What Makes A Perfect Tragedy? Essay

What Makes A Perfect Tragedy? Essay

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In theater, tragedy is an art that many playwrights try to perfect. What makes a perfect tragedy though? Is it the characters? The plot? Or something other than these two cornerstones of theater? According to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, the perfect tragedy consists of a mix of these elements. In his work, Poetics, Aristotle outlines the fifteen elements that create the perfect tragedy. All fifteen of these elements fall into either two main categories, plot and character, or they stand alone, equally as important as the rest. Sophocles’ play, Oedipus Rex uses all fifteen of these elements to create the perfect tragedy. In Oedipus Rex, Sophocles sets the benchmark for future tragedies through Aristotle’s fifteen points of perfect tragedy.
The first category that creates a perfect tragedy is the plot. Of the fifteen facets that create Aristotle’s definition of tragedy, nine deal with plot. The first aspect of plot that signals a tragedy is creating a believable plot. If a plot is unbelievable the audience will feel disconnected from the play, thus ruining the purpose of a tragedy. Another element of plot that creates the ideal tragedy states, “The writer of a tragedy imitates a serious and complete action, of a certain magnitude, represented by what characters on stage say and do”(Butcher). This can be seen through Oedipus’ edict that states:
Thebans, if anyone knows the man by whom
Laius, son of Labdacus, was slain,
I summon him to declare everything to me.
And if he is afraid, let him reflect that thus
Confessing he shall escape the death penalty (Sophocles)
There is nothing more serious than death, and the mere fact that Oedipus is resorting to this penalty shows how the situation in Thebes is dire. Sophocles creates a compl...


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... the gods will have their way and one cannot prove them wrong. Oedipus and Jocasta are constantly trying to avoid their fate, but no matter how hard they try, they cannot. The chorus is the final character that goes into Sophocles’ perfect tragedy.
For Aristotle’s perfect tragedy, a few more elements must be included. First, is the incorporation of pathos in the play. A tragedy, according to Aristotle, is portrayed “in the form of action, not of not of narrative; through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation for these emotions” (Butcher). This is basically the definition of pathos; emotion is crucial to a tragedy, it must make the audience feel something at the end of the play. Sophocles knows this and it can be seen in Oedipus Rex. The final part of a tragedy is writing the play in verse. This can be seen in the blank verse that Sophocles uses in Oedipus Rex.

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