The Tragic Hero

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  • Created on: 01-06-19 09:35
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  • The Tragic Hero
    • Bernard Knox-'A tragic hero is someone whose downfall is routed in their physis (personal nature), which they stay true to until the point of destruction
      • Pentheus is 'excessively king-like' and is adamant about ridding Thebes of Dionysus as he believes that he is ruining the natural order and that he is an imposter
        • Right until his death, Pentheus remains true to his intentions-his desire to see the 'trouble' that was taking place on Cithaeron led him to his  point of destruction
          • 'I will sacrifice a great slaughter of women, as they deserve, creating havoc in the glades of Cithaeron'
        • His tragic flaw is that he is against ritualistic sacrifice and tries to protect the women from the rites that take them away from Thebes and to Mt. Cithaeron
        • Despite his tragic flaws, he is doomed from the beginning, Dionysus has decreed it in the prologue
          • 'I will prove to him [Pentheus] and all the Thebans that I am a god'
    • When Pentheus arrives during Cadmus' and Tiresias' conversation, he exerts his 'excessively king-like' behaviour, making the reader feel neither pity or fear towards him.
      • This is the first display of his hamartia, he will not even consider the advice given to him by Cadmus and Tiresias. He has already made his mind up about Dionysus
        • Hamartia is an error that a normal man in an elevated position (Pentheus is an easy example, though Oedipus could easily fit ) makes and continues to make. In this case, we have Pentheus’s continued irreverence.
      • Aristotle-' he is not (yet) an undeserving sufferer, nor is he similar enough to the reader to evoke the fear of suffering'
    • [Messenger] 'For I fear for the swiftness of your moods'
      • Pentheus is stubborn, sporadic and arrogant, all of which are his tragic flaws
    • Pentheus commits hubris, which is arguably his hamartia
      • [re Dionysus] 'I have more authority than you!'
    • Oedipus is a tragic hero due to a tragic flaw in the form of his moral disposition
      • In his struggle against the evil of his life, written by his fate, he invites the very doom he has always struggled to escape from.
        • He pressures Tiresias into revealing the truth despite Tiresias' warnings that it will harm him and his family. If he hadn't of pressured Tiresias, the truth wouldn't have been revealed and potentially he could've been saved.
          • However, his destiny was to marry his mother and kill his father, so even if he wasn't aware of it, he would have still fulfilled his destiny
            • Jocasta, Laius and Oedipus all had the same oracle
          • [Tiresias] 'I'd rather not cause pain for you or me'
            • 'How terrible to see the truth when the truth is only pain to him who sees'
          • This is Oedipus' hamartia
      • Despite his qualities, he falls because of his mistakes
        • He leads himself into this mess because he wants to be a good king and try and get rid of the plague, yet it was his actions which started the plague
          • yet, despite his free will, he was fated to fulfil his oracle so it was beyond his control
      • Aristotle points out that Oedipus' tragic flaw is excessive pride (hubris) and self-righteousness.
    • Both tragic heroes, Pentheus and Oedipus,  have bad tempers and wrong judgment: the error of a tragic character is basically the "error of judgment" according to Aristotle


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