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Comparing Aristotle and Miller´s View on Tragedy

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In ancient Greece citizens hoped to go unnoticed by the Gods. The Gods played a huge role on what occurred in a citizen’s life. If a prophecy was decided by a God, then there was no altering it. Aristotle believes that this is what makes up a true tragedy. He suggests that tragedy is plot driven, and if the plot is set then there is no way around it. In Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, Oedipus is paying for the sins of his father King Laios. Laios was given horrible future by the Gods for angering them when he rapes another man. He was given a prediction that his son would murder him, and would marry his mother, Queen Jocaste. To prevent the prediction from happening Laios sent his shepherd to kill Oedipus, but gave him to a messenger from a different kingdom for another royal family to call their own. After many years the prophecy came true with Oedipus killing Laios and marrying Jocaste, without anyone knowing who Oedipus really was. Aristotle states, “Thus the structure of events, the plot, is the goal of tragedy, and the goal is the greatest thing of all” (2196). He puts tragedy into two categories: simple and complex.

In a simple tragedy the drama comes without a peripety or recognition, and it is continuous through the tragedy. Aristotle’s definition of a complex tragedy is when it has a peripety and recognition within the drama. Peripety is where the character feels confident that happiness is near, but then realizes that the main plot was complete but was not a pleasant one. In Oedipus, he experiences the peripety when the messenger comes to tell him he is the king of yet another kingdom. After the good news the messenger and the shepherd inform Oedipus of what happened when he was an infant, which gives Oedipus enough facts to...

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...hough readers get both different definitions in Death of a Salesman, readers still get an Aristotelian tragic hero. One answer to the question could be that a tragedy can be plot-driven, and also character-driven/plot-driven. But it would be hard to have a tragedy just character-driven in a drama.

Works Cited

Aristotle. “On Tragedy.” Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Robert DiYanni. 6th Ed. New York, 2007. 2196-2198. Print.

Miller, Author. “Death of a Salesman.” Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Robert DiYanni. 6th Ed. New York, 2007. 1777-1847. Print.

Miller, Author. “Tragedy and the Common Man.” Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Robert DiYanni. 6th Ed. New York, 2007. 2216-2218. Print.

Sophocles. “Oedipus Rex.” Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Robert DiYanni. 6th Ed. New York, 2007. 1307-1347. Print.
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