Aristotle clearly defined the tenants of a tragedy in his Poetics. Some of the more important tenants play a large role in defining the boundaries of what is and is not tragedy. These included the idea that the tragic hero of the play not be extremely virtuous, for it was of little concern to the audience whether or not such a high and mighty character fall, for they feel no empathy for one of such high nature. Another important tenent was that the fall of the hero was due to an error of judgement as a product of his tragic flaw. This provides the audience with the hope that perhaps the tragic fall could be avoided, while making the tragic hero’s personality vital to his downfall, without making him consciously responsible for his own demise. Of course, the play must also arouse pity and fear, which is the primary reason for the nature of the other tenants of the definition. Aristotle’s final tenant of the play outlines that the tragic hero must not die, as they must live with the horror of what has occurred rather than escaping in death. A perfect example of an Aristotelian play is Oedipus Rex (Aristotle ref...
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... common man led to a shift in the tragic hero, yet never changed the underlying meaning of tragedy laid down in Aristotle’s Poetics.
While the mediums and standards by which tragedy is written have evolved greatly since the writing of Aristotle’s Poetics, the fundamental ideas behind tragedy, analyzing a facet of society or tradition and bringing it to light, have not changed throughout the history tragedy. This evolution of the medium and standards without the changing of ideas enables tragedy to be written today and be just as effective as Oedipus Rex and Hamlet were in their time. Willy Loman is a tragic hero just as much as Oedipus is, differing only in the social environment in which they were written. Tragedy will continue to change as the social climate does, but will certainly not become irrelevant or extinct as long as long as human nature remains as it has.
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