What’s the Matter with Tragedy?
Ever since the eruption of tragedies in early Greek writings with Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, the concept of tragedy was established; all the way up to the Elizabethan times with Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the basics have stayed the same. Some may argue that characteristics have either been replaced or taken away, but the truth is the basic aspects have never changed. All the classic tragedies have been read and researched for the purpose of finding the meaning and the lessons they teach to the audience, by arousing pity and fear. Although the two tragedies were written in two completely different times, their themes and tragic heroes are similar.
Repeated throughout both of the plays, the themes of rashness, fate, and trust are closely related in these different tragedies. To begin with, one of the main themes in both plays, rashness, leads to the downfall of both characters. Aristotle states that “misfortune […] is brought upon [the protagonist] not by vice or depravity but by some error of judgement” (Poetics XIII.2-3).
This explains that most tragedies’ disasters are caused by poor judgement. For example, when Friar Laurence quickly creates the plan to bring Romeo and Juliet back together which ends up with both protagonists dead. In these stories, quick judgements and hasty movements of the characters mold a theme of thinking twice before an action, not rashly. Furthermore, fate acts upon the climax of the protagonists’ story. In Romeo and Juliet, after Tybalt kills Mercutio, Romeo yells, “This day’s black fate on moe days doth depend” (III, i, 119).
... . Almost everyone has heard of the tragedy that occurs in Romeo and Juliet. Most people of the ... The Capulet versus Montague feud was a major theme throughout the story. The parents hated each ... news of Friar Lawrence’s plan. In typical “Romeo” fashion, he considers killing himself. After actually ... say something. Juliet expresses her feelings for Romeo to Paris and Paris finally understands that Juliet ...
Thus, from what Romeo
said, fate is used commonly in both tragedies as one of the main factors that leave a question in the audience’s mind of whether or not the character’s fate will be foretold. Although similarities are present in the themes of these tragedies, the theme of trust is different in both plays. For example, in Oedipus the King, Oedipus trusts no one, but in Romeo and Juliet the characters show trust in each other, like Friar Laurence or the Nurse. Aristotle implies that, “Such incidents [which arouse pity and fear] have the very greatest effect on the mind when they occur unexpectedly and at the same time in consequence of one another” (Poetic IX.11-12).
Aristotle reminds the audience that conflicts in the play can have “the very greatest effect on the mind,” or in this case, trust. In brief, the themes are one of the key basic techniques that bind the two different tragedies together.
Other than the themes of these tragedies from different times, the concept of a tragic hero is similar because they both end up dying, have flaws, and have a high social rank. First off, the tragic heroes in the stories connects these tragedies together when the story ends with the protagonists’ death. Aristotle states that “Tragedy is an imitation…of incidents arousing pity and fear” (Aristotle’s Poetics IX.11-12).
This puts an image in the back of the audience’s mind of a fear that acting like a character from one of the plays will cause a horrible consequence that may happen to him. Additionally, a familiar sense of flaws in the tragic heros from both stories is used the same way in both stories. In the play Romeo and Juliet, once Juliet finds out that Romeo killed Tybalt, she says, “Was ever book containing such vile matter so fairly bound? O that de
... of Oedipus being an ideal tragic hero is considered as highly powerful in the world of literature. Aristotle defines tragedy as the conflict between ... such a tragedy can fall upon anyone regardless of their stature. According to Aristotle’s definition Oedipus is a tragic hero because he ...
ceit should dwell” (III, ii, 83-84).
Juliet’s words show that flaws, like deceit and rash decisions, are something common in the tragic heros of both tragedies. Similarly,
Oedipus makes a rash decision to trust no one until the end of the play when he realizes that everyone else was right about the murder. This quick movement forces him into an unhappy ending of surprise and regret. Lastly, the high social rank appeals to both Romeo, Juliet, and Oedipus either inherited or won over. Once again, Aristotle suggests that “[The tragic hero] should be famous and prosperous…[a] noted men of such noble families” (Poetic XIII.2-3).
Aristotle points out that all tragic heros originated from a high social rank. This is a similarity not just from Romeo’s high-class family and Oedipus’ throne of a king. To wrap up, tragic heros leading to the climax and the downfall of the protagonists are key in Romeo and Juliet’s tragedy as well as Oedipus’.
Although readers of these two tragedies could argue that they do not share common concepts, the themes and tragic heroes of these stories prove they are similar. The similarities of the two tragedies, written in completely different times and places, use the same concepts that teach lessons and shape the audience into better people. Aristotle made clear the purpose of a tragedy when he said, “A tragedy, then, is the imitation of an action that is serious…in a dramatic, not in a narrative form” (Poetics VI.2).
This shows the structure which the to tragedies share. The fact of the matter is that these aspects of tragedy were used since ancient Greek plays and all the way through the Elizabethan times.