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

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

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. ...read more.

Middle

Throughout the play, Oedipus makes excessive use of the word 'I' and shows a lack of patience with those who deserve more respect: Theiresias for example. He should not have killed a stranger after receiving such a prophecy from the Oracle - this also demonstrates his characteristic recklessness - and he should not have married somebody old enough to be his mother. However, the preordained quality of Oedipus's life calls in to question the relevance of the tragic flaw. His fate was prophesied before his birth, therefore, how could his life have ended up otherwise? There is no point in asking the question 'what if Oedipus had acted differently?' because he could not have acted in any other way. His judgement, like his miserable end, is preordained. The wretched existence of Oedipus emphasises the hopelessness of the tragic hero. We have to come to terms with the fact that they are doomed from the beginning and they are doomed because they are flawed. Tragedy, as Aristotle put it, is a representation of a serious act. The notion of flaw helps us to understand that it is a representation. ...read more.

Conclusion

The spring is wound up tight. It will uncoil of itself. That is what is so convenient in tragedy. The least little turn of the wrist will do the job. Anything will set it going. (Anouihl, p.34) It is the notion of tragic flaw or tragic error that makes tragedy convenient. Maybe it is better not to ask why Hamlet had to suffer but to analyse how he suffered. Oedipus was in a way 'set up' by the gods to perform his tragic error and demonstrate for the audience. Aristotle's concepts are helpful in unmasking tragedy and understanding its nature as far as we can. From studying Aristotle's observations on tragedy and looking at tragic drama as a whole, it is also possible to see how much it has grown as a genre and as a category. Though there will always be vestiges of what Aristotle described in dramatic tragedy, his rules have been bent and manipulated throughout the centuries as the world has changed and playwrights have redesigned the art form. Despite this fact, critics will always use Aristotle's notion of tragic error or tragic flaw as a starting point when attempting to understand a piece of tragic drama because it provides them with the questions they need to ask in order to identify its purpose. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Hamlet section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree Hamlet essays

  1. The Portrayal of Shakespeare's Hamlet in Cinema

    It is probably showing exactly the same performance that she was famous for on the stage and shows little evidence of being adapted for the cinema. The camera is fixed and does not change at all, which leads to the disappearance of Laertes from the screen for lengths of time on two occasions.

  2. Hamlet and The Spanish Tragedy - a brief comparative study -

    They desired justice. Another interesting difference follows from it. While the motive of Hamlet is totally acceptable, Hieronimo is in fact preparing the revenge of a 'legal' murder, in other words, this death was a fair one even in from the point of view of the audience of that time, as it took place during a battle.

  1. Portrayal of women in 'Hamlet'

    This explains why Hamlet delays in killing Claudius - he cannot punish someone for doing exactly what he has fantasised about doing himself, as he would be punishing himself. He is, however, blinded to the true, subconscious reason for this reluctance, and is furious at his apparent cowardice, criticising himself, saying, "I am pigeon-liver'd and lack gall".

  2. Consider the significance of death and disease in 'The Duchess of Malfi' and 'The ...

    'Disdaining fortune, with his brandished steel,/ Which smoked with bloody execution,/ Like Valour's minion carved out his passage.' (l. 17-19). This is about a previous battle which has been fought and although it uses these images it tells of the past rather than giving a glimpse of the future.

  1. Can we write about the tragedy of Hamlet in any meaningful fashion

    It seems that the uncertainty, which appears to be a fundamental backbone of the play, not merely reflects the tempest of Hamlet's psychological state, but also perfectly reflects the difficulty evident in the task of assessing the nature of tragedy in relation to 'Hamlet'.

  2. Thomas Kyd - Bring out the significance of play within the play in Kyd's ...

    in the play to be presented and Balthazar even agrees to a tragedy being enacted.

  1. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" Summary This poem, the earliest ...

    Prufrock's obsessiveness is aesthetic, but it is also a sign of compulsiveness and isolation. Another important formal feature is the use of fragments of sonnet form, particularly at the poem's conclusion.

  2. Examine the presentation of fathers in "Hamlet" with close reference to three key scenes.

    Shakespeare's use of language here underlines Polonius' repressive treatment of his daughter which is designed to spoil Ophelia's relationship with Hamlet. He reduces it to a contract and buying and selling, "Entreatments at a higher rate." Hamlet's love for her is deliberately belittled by him which is a very unpleasant

  • Over 180,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work

Marked by a teacher

This essay has been marked by one of our great teachers. You can read the full teachers notes when you download the essay.

Peer reviewed

This essay has been reviewed by one of our specialist student essay reviewing squad. Read the full review on the essay page.

Peer reviewed

This essay has been reviewed by one of our specialist student essay reviewing squad. Read the full review under the essay preview on this page.