Role of Gods and Goddesses in Homer's Iliad Essay

836 Words Sep 20th, 2012 4 Pages
In his famous "Poetics," the philosopher Aristotle laid the foundations for literary criticism of Greek tragedy. His famous connection between "pity and fear" and "catharsis" developed into one of Western philosophy's greatest questions: why is it that people are drawn to watching tragic heroes suffer horrible fates? Aristotle's ideas revolve around three crucial effects: First, the audience develops an emotional attachment to the tragic hero; second, the audience fears what may befall the hero; and finally (after misfortune strikes) the audience pities the suffering hero. Through these attachments the individual members of the audience go through a catharsis, a term which Aristotle borrowed from the medical writers of his day, which means …show more content…
Finally, Oedipus earns royal respect at Thebes when he solves the riddle of the Sphinx. As a gift for freeing the city, Creon gives Oedipus dominion over the city. Thus, Oedipus' nobility derives from many and diverse sources, and the audience develops a great respect and emotional attachment to him. The complex nature of Oedipus' "hamartia," is also important. The Greek term "hamartia," typically translated as "tragic flaw," actually is closer in meaning to a "mistake" or an "error," "failing," rather than an innate flaw. In Aristotle's understanding, all tragic heroes have a "hamartia," but this is not inherent in their characters, for then the audience would lose respect for them and be unable to pity them; likewise, if the hero's failing were entirely accidental and involuntary, the audience would not fear for the hero. Instead, the character's flaw must result from something that is also a central part of their virtue, which goes somewhat arwry, usually due to a lack of knowledge. By defining the notion this way, Aristotle indicates that a truly tragic hero must have a failing that is neither idiosyncratic nor arbitrary, but is somehow more deeply imbedded -- a kind of human failing and human weakness. Oedipus fits this precisely, for his basic flaw is his lack of knowledge about his own identity. Moreover, no amount of foresight or preemptive action could remedy Oedipus' hamartia; unlike other tragic heroes, Oedipus bears no responsibility for

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