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King Lear: Lear The Tragic Hero




King Lear: Lear The Tragic Hero


The definition of tragedy in the Oxford dictionary is, "drama of
elevated theme and diction and with unhappy ending; sad event, serious accident,
calamity."  However, the application of this terminology in Shakespearean
Tragedy is more expressive.  Tragedy does not only mean death or calamity, but
in fact, it refers to a series of steps which leads to the downfall of the
tragic hero and eventually to his tragic death. Lear, the main character in
King Lear was affirmed as the tragic hero because the play meets all the
requirements of a tragedy.  In order for a character to be qualified as a tragic
hero, he must be in a high status on the social chain and the hero also
possesses a tragic flaw which initiates the tragedy.  The fall of the hero is
not felt by him alone but creates a chain reaction which affects everyone
around him.  Besides, the hero must experience suffering and calamity slowly
which would contrast his happier times.  The suffering and calamity
instantaneously caused chaos in his life and eventually leads to his death.
Finally, the sense of fear and pity to the tragic hero must appear in the play
as well. This makes men scared of blindness to truths which prevents them from
knowing when fortune or something else would happen on them.
Lear, the king of England would be the tragic hero because he held the
highest position in the social chain at the very beginning of the play.  His
social position gave him pride as he remarked himself as "Jupiter" and "Apollo".
Lear out of pride and anger has banished Cordelia and Kent and divided his
Kingdom in halves to Goneril and Regan. Lear's hamartia  which is his
obstinate pride and anger overrides his judgment, thus, prevents him to see the
true faces of people.  As in Act One, although Cordelia said "nothing", she
really means everything she loves to his father.  However, Lear only believed
in the beautiful words said by Regan and Goneril.  Although Kent, his loyal
advisor begged Lear to see closer to the true faces of his daughters, he ignored
him and became even more angry because Kent hurt Lear's pride by disobeying his
order to stay out of his and Cordelia's way Lear had already warned him, "The
bow is bent and drawn, make from the shaft."  ( I, I, 145).  Kent still
disobeys Lear and hurts his pride further as he said, "Now by Apollo, King,
thos swearest thy gods in vain.".  Finally, Kent is banished.  Because of the
flaw of pride, Lear has initiated the tragedy by perturbing the order in the
chain of being as he gives up his thrown, divides the kingdom and banishes his
loyalist servant and loveliest daughter.
The downfall of Lear is not just the suffering of him alone but the
suffering of everyone down the chain of being.  For instance, Lear's pride and
anger caused Cordelia and Kent to be banished, and Gloucester loses his
position and eyes.  Everything that happened to these characters are in a chain
of reaction and affected by Lear's tragic flaw. If Lear did not lack of
personal insight and if he did not have  such an obstinate pride, he would not
have banished Cordelia and Kent, then Goneril and Regan would not be able to
conspire against Lear. Without the plot of Goneril and Regan, Gloucester would
not have been betrayed by Edmund and lose his eyes and status due to the charge
of treason. Moreover, the chain of reaction was continuous until the lowest
person in the society is affected; the fool, which is the entertainer, was
kicked out into the storm with Lear by Goneril because he was smart enough to
tell the truth of Lear's blindness.

" Why, after I have cut the egg I' the middle and eat
 up the meat, the two crowns of the egg.  When thou
 clovest thy crown I' the middle and gavest away both parts,
 thou borest thine ass on thy back o'er the dirt.  Thou hadst
 little wit in thy bals crown when thou gavest thy golden one
 away."   ( Fool, I, iv, 155-160)

Because Goneril realized the wit of the fool who could see through the nature
clearly, she kicked him out together with Lear.  " You sir, more knave than
fool, after your master!" ( I, iv, 312)
Lear's exceptional suffering and calamity after his realization of his
true character shows the quality of ... more

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Macbeth: Aristotelian Tragedy




Macbeth: Aristotelian Tragedy


Kim Blair
Per.5

Interpretive Test


The  definition of tragedy in an excerpt from Aristotle's "Poetics" is
the re-creation, complete within itself, of an important moral action.  The
relevance of Aristotle's Poetics to Shakespeare's play Macbeth defines the
making of a dramatic tragedy and presents the general principles of the
construction of this genre.
    Aristotle's attention throughout most of his Poetics is directed towards
the requirements and expectations of the plot.  Plot, 'the soul of tragedy',
Aristotle says, must, be an imitation of a noble and complete action.    In
Macbeth, Shakespear provides a complete action, that is it has what Aristotle
identifies as a beginning, a middle, and an end.  These divisible sections must,
and do in the case of Macbeth, meet the criterion of their respective placement.
In an excerpt from Aristotle's "Poetics" it states:

         "The separate parts into which tragedy is divided are: Prologue,
Episode, Exodus, Choric songs, this last being divided into Parodos and Stasimon.
The prologos is that entire part of a tragedy which precedes the Parodos of the
Chorus.  The Episode is that entire part of a tragedy which is between complete
choric songs.  The Exodos is that entire part of a tragedy which has no choric
song after it.  Of the Choric part the Parodos is the first undivided utterance
of the Chorus." Shakespeare follows this precise arrangement of parts to tell
his story of Macbeth.  Macbeth is divided into five acts.  It contains a
Prologue, Episode, Exodus, Parodos and Stasimon, but is the only one of
Shakespeares plays that does not include Choric songs.  This does not dismiss
Macbeth as a tragedy in the Aristotelian sense, because it still follows
Aristotle's fundamental component of a plot.  That the arrangement of actions
and episodes arrange themselves into a 'causally connected', seamless whole.
The ideal arrangement of action into a plot is: Exposition, Inciting Action,
Rising Action, Turning Point(Climax), Falling Action, and Denouement.  Macbeth
follows each of these steps while introducing a new question every moment that
keeps our interest.  That is called dramatic tension, a very important part of a
tragedy: to keep the audiences attention at all times.

To make Macbeth's plot a complete action, according to Aristotle, the
story must contain an activating circumstance, a disclosure, and a reversal of
action.  The activating circumstance in Macbeth is the three witches.  Macbeth
and Banqou meet three witches that posses supernatural powers and predict the
two men's futures.  It is part of the wicked sisters' role in the play to act as
the forces of fate.  These hags lead Macbeth on to destroy himself.  Their
predictions are temptations of  Macbeth's.  They never tell Macbeth he has to do
anything, and nothing the witches did forced him to commit the murderous acts he
did.  But their prophecies stimulated his desire for kingship and intensified
his ambition which is the characteristic that led to his downfall.  The
disclosure is the point in the play in which the audience finds out something
they did not know before, that enables them to put the pieces of the tragedy
together.  It's the point of realization.  In Act V scene 1,  Lady Macbeth is
found sleep walking muttering the lines of reassurance she gave her husband
after they murder of  Duncan and Banqou, "What need we fear who knows it, when
none can call our power to accompt?"(lines 40-42) and "I tell you yet again,
Banqou's buried" (lines 66-67).  The plot of the tragedy unfolded for the
audience in that scene and it becomes apparent that it was Macbeth's and Lady
Macbeth's own evil actions that destroyed themselves.  The last guideline of an
Aristotelian complete action is the reversal of action.  This occurs when
Macduff kills Macbeth. Throughout the play Macbeth, driven by his corrupt
ambition, went after what he desired most.  Even subjecting himself to evil sins,
but it is at the very end where his own ambition kills him.  Macbeth's life ends
in the same way he took the other lives, through murder and deception.  Stated
above, Aristotle says, the plot of a Tragedy must be an imitation of a noble and
complete action.  Macbeth follows Aristotle's expectations of a complete action.
Shakespeare's Macbeth also contains a noble and moral action that creates the
foundation of the plot.  Whether Shakespeare provides a nobel action, however,
is an issue of the culture of his time.  Macbeth was written during the
Elizabethan age where ambition was highly regarded.  Ambition was and is a pious
and admirable quality, one of nobility.  So essentially the imitation of action,
the plot, of Macbeth ... more

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