Aristotle's Tragic Effect: Its Application to Tragic Plays and Its Modern Relevance

Philosophia: International Journal of Philosophy (Philippine e-journal) 16 (2):185-201 (2015)
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Abstract

In this paper I focus on features of Aristotle's work (discussed in the Poetics) that can enhance our appreciation of Classical Greek tragedies and some of Shakespeare's works. Most important of these features is the production of the tragic effect, which consists of two parts: (1) the arousal of pity and fear to their maximum and (2) the katharsis or purgation of these emotions. The concept of katharsis has been interpreted in many ways and I will seek the most appropriate interpretation. I argue that the maximisation of fear and pity that leads to the katharsis of these emotions can only be achieved by the unfolding of a well structured tragic plot and the revelation of character qualities in the tragic play. The successful tragedies from Classical Greece and the Shakespearean era possess the plots that were structured in a manner so as to produce the tragic effect to its maximum. I pay particular attention to Oedipus Rex of Sophocles and King Lear of Shakespeare to illustrate my point.

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