Of the four major points of view, the dramatist
is limited to only one - the objective or dramatic. The playwright
cannot directly comment on the action or the character and cannot
the minds of characters and tell us what is going on there. But
there are ways to get around this limitation through the use of
1. soliloquy (a character speaking directly to
2. chorus ( a group on stage commenting on characters
and actions), and
3. one character commenting on another.
Aristotle's definition of tragedy: A tragedy is
the imitation in dramatic form of an action that is serious and
complete, with incidents arousing pity and fear where with it
effects a catharsis (emotional outpouring) of such emotions. The
language used is pleasurable and throughout appropriate to the
situation in which it is used. The chief characters are noble
personages ("better than ourselves," says Aristotle)
and the actions they perform are noble actions.
features of the Aristotelian archetype:
1. The tragic hero is a character of noble stature
and has greatness. If the hero's fall is to arouse in us the emotions
of pity and fear, it must be a fall from a great height.
2. Though the tragic hero is pre-eminently great,
he/she is not perfect.Tragic flaw, hubris (excessive pride or
passion), and hamartia (some error) lead to the hero's downfall.
3. The hero's downfall, therefore, is partially
her/his own fault, the result of one's own free choice, not the
result of pure accident or villainy, or some overriding malignant
4. Nevertheless, the hero's misfortune is not
wholly deserved. The punishment exceeds the crime. The hero remains
5. Yet the tragic fall is not pure loss - though
it may result in the hero's death, before it, there is some increase
in awareness, some gain in self-knowledge or, as Aristotle puts
it, some "discovery."
6. Though it arouses solemn emotion - pity and
fear, says Aristotle, but compassion and awe might be better terms
- tragedy, when well performed, does not leave its audience in
a state of depression. It produces a catharsis or an emotional
release at the end, one shared as a common experience by the audience.
Northrop Frye has said, lies between satire and
romance. Is the comic
mask laughing or smiling? We usually laugh at someone, but smile
with someone. Laughter expresses recognition of some absurdity
in human behavior; smile expresses pleasure in one's company or
good fortune. The essential difference between tragedy and comedy
is in the depiction of human nature: tragedy shows greatness in
human nature and human freedom whereas comedy shows human weakness
and human limitation. The norms of comedy are primarily social;
the protagonist is always in a group or emphasizes commonness.
A tragic hero possesses overpowering individuality - so that the
play is often named after her/him (Antigone, Othello); the comic
protagonist tends to be a type and the play is often named for
the type (The Misanthrope, The Alchemist, The Brute). Comic plots
do not exhibit the high degree of organic unity as tragic plots
do. Plausibility is not usually the central characteristic (cause-effect
progression) but coincidences, improbable disguises, mistaken
identities make up the plot. The purpose of comedy is to make
us laugh and at the same time, help to illuminate human nature
and human weaknesses. Conventionally comedies have a happy ending.
Accidental discovery, act of divine intervention (deus ex machina),
sudden reform are common comedic devises. "Comedy is the
thinking person's response to experience; tragedy records the
reactions of the person with feeling."
- Charles B. Hands
arouses pity and fear through cruder means. Good
and evil are
clearly depicted in white and black motifs. Plot is emphasized
aimed at arousing explosive laughter using crude
means. Conflicts are
violent, practical jokes are common, and the wit is coarse. Psychologically
may boost the reader's spirit and purge hostility and aggression.
Contrasting views of
humans in Shakespeare:
What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason,
How infinite in faculties, in form and moving,
How express and admirable in action, how like
In apprehension, how like a god - "
Hamlet (Act II, Sc. ii, l. 315)
Puck says: Captain of our fairy band
Helena is here at hand, And the youth,
mistook by me, Pleading for a lover's
fee. Shall we their fond pageant see?
Lord, what fools these mortals be!
A Midsummer Night's Dream
(Act III, Sc. ii, l. 115)
Drama, Melodrama, Comedy and Farce Quiz
Which are which? Answers at Bottom.
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