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A Study of Aristotelian tragedy in Oedipus - Essay Example

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The great Greek myth of Oedipus continues to be integral to the Western literary canon even today. Starting from 5th century B.C., various ancient writers of the Hellenistic era made references to Oedipus in their works…
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A Study of Aristotelian tragedy in Oedipus
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A Study of Aristotelian tragedy in Oedipus

Download file to see previous pages... One of Aristotle’s most influential works concerning literary theory is his Poetics. In it he articulates with eloquence and clarity various facets of good theatre. Tragedy is acknowledged as a powerful genre of drama. Aristotle goes on to set out various rules of thumb for making aesthetically and emotionally satisfying tragedies. His concise definition of tragedy is that it is “an imitation of an action that is serious ... with incidents arousing pity and fear, in order to accomplish the catharsis of such emotions." (Botton 20) He was in opposition to Plato’s critical and disparaging view of theater. Plato had earlier set the debate rolling in The Republic, stating that poets and other artists should be banned from civil society because they induced excessive emotional responses in audiences which countered calm reasoning. Aristotle rebutted this assertion in Poetics, stating that “although watching tragedies raised emotions, it also purged them. An audience would come away from Oedipus humbled, keen to be better and wiser.” (Botton 20)
In many ways, Oedipus satisfies the Aristotelian conception of the tragic hero. For example, the tragic hero is someone who feels responsible for his actions and is conscious of ethical merits and demerits associated with them. In Sophocles’ Oedipus, we see that the author does not contemplate either the acknowledgement of guilt or the blinding. Instead,
“awareness and blinding will be present in Aeschylus because his Oedipus must not see both 'what he suffered and the bad he did'. According to the author, the individual responsibility celebrated by tragedy is the expression of a people who do not tell history any more, but are aware of making it: a process that Plato could not-or did not want to-recognize, claiming to read tragedy like the continuation of old myths and of old stories, rather than like a new way to tell them again, to involve oneself and to involve us with them in a different way.” ...
ould not-or did not want to-recognize, claiming to read tragedy like the continuation of old myths and of old stories, rather than like a new way to tell them again, to involve oneself and to involve us with them in a different way.” (Goretti 1305) What we also witness in Oedipus is a dimension of the tragic hero engaged in praxis. In Aristotle’s conception of tragedy there is an underlying conflict between ‘absolute necessity’ and ‘freedom’. This is amply evident in crucial life events of Oedipus, who, as the story progresses, is compelled to implement his own demise. For Aristotle, tragedy allows Greeks “to bear the unbearable contradiction that for thought would remain incomprehensible: 'the attestation, even in the loss of freedom, of this same freedom'”. (Goretti 1306)Though we do not find direct mention of concepts such as ‘will’ and ‘responsibility’ in the Poetics, “when Aristotle must indicate the ones who act the tragic action, for him 'hoi prattonese' is not sufficient, but he adds 'kai drontes'. The problem of freedom involves the problem of evil: the evil one does, the evil one suffers or the evil that is anyway committed.” (Goretti 1306) In the case of Oedipus, he is clearly aware of how evil forces are acting upon his life – some of which is caused by his own agency. To the coryphaeus who questions him on what a horrible action he has committed and on which god has induced him, Oedipus answers, “'It was Apollo', and then, a little afterwards, 'It was me, miserable, who did it'.” (Jones 45) According to Aristotle, a sense of foreboding and inevitability makes for effective tragedy. Throughout the story, there are numerous crucial decisions taken by Oedipus, which led up to his inevitable demise. Oedipus is not himself ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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