A Drama Concepts of Tragedy

             A discussion of a variety of dramatic works from Agamemnon to Hamlet demonstrates the range of development of the tragic form, from the earliest Greek to the later Shakespearean tragedies. There are two basic concepts of tragedy: the concept introduced by Aristotle in his Poetics, and the concept developed by Frederick Nietzsche in his The Birth of Tragedy. The dramas discussed in this essay reveal the contrast between these two concepts of tragedy, and demonstrate the development of the tragic form over time.

             The idea of Greek tragedy stems from Aristotle"s definition of a tragic hero. In Aristotle"s definition, the tragic hero must be a person of high standing so their fall from glory will be all the more horrible. The hero"s story must evoke pity for the hero and fear of his fall, so the hero cannot be completely evil. Also, the hero must have a tragic flaw, a characteristic that, in excess, causes him to bring some disaster upon himself, and because of this, he cannot be completely good either. It is important to note that the root of the term tragic flaw is the Greek word "hamartia", which is actually better translated as an error in judgement. Often this flaw or error has to do with fate ­ a character tempts fate, thinks he can change fate or doesn't realize what fate has in store for him. In Agamemnon, the first and earliest of the Greek dramas discussed, Aeschylus demonstrates the concept of the tragic flaw in the character of Agamemnon. While on his journey to the battle at Troy, Agamemnon has to make the choice to sacrifice his daughter for the sake of his fleet. It is this choice that begins the cycle of tragedy. Agamemnon"s wife, Clytemnestra, sees her husband"s act as unforgivable, and upon his return from battle, she murders him in an act of vengeance. However, this is not the only revenge taking place. Clytemnestra"s lover, whose father Thyestes was tricked by Agamemnon into devouring his own children, also justifies Agamemnon"s murder as revenge for the acts committed against his family.

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