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Do you find Aristotle's notion of the tragic error or flaw helpful in understanding dramatic tragedy?

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  • Essay length: 2096 words
  • Submitted: 19/06/2006
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University Degree Hamlet

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Do you find Aristotle's notion of the tragic error or flaw helpful in understanding dramatic tragedy?

To say that Aristotle's Poetics were influential in the genre of dramatic tragedy would be an understatement. As an account and definition of tragedy it could be described as quintessential. The notion of hamartia is useful in explaining the motivations and fates of many a tragic hero. It does not, however, always prove helpful. On the contrary it can sometimes present a problem when the tragic flaw is barely visible or unascertainable. It is necessary to remember that there have been other definitions of tragedy and that since Aristotle's time it has evolved, spread well beyond the boundaries of Greece and spawned sub-genres. Shakespeare introduces us to a problematic tragic hero in Hamlet who, it almost seems, escapes Aristotle's reach with his complexity of character. The hubris encountered in Sophocles's Oedipus Rex, however, adheres very well to the notion of tragic flaw.

When studying the origins of dramatic tragedy, Aristotle's ideas always prove helpful. The word tragedy barely had a definition before he came along. Dramatic tragedy originated in Greece, somehow out of ritual sacrifices in honour of Dionysus. Its vague

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