted to be known, to be recognized in the society) Willy was not in any means a pure character, he had his own flaws that I mentioned above however we could not blame him, could we? As Miller stated in ‘Tragedy and Comman Man’ the fact that Willy had corrupted and tainted characteristics is not because of his choice of behavior pattern but it is because of unjust and corrupted society he lives in, he just cannot be flawless where everything is based on lies and greed which I agree on. Why do I think Willy was a victim of his own dreaming mind that placed himself on a higher role in society? It is only natural for a man to become ambitious and set his goals to higher positions in life, we humans are like that so it is , in my opinion, not a wonder for Willy to strive for a high quality life style. However, in reality of today’s world no one could become a professor in a university or become a famous football player without a considerable amount of studying and practicing, always working. This was where Willy made his wrong turn, he based his dreams on an imaginary situation in which he thought you could become a famous football star(in case of his son Biff) with only just recognition from environment, from being ‘well-liked’ as he emphasized through the play constantly. He critized Bernard, Charley’s son who graduated from his courses through studying to become a successful lawyer, for being ‘not well liked’, he always thought Biff could be a magnificent football player because Biff was recognized in his school and his athletic ability granted him scholarships from various universities. However, Bernard in the end, whom was critized by Will as ‘not well liked’, inherited his father’s company and became a successful lawyer, Biff on the other hand due to the incident with his father began to lose his opportunities one by one. It seemed that Willy interpreted the American society’s expectation from its inhabitants incorrectly which is a truth in our contemporary day too-working, working and working would reward you with a high position in real life whether it is a football star, a lawyer or a dentist. In American society if you can show your self-worth through productivity that the community could benefit from you can become successful and respected, Willy was victim of his innocent dreams of ‘being well liked’ because his thought pattern(believing he could become a successful man through gaining respect for himself in society) was not suitable for the reality of the American society

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