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Aristotle- Tragedy Essay


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Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero can be seen in many works of Literature, and has verified its importance towards a lot of authors. His definition basically states that the character comes from a noble figure, occupies a high position in his/her society or kingdom and epitomizes a tragic flaw that ultimately leads to his or her downfall. The term Hubris is defined as excessive pride and self-confidence. It indicates that the person who exhibits it has lost contact with reality and always overestimates his accomplishment, which can lead to his/her downfall. The downfall could be anything from mental disturbance to even death. The concept of a tragic hero can definitely be seen in Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and Shakespeare’s King Lear. Even though there are differences in both the writing, they also have some similarities. In Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, the title character was the king of Thebes, and his city was infected with a poisonous plague. To discover the source of the plague and to get rid of it, the Oracle of Delphi was called. It turned out to be that the only way to get rid of plague would be to banish the killer of the former ruler of Thebes, Laius, from the city-state. Oedipus was Laius’s and Jocasta’s son, which was given to shepherd and was order to kill Oedipus, because it was found out that he would kill his father and sleep with his mother. He was very shocked after hearing this because he did not believe that he would ever do something like that. Jocasta then mention how Laius was killed on the three-way intersection. Oedipus found this incident very familiar because it was he who killed Laius along with other men at such intersection. Later on in the play it was found that Oedipus was brought to Thebes as an orphan by a shepherd and that his father was Laius. And because Jocasta was wife of Laius, she is also the mother of Oedipus. So what Tiresias said was right. The thing blinded Oedipus from all the truth was his excessive pride. This was the tragic flaw in this play. In Shakespeare’s King Lear, the main character is King Lear who was the King of Great Britain. King Lear wanted to step down from the throne, so he told his three daughters to define their love for him. He thought this was the best way to determine how much land each daughter would get. After hearing this, the older sisters, Goneril and Regan, started showing their fake love towards their father, just to get more land. But the youngest sister, Cordelia, who was king’s favorite, remained silent and did not do anything. She was not interested in any land or king’s wealth but the King thought she had no love for him and made a decision of disowning her. After a while, when the King saw true faces of Goneril and Regan, it was too late to fix his mistakes. In the end, Goneril killed Regan by poisoning her and then killed herself. Soon after this incident, Cordelia was executed. The King was in total anguish by the death of Cordelia and soon passed away from the distress that he suffered. The tragic flaw of fake from the truth killed the King slowly in the drama. The king had excessive pride and made a wrong decision by disowning Cordelia, and accepting the fake love from Goneril and Regan, which ended up in his death. The main characters in both plays are similar because Oedipus and King Lear illustrate Aristotle’s definition of tragic hero. Both of them came from honorable families and were the Kings of their cities, which the highest position they can possibly in their respective society. Oedipus and King Lear both had a tragic flaw that eventually led to their downfall in the society and ultimately to death. Both the characters were not able to handle the truth in their situations. They both had excessive pride in themselves which made them make bad decisions. In Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, Oedipus was not able to handle the prophecies of him sleeping with his mother and killing father had become a reality. Oedipus blinded himself by cutting his eyes with the pins on this wife’s dress because of all the thing he had witness and all the sins he did. In the play he said, “O light, may I look on you for the last time! I, Oedipus,
Oedipus, damned in his birth, in his marriage damned, Damned in the blood he shed with his own hand!” He was regretting all the thing he had done that had hurt others. The horrendous incidence of Oedipus’ tragic flaw caused him not only to lose his land but also to spend rest of his life without his eyesight. On the other hand, Shakespeare’s King Lear, King Lear’s tragic flaw was his insensibility of reality because he didn’t understand the love of her favorite daughter, Cordelia, and made the wrong decisions. It took him a while to figure out that he had made a mistake by disowning Cordelia, because the other two daughters were being fake and were betraying him for the land and property. This incident eventually led to the death of all three daughter’s death. He was not able to handle the death of Cordelia and it hurt him the most of everything that had happen. He mention in the play, “I might have saved her; now she's gone forever! Cordelia, Cordelia! Stay a little. Ha! What isn’t thou say’s? Her voice was ever soft, gentle, and low, an excellent thing in woman. I killed the slave that was a-hanging thee.” The shocked of Cordelia’s death resulted in King Lear’s death. Here, his tragic flaw blinded him from the reality and it hurt his pride. Both the plays, Oedipus rex and King Lear, are similar to Camus’ the Myth of Sisyphus. Oedipus undergoes his tragic flaw which leads to his inner destruction at the end of the play. And King Lear’s delusion of reality led to the tragic event which ultimately resulted in his death. Similarly, Sisyphus is the hero of the Myth of Sisyphus. Camus in his work mentioned, “You have already grasped that Sisyphus is the absurd hero...His scorn for the gods, his hatred of death, and his passion for life won him that unspeakable penalty in which the whole being is exerted toward accomplishing nothing.” All three heroes, Oedipus, King Lear and Sisyphus, show their weakness in their actions and characters, which leads to their downfalls. Even though Sisyphus was an absurd hero and Oedipus and King Lear were tragic heroes, they all share a fact in common that an individual must fall from high position due to his/her weakness or flaw. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave can also be compared to King Lear and Oedipus rex. Even though all the literally works are completely different from one another, the characters go through a lot of stages of negative and positive circumstances. Oedipus, in Oedipus rex, is the main character and highlight of the play since the beginning, because he is the ruler of his city and that’s the highest position anyone could have in the society. Everything was fine and normal until the plague rapidly started spreading in his city and he was helpless. While he was trying to figure out how to end the plague, he found out he killed his father and slept with his mother. This started the negative phrase in his life and he then blinded him by cutting his eyes. On the other side, King Lear began with trying to figure out how to split the land amongst his three daughters. He was expecting the youngest daughter show the most love towards him, because she was his favorite. He said in the play, “I loved her most, and thought to set my rest on her kind nursery. Hence, and avoid my sight! So be my grave my peace, as here I give her father's heart from her!” But his older daughters, Goneril and Regan showed a lot of love towards him, and the Cordelia remained silent. Even though Goneril’s and Regan’s love was fake, because they just wanted the land, and Cordelia love for her father was actually the real one, the king was blinded by the fake reality. As Plato say sometimes what you think the reality is not the actual reality. In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, the prisoners also started off living the cave which had a very low-spirited and antagonistic environment. Plato mention in his work, “ they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads.” One of the prisoners had an opportunity to go out of the cave and explore the real world. He saw the reality and realized that what he saw in the cave was not the reality, the fire was creating shadows of man walking behind him, which looked like animals. Then, he later decided to go back to the prison and tell his fellow prisoners who were still there, thinking what they are seeing was the reality. But he was let down by other prisoners, because they would not believe him and called him crazy. They were all blinded by the real world because they had never seen it. And that’s what happened with Oedipus and King Lear, both of them were blinded by the reality which led to their downfall. To end with, the term hubris is defined as a state of excessive pride, which is the tragic flaw. This was seen in Oedipus rex, because Oedipus’s over confidence led to this flaw. Oedipus’s excessive pride blinded him from the reality; he didn’t know he was the reason for the plague in the city, he was murderer of his father and slept with his mother. On the other side, King Lear excessive pride made him disown Cordelia, which eventually led to his tragic flaw. Both the characters are perfect definition of hubris. They both had excessive pride and a high position, which made them blinded from a lot of things, which ultimately led to their downfall or even death, in case of King Lear. Hubris can also be seen in today’s world. Our former President Bill Clinton had a lot of excessive pride, because he had a very high position in the Country. He thought having this position he will be able to do anything and get away with it. He has done a lot of thing that he should not have done during his term, but his excessive pride blinded him to see the reality and he forgot what the consequences would be if he anything would happen. And it happen when Congress had to propose a prosecution against him for having an affair with a younger lady. This is one the best examples of today’s world. Because this is a recent example, this could be related more to today’s society. He was a model for a lot a people across the world. Almost everyone across the world heard about Clinton’s action and what he had done during his term, they started thinking that if the president of the most powerful country in the world, could do something like that then they can do it too. Hubris can be seen in a lot of other people too, like Hitler, Napoleon, etc. they had excessive pride which led to their downfall. But Hubris makes King Lear and Oedipus rex so much more appealing to the people, even today. People have seen people with Hubris in their life and having that in a play, just makes it more interesting and as a result people in today’s world still watch the play. This is a proof that hubris still exists in the today’s world.

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