Significant connections

Tragedy

The genre of tragedy is used by many authors, new or old, to create a text that is appealing to audiences and to keep them hooked, wanting to read further. In Aristotle’s Poetics, he explains that people enjoy watching or reading about tragedy because they feel pleasure, not because they want to experience the exact emotions of which the character is but because the pleasure they experience is atheistic. This is called catharsis. Catharsis is a range of emotions felt by someone, it’s what keeps the reader hooked. A common theme in many tragedies is the use of a tragic hero. A tragic hero is a character that makes a decision that ultimately leads to their own destruction, as defined by Aristotle.

This is shown in a film called Gattaca, directed by Andrew Niccol. This is a dystopian film, set in the future where people favor artificially creating children, rather than conceiving them naturally. If you are a person who is naturally conceived in this time then you are looked down on and considered ‘invalid. This then leads to a society who are obsessed with perfection. The main character Vincent is one of these unlucky people who was naturally conceived meaning that he is an invalid person in this society. Vincent has a dream ever since being a small child of being an astronaut but because of his genetic makeup the only job that he is good enough at is cleaning. This is when he meets a man called Jerome who is wheelchair bound from a car accident. Jerome is a classic example of a tragic hero. He like many others in this time was artificially created so he is considered a ‘valid’ human. Jerome was created with the intent that he would be an athlete, he was given all of the characteristics in order for him to succeed at his career as an athlete. In one of Jerome’s swimming races that he had been training for he came 2nd place. Many people would be happy with this second place but Jerome was not happy at all. This is because of the excessive pride that he has in himself. Jerome thinks that he automatically should win this race just because of his genetic makeup. He believes that he shouldn’t have to train or try to hard to win this race it should just happen because of who he is. This is a typical sign of a tragic hero as tragic heroes typically have excessive amounts of pride in themselves. This moment when

The play King Lear, written by Shakespeare is also a perfect example of a tragedy. King Lear is a story about a king who was getting too old to run his kingdom so he decided the time was right to divide his kingdom between his girls. King Lear is a tragic hero, he, like Jerome, had a hamartia of having to much pride in himself. Because of this excess pride, King Lear decides to ask his three daughters to exclaim their love for him and he would divide the Kingdom up depending on how much each daughter says that they love him. Lear’s excess pride is slightly different to Jerome’s as Jerome was fixated on winning and had pride in himself because he is genetically ‘perfect’ whereas Lear has pride in himself in the way a that a king does. He has excess pride in himself because in his eyes he thinks that everyone should automatically bow down to him and respect him in ways that are unreasonable considering he hasn’t done anything to gain this respect. Cordelia, one of King Lear’s daughters exclaims that she refuses to play his game of ‘who loves me most’ and that “I love your majesty according to thy bond, nor more, nor less.” Because of Lear’s excess, this angers him because he believes that she should do what is asked of her and she should exaggerate her love for him. Following Cordelia’s comment about not going along with King Lear, he gets mad and expel’s her from the kingdom. Lear shows that he has great pride in himself while going this as he states “come not between the dragon and his wrath.” In this sentence, Lear is referring himself to a dragon, which are very powerful, strong animals that have a lot of power.  This infers that Lear, himself is a powerful, strong man that holds a lot of power when in reality he is just a human being that sits on a high horse due to his status. When using the genre of tragedy one of the 5  characteristics according to Aristotle that a character must have in order to fulfill the tragic hero role is to have a hamartia. This is used so the audience realizes that a character is a realistic person and they make mistakes. Usually, when this hamartia is introduced the audience doesn’t recognize this, they often see the character as being obnoxious. In this case, when the audience sees King Lear with his excessive pride make the decision to exclaim his daughter from the kingdom they feel great anger towards him. He is so blinded by the pride he has in himself that he doesn’t see that Cordelia is the only genuine, loving child out of the three of them. In traditional tragic hero stories, the characters hamartia leads to them making a decision that will lead to their own fate. In this case, Lear kicks Cordelia out of the kingdom and her two sisters are left to take over it. Lears two daughters eventually exclude him from the kingdom and leave him out in the cold in a storm. King Lear then realizes that his actions have to lead to the way he is being treated by his daughters. It’s at this point in the story that the audience realizes that he is just a person and just like everyone he makes mistakes in life as well. 

The movie Gladiator is another great example of 


2 Replies to “Significant connections”

  1. Hi Reanna,

    You need to use specific evidence (quotes) in your description of how each character is a tragic hero with a unique hamartia.

    Discuss the function of hamartia. What does it do to the character in the audiences eyes and apply this specifically to each of the characters you discuss. What does their flaw make the audience think/feel about them? Why does it do this? What is the value?

    When you are comparing the texts, you can address how each character has a flaw (how they are similar) but also how they are different as well. You can discuss the literary and psychological theory behind the tragic hero and catharsis alongside this.

    Keep going!!

    Mrs. P

  2. Hi Reanna,

    Rather than go so far into the plot of Lear, as you do at the end of the paragraph, link Lear and Gattaca together. How is their harmatia similar? Why do you think it is similar? What can the audience draw/learn from recognising this connection?

    Mrs. P

Respond now!