A Tragedy Makes A Hero Essay, Research Paper
Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy.
~F. Scott Fitzgerald~
A tragedy can be described and executed in many ways, whether it is through cinema, television or a play for theatre, as long as it has a solemn kind of ending. It is characterized as a very sad event, action, or experience for a certain character in the piece. According to Aristotle’s “Poetics,” a tragedy needs six elements, a plot, character, language, thought, spectacle, and melody, as in many dramas do, but the organization of the plot is how tragedy is brought about. (747) The plot – is the end for which a tragedy exists, and the end or purpose is the most important thing of all. (748)
Tragedy often reveals a very basic message; whether or not actions are thought before hand, actions hold consequences that must be recognized and tolerated. Drama always circulates around a hero or protagonist in a tragic epic, whose sufferings are brought about by his or her actions and creates a standpoint in relation to them.
The story of “Medea” by Euripides is a tragic one indeed. Medea, a sorceress and a princess, used her powers and influence to help Jason, find the Golden Fleece. During the escape she kills her brother as a getaway. After several murders, Medea and Jason move to Corinth, which is where the play takes place. Here, Medea gives birth to two children by Jason establishing a family. Jason later moves out, divorcing Medea and moving in with Glauce, the daughter of Creon. The play looks at Medea’s anger and rage, as a she moves from suicidal to revengeful. Medea eventually kills her own children and Glauce, all to get back at Jason.
The nurse in the play opens the play, expressing her desire to undo the past. “How I wish the Argo never had reached the land Of Colchis…” (lines 1-2) The nurse’s opening expression of grief establishes both the tone of denial and theme of lost accountability that pervade the entire play.
Here we see Medea as the protagonist of the play. However “Medea” as a play lacks self-conscious recognition of error by its characters. Nobody in the play dwells on their actions or the happenings around them. Like Jason, he never acknowledges his responsibility for the suffering he has created. Euripides’ insight that victims of an intense emotional wound not only turns against those who inflict it, but against their entire world of emotional connections, which is expressed in Medea’s opening lines, “May it be an enemy and not a friend she hurts!” (line 95)
“What should be wept for bitterly. I hate you,
Children of a hateful mother. I curse you
And your father. Let the whole house crash.” (lines 111-114)
Aristotle and other commentators often criticized Euripides for having abandoned authentic tragedy in favor of grotesque melodrama. But tragedy is more felt than fitting inside a rule of thumb. “This world is a comedy for those who think and a tragedy for those who feel.” (Horace Walpole) Because Medea lost so much, her children and husband, “Medea” is considered a tragedy, along with Jason’s lost. And the future fate of Jason or of Medea at the end, where the chorus mentions by affirming that the gods work mysteriously and often bring event to a surprising end, gives another sense of unfinished business for one of the two if not both.
“The Theban Plays” by Sophocles is also considered a tragedy. But more in depth the first play, “Oedipus Rex”, is widely known to hold the weight of the tragic story. Oedipus is the main character and is considered the protagonist.
Oedipus arrives at Thebes as a stranger, and finds the town under the curse of the Sphinx, who will not free the city of a plague unless her riddle is answered. Oedipus solves the riddle and since the king, Laius has recently been murdered, becomes the king and marries the queen, Jocasta. In time, he comes to learn that he is actually a Theban, the king’s son, cast out of Thebes as a baby because of a prophecy Laius had received, that his son would kill him. Oedipus had killed his father on his journey to Thebes and married his mother. Horrified, he blinds himself and leaves Thebes forever. The play then continues into Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone.
Oedipus is considered a hero because he eventually rids the city of the plague by leaving the city as Creon, Oedipus’s uncle and brother-in-law, found out how to rid the city of the plague. The tragic part of the story is that Oedipus eventually becomes lost with who he is. He has no grounding and is now alienated. This is known as peripety, as explained by Aristotle in “Poetics.” It is where a change from one state of affairs to its exact opposite. (749) Recognition, as the word itself indicates, is a change from ignorance to knowledge, leading either to friendship or to hostility on the part of those persons who are marked for good fortune or bad. (749) And now that Oedipus realizes what has happened Jocasta, his mother and wife, commits suicide. In reaction to this stimulus, Oedipus gorges out his eyes. Once Creon has found out about the family tree, Oedipus and his children are banished from Thebes, later to meet their fate in the following plays.
A tragedy does indeed make a hero in ancient world literature. Every single being has a fate, no matter what level of society that being is on. One cannot change his or her fate; it is left up to the gods. Eventually all roads of life leads to death, it is how that being dies brings about the tragedy. As Aristotle mentioned in “Poetics”, What is more, without action there could not be a tragedy, but there could be without characterization.
Aristotle. “Poetics.” Lawall and Mack 746-750
Euripides. “Medea.” Lawall and Mack 640-672
Lawall, Sarah and Mack, Maynard, eds. The Norton Anthology World Masterpieces. 7th ed. Vol 1. New York: W?W? Norton & Company, 1999.