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Aristotelian Conventions of Tragedy in King Lear and Brave New World - Essay Example

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Aristotle’s definition of the conventions of tragic literature has broad application across a wide range of literary works. Sometimes, as in the example of William Shakespeare’s King Lear, the applications are obvious, even going so far as to form the theoretical underpinnings for the literary work’s appeal and accessibility…
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Aristotelian Conventions of Tragedy in King Lear and Brave New World
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"Aristotelian Conventions of Tragedy in King Lear and Brave New World"

Download file to see previous pages Aristotelian conventions such as a characterized Recognition of Self, and Suffering, both of which work to together to give tragic drama much of its emotional impact, are found to be driving forces in these master works. King Lear and Savage John, respectively, reveal their statuses as tragic heroes through their belated recognition of their own self-awareness and the suffering they undergo in order to reach that self-recognition. In this essay, both Shakespeare’s King Lear and Huxley’s Savage John will be analyzed in terms of these two Aristotelian conventions of tragedy in order to show how both Lear and John represent tragic heroes in some of literature’s best forms. Both King Lear and Brave New World follow the Aristotelian convention of Recognition of Self. In Aristotle’s formulation, this requires that heroes undergo some suffering that leads to a cathartic sense of self-awareness derived from the pain of suffering (20). Aristotle claims that a man must realize the (internal) root of his own downfall before he can become a tragic hero. King Lear gains this self-awareness as he wanders the heath with his Fool. He realizes the role he has played in his own downfall and it causes his descent into madness. Lear returns to sanity and to wisdom by realizing that his arrogance has led him both to accept the flattery of others and to overestimate his own power. He remarks upon this in a lament that “they told me I was everything; ‘tis a lie, -- I am not ague-proof” (1001). He later displays this growing self-awareness as he shakes hands with Gloucester but says that first he must wipe his hand because it “smells of mortality” (1001). Through a realization that his own power is limited, Lear is able to reassess his life and the loyalty of others, but not before the war breaks out across his former kingdom by those fighting to right the wrongs largely brought on because of his arrogance. Similarly, in Brave New World, John comes to realize his own limitations, partly because of his ongoing struggle to maintain a separation from the new world he confronts. At the end of his story, as he decides to go live by himself, he tells his friend Helmholtz, “I ate civilization… it poisoned me; I was defiled. And then… I ate my own wickedness” (241). In this admission, he shows that he was unable to resist society’s hold upon him due to something inside his own heart. While he continues throughout the story to try to purify himself, in the end, like Lear, he fails in his effort to overcome the world that he himself has had a hand in creating through a refusal to understand himself earlier in the story. Both King Lear and Brave New World also deal with the Aristotelian convention of Suffering. Aristotle argues that suffering is constituted in destructive or painful action that brings about death, wounds, or agony (21). For King Lear his suffering is brought on by his unjust treatment of Cordelia in the beginning of the play. This action is parallel by the way his cruel older daughters, Goneril and Regan, treat him after he has given them their portion of his holdings and power. He recognizes ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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