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 History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey

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nordmann
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PostSubject: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 08:12

Aristotle was a dab hand at several disciplines - botany, medicine, astronomy, mathematics and of course the ould philosophy spring to mind. However he was also interested in history and even fancied himself as something of a drama critic (don't some people just annoy you!) which for him meant that he was therefore in an ideal position to define "the tragic hero". Now, a tragic hero as opposed to a common or garden hero is, in the proverbial nutshell, the guy (or girl these days, though Aristotle would have ruptured several statistical syllogisms at the mere notion) that wins the day but at his or her own expense. However Aristotle wasn't one for nutshells so in his own inimitable (and unimitatable style) came up with five criteria the tragic hero must fulfil before he or she could claim the mantle (Plato had only managed four so there was obviously an element of a philosophical pissing contest going on here). These were:

1. Usually of noble birth
2. Hamartia – a.k.a. the tragic flaw that eventually leads to his downfall
3. Peripeteia – a reversal of fortune brought about by the hero’s tragic flaw
4. His actions result in an increase of self- awareness and self-knowledge
5. The audience must feel pity and fear for this character

Now it strikes me that 1. above is suitably vague to have eliminated Ari from the criteria contest anyway (nice one, Plato!), so I think it's only fair to rephrase it as "just about anybody" who could take the central role in a drama. But let's leave the other four standing - someone therefore who reeks of Hamartia, is as prone to Peripeteia as Lady GaGa is to publicity, gets to know something about themselves along the way as far as we can tell, and in the end - now notice this one - we as observers both pity and fear the guy or gal concerned!

But let's step aside from stage productions and the like. In Aristotle's time central characters on stage were almost invariably real people who had lived, gods and demigods who people really believed existed and (confusingly) animals. Given that tragic heroism amongst animals is a whole different topic, but keeping with the idea that we are talking about genuine, real, historically attested individuals, who - in your mind - from the annals of our race has best matched the criteria above?

(And don't forget the "fear" bit!)
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 08:46

That's fear for and not fear of, that person, right?
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 08:50

Oh, groan. I'm going to dig in my compost heap.  Smile 
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 08:57

Yes, I wondered about that too (the fear for, I mean).

Tonight I decided not to watch the documentary on Myra Hindley's life. (Was on my own and thought I might find it too awful.  But then if I hadn't been on my own, there's no way my husband would watch such a thing.)  She seems to fit most of the criteria, perhaps (people tend to say her life would have been different if she hadn't met Ian thingy), but couldn't climb that final hurdle, I feel.  I haven't noticed people feeling any pity for her.  (Though I do feel the media could have stopped using the photo they did, when it was long out of date.)

Anyway back to the drawing board.  Tony Blair and other politicians only manage the first two, having an excess of hubris, perhaps.
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 09:09

Richard III for me. Shakespeare could have written a cracking tragedy about him had he waited until about 1603. He fits the bill splendidly.

I always thought that all that Aristotelian insistence on the "purging" of fear and pity - the famous catharsis - made tragedy sound rather like a laxative. Milton did too.


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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 09:26

It is actually "fear of" as much as "fear for". Aristotle hadn't much time for empathisers - his was a world where truth emerged from conflict and juxtaposition. You stand your ground, not occupy others'. But if you wish to limit it to empathic fear on the subject's behalf that's fine too. Here is not the thread for diverging into Aristotelean theory about displaced personality.

Another point. You have to take on board that the "hero" didn't necessarily do good things, in fact the tragic hero almost never did. Our modern "anti hero" fits the bill rather more squarely these days, though even then that character type invites empathy despite themselves whereas Aristotle's "hero" only required to engender mixed feelings of fear and pathos on their behalf, despite themselves or even with full intention to do so.

Myra Hindley - if she displayed any discernible increased understanding of herself and her actions (which I doubt actually) would come very close indeed to Aristotle's criteria, yes. One can most definitely see a "fear" element that goes beyond the empathic there.

One I thought of myself actually was Anne Boleyn - I mean the real woman, not the Philippa version. The "fear" element corresponds to the feelings surely felt by many intelligent onlookers at the time the events unfolded who could see only too well the drastic implications for the old established order of church and state and all that the revolution would incur. They might have feared for her safety, but they definitely would have feared for their own too. The girl was a terrorist whether she knew it or not.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 09:44

Disagree. Anne Boleyn was the victim of biology, not her own fatal flaw. Had she not "miscarried of her saviour" in 1536, she would have survived. Tragic heroines do not have potential saviours.

And really you do need a suicide for a "proper", satisfying tragedy. Richard III's last charge at Bosworth was a kind of desperate suicide. Think Macbeth.

"Lay on, Henry Tudor, and damned be him who first cries ‘Hold! enough!’”

EDIT: I also disagree with the idea that Myra Hindley fits the bill. The tragic hero/heroine - as Conrad said of Lord Jim - is "one of us". He/she is not necessarily virtuous, not necessarily free from profound guilt, but what he or she is is a person who reminds us strongly of our own humanity, who can be accepted as standing for us. That can be true of a king or a queen or of a Willy Lo-man. Richard III may have been a child-killer like Hindley, but he was also much more. His downfall - his flaws - are ours too. But I'm still mulling over this one.


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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 09:56

Point taken - though one could also argue that it was her own quite adept use of biology that got her into that position. The "play with fire" principle applies to tragic heroes quite a bit.

Richard Nixon is another I feel could occupy the centre stage. Though again what he learned from Watergate when it comes to self-knowledge is a moot point based on his "memoir" and public statements. I believe in private however he did confide in others towards the end that he had been a total plonker and died rather a broken man in spirit.

Temp wrote:
...but what he or she is is a person who reminds us strongly of our own humanity, who can be accepted as standing for us

Maybe, but that's not one of Aristotle's criteria. If you accommodate the definition that the subject is somehow representative of "our" humanity then you must ask yourself to what extent the psychopath, however unpalatable it may be to think so, fulfils an element of this at times and to what extent the collective pronoun overrules anything once it is applied. It is not down to choosing representatives we might like or who we might think emulate "our" characteristics or even "our common" characteristics (which admittedly aids empathy, but that is exactly why empathy is not one of his criteria) but acknowledging that as humans themselves then tragic heroes might often portray characteristics that we just don't normally like to consider as "of us" at all.
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 10:21

Identifying the 'acquiring self knowledge' bit makes it hard to be sure whether or not the epithet fits in many cases. However one judges her, Thatcher might be regarded as a tragic hero, and is by many, and her fall had much of the tragic about it but did it instil any greater self knowledge? I tend to think not, she seems to have considered her downfall as the country's tragedy prompted by the failings of others rather than her own.
Gordon Brown might be a better example: certainly the transformation from gilded youth, bearer of so many hopes, to the bitter and resentful wounded bear at the end was pretty theatrically tragic in its playing out.
Perhaps the ego and self assurance that drives politicians to seek power insulates most of them from the proper self evaluation that would allow them to acknowledge their shortcomings.
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 11:14

Ah, but then Aristotle specifically stated that "catharsis" wasn't an essential ingedient. The character doesn't have to become better or even cleverer at the end, simply more experienced. "Mimesis", the almost accidental performance of a deed that mimics a noble one (Brown resigning as Labour leader in 2010 as opposed to being ousted, though everyone knew just what that position had meant to him) is good enough to become heroic about it.

A lot of the Greek tragic heroes simply end up with their heads full of "should've saids" and "should've dones", they don't always die or become better people.
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 11:19

Having just watched, yet again, the 1970s BBC series "Fall of Eagles" I'm inclined to suggest all three of the main characters: Emperor Franz Joseph, Kaiser Wilhelm, and Tsar Nicholas. They all had the tragic character flaw that they stubbornly believed they were right and that their actions were always for the best, and it was this inability to see any other point of view that led them - or let them be led - down the route to disaster.

Again whether any of them actually towards the end reflected on themselves and their actions that had led them to their fall is moot. Franz Joseph probably had little time before his death to see that everything he represented and stood for was crashing around him. The Tsar certainly had some time for reflection and seems to have understood some of his culpability in his own demise. He also seems to have adjusted well to captivity, even relishing the freedom from matters of state and the simple pleasures of family life, so he probably did meet his death more self-aware. Kaiser Willy had the longest time to reflect but I'm not sure he didn't believe his responsiblity went only so far that he had allowed himself to he led by others, against (as he believed) his better judgement. In 1918 as Germany was falling apart he is supposed to have said, rather too dramatically, "If my destiny is to be a tragic one, then let it come".

There is an interesting comment by John Elliot, the creator of "The Fall of Eagles". He says that the three great families, "... were as much the puppets of history as its creators, although they did not realise it - and their tragedy lay in that. In a sense they were like film stars, in whose lives their subjects saw a grander reflection of their own destinies; theirs was the glory, glamour and the wealth which commanded, apparently, whatever they desired. Their characters coloured and influenced what happened, often more than seemed sensible. But they had not written the plot."


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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 11:24

Seen through the jamjar bottom lense of my take on history, there are two types of hero that may qualify for this delightfully written challenge. There's the biblical iron hard body type with feet of clay type and then there are the Ozymandians who effected great things from a solid foundation but are now forgotten. To these I shall apply my mind; probably deduced the wrong concept from the start; enwisen me. I must have been a bugxer to teach.
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 11:26

Noble in name, then ignoble in demise, and then sort-of noble in facing up to the consequences is a truly tragedian motif in Greek drama. Salvaging a bit of dignity at the end is heroic (and I actually can quite agree with that as almost a better definition of heroic than the modern "super hero" sense). I'd go along with the Tsar in the above example, MM. By all accounts he turned out belatedly to be a civil, wise, compassionate and forgiving man in captivity. Not what you might have expected from his previous.

Adolf Hitler anyone?
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 12:08

Lawrence of Arabia - possibly embarrassed by his origins, loaded with ability, confronting an inner urge for the centre stage, perhaps hiding closeted desires, but then, when offered an honour by the King whom he had served well because his 'beloved Arabs' had been betrayed  bravely refused it  with audacious style enough to assure his fall from grace. Killed when speeding on a motor bike has a sort of Greek hubris end to it all. And how well reflected by Peter O'Toole who was as audacious and capricious - and who lied about his birth origins - and who fell into mediocrity by appearing in a large amount of rubbish so as to  keep himself in booze.
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 12:37

Gawd Nordmann you do set some puzzlers. And why do I always feel that your questions are like homework and that really you're just testing us ?   Smile  

Frankly I'm having enough trouble sorting out my mimesis from my bathos, pathos and d'artagnon! So like Temp I'm off to furiously plant some bulbs ... whilst cogitating on today's assignment.

But on an even more flippant note, I did consider Henry V ... after a relatively short life of arrogance, violence, and generally just getting his own way simply because he was born above the filthy rabble ... to have ended up, an annointed King by divine right about to face God ..... whilst doubled up with the uncontrollable shits  ... would surely humble any man I'd have thought. Although I doubt if at the time he was calm enough to have considered his plight rationally nor take lesson from it.
Sic transit gloria mundi.

And yes Nordmann I did consider Adolf Hitler, but from all I've read he remained entrenched in his view that he was right and the world was aginst him virtually to the end, so never redeemed himself, even in thought. And when all is said and done he ended as he lived: an utter bastard!


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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 12:52

Oh Gawd, MM where's yer sling, Goliath throws a challenge and you are off with the lilies of the field. Of course if you want to think about it then you put me to shame. By this time in class I would be doodling in the margins of whatever - er - I also kept the class swear box and got the most from staff. It was a laid back sort of school hence the unkempt mind.
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 13:14

No test I assure you - genuinely interested in who makes the grade as "hero" in Aristotle's eyes who'd never get beyond the first Hollywood draft these days without being given at least one "super power", disability (that did not affect their outer beauty, let alone their inner), a truly evil sidekick so that favourable comparison could be made, or similar.
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 13:20

Usually of noble birth
2. Hamartia – a.k.a. the tragic flaw that eventually leads to his downfall
3. Peripeteia – a reversal of fortune brought about by the hero’s tragic flaw
4. His actions result in an increase of self- awareness and self-knowledge
5. The audience must feel pity and fear for this character

A passing thought to fill the vacuum of my making worthy response, did Aristotle write this before getting the sack by Alexander - mm - or with glee after his death by poison.

Alexander is a candidate - with over weening ambition becoming too much for his followers and when he was forced to tramp off back home, he must have realised that he too had lost the savour for fresh fields without sufficient consolidation. Many  were keen to divide the spoils of his great victories before all was lost and and someone decided to pre empt his sorting it with the same ruthless impatience that he  had  employed. One feels pity that he did not have time to prove his worth - if any - but fear of the man's strength to the end must have prevailed. If he had somehow survived his ordeal at the end, now that would have been a bloody tale to tell.

Will that do, sir? Can I go out in the garden to play now?
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 13:47

Pricilla wrote:
did Aristotle write this before getting the sack by Alexander

It comes from a later work - his Athens Lyceum days.
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 15:22

OK - Lily's just come in from the field for her turkey baguette, a cup of tea and a quick burst here.

With the greatest respect, nordmann, I don't think you fully understand what tragedy and the tragic hero are all about. Tragedy - tragic drama - is a terrible, stark insight into human life; it is not just about historical personages who come a cropper. And Aristotle in the Poetics wasn't writing about history; he was writing about drama.

Alexander and Henry V are not tragic heroes. They both died of tummy bugs, for goodness' sake and you can't have a tragic hero expiring because of a nasty bout of diarrhoea. Both could have been saved had modern medicine been available. Tragedies end badly - yes; tragic heroes die - yes; but the Aristotelian tragic personage is broken, destroyed by forces which can neither be fully understood nor overcome by prudence, antibiotics or good  plumbing. Jean Anouilh put it rather well when he said of tragedy: "The spring is wound up tight. It will uncoil itself..."

Tragedy is not the same as serious drama, and it is not just the history of kings and rulers who fail and/or die. In tragedy there is always catastrophe and the catastrophe is inevitable, but the suffering tragic hero - at the end powerless, broken, guilty as he may be - has to assume a new grandeur. There has to be a kind of sublimity in death.

Are you sure Aristotle said catharsis wasn't necessary? Here's the bit from the Poetics:

"A tragedy, then, is the imitation of an action that is serious and also, as having magnitude...in a dramatic, not in a narrative form; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its catharsis of such emotions."

In haste - back to toil in the fields now, while the sun is still out.

PS Hitler's no good as a tragic hero because he was simply just a bad b*stard. An Aristotelian tragic hero has to have the potential for true greatness - present as an essentially good man (but not too good -  "not pre-eminently virtuous or just") gone wrong through error, bad judgement, or the fatal character flaw. Hitler surely did not have the potential for true greatness, so there is therefore nothing sublime in his downfall: there's no weeping for him. A tragic hero must be wept for.

But I'm handicapped here - I can only relate to the drama - not to history which is what the thread is asking. I'd best shut up and get back to my garden.


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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 15:45

@Temperance wrote:
With the greatest respect, nordmann, I don't think you fully understand what tragedy and the tragic hero are all about. Tragedy - tragic drama - is a terrible, stark insight into human life; it is not just about historical personages who come a cropper. And Aristotle in the Poetics wasn't writing about history; he was writing about drama.

Alexander and Henry V are not tragic heroes. They both died of tummy bugs, for goodness' sake and you can't have a tragic hero expiring because of a nasty bout of diarrhoea...... [and] Hitler's no good as a tragic hero because he was simply just a bad b*stard.

Yup! ...  Tout à fait, je suis d'accord, Temp!

And now I'm back to my lilies too.


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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 17:27

MM, will you change "is" to "are" in above quotation for me? I can't edit it (should read "...what tragedy and the tragic hero are all about").

Ta.



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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 18:00

Et voila ma chou, c'est fait.



.... and I was in jest when I mentioned Henry V.


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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 18:06

No one knows what caused Alexander's death nor if his three death wishes are a truth - they were not fulfilled anyway. Those indicate some deeper thought but somehow I can't believe he said them.

As to the nature of our quest here, fight on with the definition. I am hard put to it to find candidates who fall into the self awareness clause - not in history, drama yes. Lear surely doesn't count here. Hitler certainly not, a hero to his people for a while, when it all went pear shaped he blamed everyone else to the end. Temps, you are almost ablaze so keep going.
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 18:24

Lear most certainly does count!! He has learnt wisdom - as the Fool had hoped. I won't start quoting, but his exchanges with Cordelia in Act IV sc 7 and in Act V show just how much he has changed. The final scene - when he carries the dead Cordelia in his arms - is unbearable.

Just one tiny little quotation:

            You must bear with me:
Pray you now, forget and forgive: I am old and foolish.


MM - thank you, my little flea. I do hope it is all right to call you a flea - "ma puce" is a term of endearment, I believe. I do hope it is appropriate and not an insult or rude or anything awful. I rather like it - shades of John Donne and all. I'd rather be a flea than a cabbage. How odd the French are!  Smile

PS Nordmann keeps spelling Aristotelian wrong on the blackboard. Do you think I dare tell him?
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 18:39

Ma puce? Ce n'est pas une problème ... "C'est O'Kay! "..... if you know your modern colloquial French. That's from the '90s film, "Les Visiteurs" which still gets quoted a lot in much the way "Blackadder" does. So having actually said that, it's probably not so modern now, but at least any French person my age should still understand it! 

And actually "ma puce" is very accurate at the moment ...the dog, err, ... he's got a bit of a problem, and, since he sleeps with me, ..... so do I.  Sad  Je ne suis pas très content, mais c'est la vie.

Mais alors, je crois je suis en train de s'écarter du sujet .... 


PS .  Well that's up to you chou-chou ... how brave do you feel?
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 20:22

Good job I didn't say anything. You can spell it both ways: I've just checked. Seems Sir is never wrong.  Smile 

Variants of ARISTOTELIAN

Ar·is·to·te·lian also Ar·is·to·te·lean

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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 21:55

Trinity man, sorry
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 22:30

I'm thinking about Mary Queen of Scots as a candidate.

A golden girl - a queen who for a while seemed destined for triumph in Scotland, in France and possibly in England - but one who came to ruin and grief through errors of judgement, two of them. And a fatal flaw - a need for love. But her death was certainly magnificent - a real coup de theatre.

The usual problem here - that process of "recognition" or "discovery" or "to see things plain" - anagnorisis - did Mary Stuart achieve that because of her sufferings? Who knows?

PS Has anyone read Schiller's play, Mary Stuart?

EDIT - just being silly with MM. No offence, Sir. I shall always put Aristotelean now, as a mark of respect.  Smile
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 22:40

Looky. 'ere my cabbage-flea, Temps, I said Lear wouldn't count because he is fiction in the context of this homework like wot sir set. Otherwise he fits the bill perfick. (quote from 'Darling Buds of May'  before that D cup welsh girl  married a screen hero chappie with a chin dimple and became a star.)
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Tue 11 Mar 2014, 22:52

Oh sorry, P., didn't understand. I was a bit surprised.

'umble apologies to you too.

















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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Wed 12 Mar 2014, 00:05

John Profumo?
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Wed 12 Mar 2014, 07:58

I think he's the best suggestion so far.
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Wed 12 Mar 2014, 08:34

Thomas Cromwell?  Or for that matter Thomas More?
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Wed 12 Mar 2014, 08:52

Aren't both a bit dodgy according to strict Aristotelean "rules": one's too good (you can't have a saint as a tragic hero); the other, it could be argued, was always a bad lot (and the condemned Cromwell sent an abject letter to Henry VIII, begging for "Mercy, mercy, mercy" - tragic heroes don't do that).

But then some would argue More was no saint, and Mantel certainly tried to make a hero, if not a tragic hero, of Cromwell. Be interesting to see if she has him going through a process of self-discovery/recognition/self-knowledge in the last book of her trilogy. (No news of it - wonder if the great Hilary has got writer's block over there in Budleigh Salterton.)


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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Wed 12 Mar 2014, 08:56

Saint or not More surely can't be a tragic hero as he obstinately just stuck to his guns to the bitter end. He refused to compromise and duly got his "just desserts", but he never changed his stance nor tempered his views.


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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Wed 12 Mar 2014, 09:10

I'd agree - both More and Cromwell were more in the business of creating tragic heroes than actually being one.
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Wed 12 Mar 2014, 09:33

@nordmann wrote:
...in the end - now notice this one - we as observers both pity and fear the guy or gal concerned!



I'm sorry, but I just don't think this is right.

We can be appalled at what we observe, but I do not think we are meant to fear the protagonist.

Tragedy makes us afraid, yes, and for ourselves, but in the sense of "God help us - that is what it is to be human."

Villains make us afraid in your sense: Iago is terrifying in a way that Othello is not. But Othello's tragedy makes us afraid for our own vulnerability. I trust I make myself obscure.

But sorry, the temptation to stray off topic is enormous for me.

Er, quick, think of someone from history -  Charles I - or was he just too wet? And did he ever think seriously about the need to "know thyself"?
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Wed 12 Mar 2014, 09:54

The trouble with Charley is that should things have been different, say he'd been rescued, whisked away to France and presented with a French army .... he'd have just gone on as before fighting to reclaim his "divine rights", IMO. Although that's speculating into an unknown future for him at the time ... and I don't think one can do that in terms of this question. But still I don't see him reflecting on his situation other than with miffed bitterness that it had all gone wrong.


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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Wed 12 Mar 2014, 09:57

Yes, another sad plonker, rather than tragic hero.

How about Oscar Wilde?
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Wed 12 Mar 2014, 10:13

Wilde's a good one, I agree - umpteen separate character flaws that all conspired in his downfall and then rather eloquent proof of his increased self-awareness post-crisis. Loads of catharsis there.
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Wed 12 Mar 2014, 11:12

How would you rate Erskine Childers? Member of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy, volunteer in the Imperial Forces in the Boer War, author of "The Riddle of the Sands", warning against Germany, and yet ends up being executed as a Republican in the Irish Civil War.
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Wed 12 Mar 2014, 11:24

Childers probably fails every one of Aristotle's rules. A hero of another type entirely who met a tragic end (tragic for him anyway), but not a tragic hero who the Lyceum members would have paid to see depicted on stage.

I was trying to think of someone from that era of Irish republicanism but no one fits the bill, despite all the tragedy it certainly engendered at the time. Unless rabid patriotism is counted as a character flaw. Also I'm not aware of too many of them who ever had a re-think about themselves, at least that they shared with anyone.
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Wed 12 Mar 2014, 11:25

@nordmann wrote:
Loads of catharsis there.


Absolutely.

Although we'll have to change the last line. You can't have a tragic hero saying: "Either this wallpaper goes or I do." (Dies.)

But then again...
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Wed 12 Mar 2014, 11:34

Clytemnestra's actual closing line of "Agamemnon" could have been stuck in as a rejoinder;

Wilde: "Either this wallpaper goes or I do." (Dies.)
Clytemnestra: "Oh don't be such a drama queen! You and I control the house. We’ll put things in order."

(slight alteration in Clyto's bit there)
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Wed 12 Mar 2014, 11:42

Smile
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Wed 12 Mar 2014, 12:46

@nordmann wrote:
Childers probably fails every one of Aristotle's rules.

As I suspected, I have no idea what everyone else is talking about.
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Wed 12 Mar 2014, 12:48

Many suspect Aristotle didn't even know what he was talking about either  Smile 
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Wed 12 Mar 2014, 13:37

@nordmann wrote:
Many suspect Aristotle didn't even know what he was talking about either  Smile 


Oh, but he did, nordmann; it's just that his tidy rules needed relaxing on occasion, which Shakepeare did brilliantly. Black comedy everywhere in WS's tragedies, for a start. Hard to imagine Hamlet's gravedigger or Macbeth's p*ssing porter in Greek tragedy. And I love what our great Wobbleweapon did with Antony and Cleopatra - a proper tragedy if ever there was one - but dealt with by Wills in a most unusual way. The unities go out of the window, for a start - you never know whether you are in Alexandria, or Rome (various houses and streets), or Young Pompey's galley somewhere,  or at Lepidus' house, or in a field near Misenum, or Octavia's house in Athens, or a plain near Actium or  "another part of the plain". It's totally confusing - I can't remember exactly, but I think there are 42 changes of locale. Aristotle would be foaming at the mouth. Yet it works. I bet WS would simply say, "Listen, mate, it is just one place: it's The Known World, innit?"

And he makes Cleopatra - great, tragic heroine as she undoubtedly is - a hugely comic character, too.

Will zip mouth up now: my excuse is that I've mentioned  Antony and Cleo, and they are historical personages.
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PostSubject: Re: History's True Tragic Heroes - an Aristotelean Survey   Wed 12 Mar 2014, 14:22

The real Mark Antony fits Ari's bill pretty well. He scores way low on the empathy side but that doesn't matter - the further towards his nemesis he careers the more scary the guy gets, so much so that in the end, a rather untypically dignified one for him, one can hardly suppress a sigh of relief that he's finally gone. Almost as many interlaced character faults as Oscar too.

It does however beg a question. If everyone is just relieved when a tragic hero cops it can it be classed as a tragedy at all?
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