Ambiguity of Moral Values in Eckbert the Fair by Ludwig Tieck

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Ludwig Tieck’s novella, Eckbert the Fair, presents a certain ambiguity of moral values. The story meets a tragic ending where the main couple of the fairytale, Eckbert and Bertha, die as punishment for their crimes of betrayal, theft, and murder. However, an uneasy feeling of injustice remains about the punishment despite the clarity of their guilt. The tale itself strongly resembles a tragic play defined by Aristotle, but the narrative deviates from the structure of standard tragedy. In effect, the unique set-up of the narrative makes the evil deeds seem ultimately inevitable. The structure of the novella helps justifying the crimes, causing the distinction between the good and the bad to become unclear. In this paper, I will discuss this unique structure of the tale to analyze how this uneasy feeling about the ending emerges.
The standard tragedy is composed of three parts in sequence: periperty, recognition, and suffering (Aristotle 37). Peripety, also known as “reversal”, is the “shift of what is being undertaken to the opposite in the way previously stated,” commonly from good to bad in tragedy, and recognition is “a shift from ignorance to awareness, pointing in the direction either of close blood ties or of hostility, of people who have previously been in a clearly marked state of happiness or unhappiness” (36). Aristotle states that the finest recognition is the one that occurs simultaneously with the peripety, but Eckbert the Fair does not strictly follow this model. It novella combines recognition with “pathos, a destructive or painful act, such as deaths on state, paroxysm of pain, woundings, and all that sort of thing” (37). Eckbert does not recognize the root of his sin until the very end where he encounters the old ...

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...isastrous effect beyond expectations on Eckbert, and it is too much to handle.
The tragedy presented in Eckbert the Fair, follows a unique structure to maximize the effect of the downfall of the main characters. The narrator justifies the main character’s hamartia by deliberately generalizing how it is also everyone’s hamartia. In turn of the story, however, the punishment for the wrongdoings is inevitable. The narrator makes it quite difficult to understand the nature that seems rather too bad to be true. This is essentially where the uneasy feelings toward the bitter punishment of Eckbert comes from.

Works Cited

Aristotle, and Gerald Frank Else. Poetics. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan, 1970. Print.
Kleist, Heinrich Von, Ludwig Tieck, and E. T. A. Hoffmann. "Eckbert the Fair."Six German Romantic Tales. Chester Springs, PA: Du¬¬¬four, 1993. 16-33. Print.
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