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Over the course of time, many things tend to change significantly. Such is the case of tragic literature and the cathartic effect it has on the reader, which has deteriorated a great deal from Sophocles writing of the true tragedy, Oedipus. Hamlet exemplifies partial decomposition of catharsis whereas Miss Julie epitomizes an almost total collapse of the cathartic effect. It is assumed that the higher the status of the tragic hero, the easier for the 1990 s audience to identify the characters tragic flaw. The identity refers to the ability to relate to the situation or idea. The higher social status of the protagonist in Oedipus and Hamlet allows an easier level of reader identification that that experienced in Ghosts, which is made by examining stages two and three of catharsis.
The higher social status of the protagonist in Oedipus and Hamlet allows a higher level of reader identification than that experienced in Miss Julie which is made evident by examining stage two and three of catharsis. The classic tragedy, Oedipus tells the story of the King of Thebes, Oedipus who foolishly tries to challenge fate and evade prophecy, which proclaimed that he would murder his father and marry his mother. When trying to free Thebes of a plague he discovers that the prophecy had, in fact come true and he did murder his father and marry his mother. According to Aristotle, there are three elements in stage two of catharsis (The cathartic moment), which includes the highest of misery, the fall of shields, which protected him from an ultimate truth about himself, as well as the heros moment of enlightenment.
The play Oedipus displays three elements of the cathartic moment very well. Oedipus highest point of misery occurs after he realises that the prophecy had come true and he discovers that his wife, Jocasta has hung herself in her bridal-room after she finds out that Oedipus was her son. A messenger tells the chorus of the incident in the following quote: She died by her own hand cried to her husband Laius in the grave, with mention of that seed whereby he sowed death for himself, and left her a son to get her fresh children, shamefully. So wept she for her bridals double woe husband of husband got, and child of child. And there we saw Jocasta. By a noose of swaying cords, caught and entwined, she hung.
He [Oedipus] too has seen her with a moaning cry looses the hanging trap, and on the ground has laid her. Then oh, sight most terrible-He snatched the golden brooches from the Queen lifted them and struck. Deep to the very founds of light. Oedipus grief over the completion of the prophecy and the suicide of Jocasta is so deep that she plunks out his eye s that he would not see the wrongs he suffered. The shield that had protected Oedipus from the truth from the beginning was his pride. Before the palace of Thebes, when the prophet Teiresias had accused Oedipus of murdering Thebes previous king, Laius, Oedipus pride would not allow him to see the truth of the prophets words, which is evident in this quote: Teiresias: Thou seeks, and thou art, the murderer!
Oedipus: A second time that slander! You shall rule it! Teiresias: Shall I add more to make thee rage the more Oedipus: Add the all you will. Say on. Tis wasted breath (PG 66) When Oedipus is accused of the crime by Teiresias, he is blinded from the truth by his pride, which would not allow him to believe that he may have killed Laius and caused harm to fall on Thebes.
Oedipus would rather believe that Ceron and Teiresias are trying to discredit him so that Ceron could have the throne, instead of listening to the truth from the prophet. Both the fall of Oedipus shield of pride and the moment of enlightenment occur at the same time when Oedipus is questioning the herdsman at the altars before the royal palace at Thebes: Herdsman: If you are the child he saith, no man is more unfortunate. Oedipus: Alas! It comes! And all is true! Light!
Let me look last on thee, for I stand naked now. Shamefully was I born: In shame I wedded: to my shame I slew (PG 85) Oedipus has finally accepted tat he murdered his father, Laius and married his mother as his pride falls and he is enlightened to the truth. Not only are all of the necessary elements of the cathartic moment present in Oedipus, which conforms almost perfectly to the true tragic form as outlined by Aristotle, but also, Oedipus, who is the king of Thebes, is of a high social status compared to the average reader. Aristotle's requirement of a single tragic flaw is also present in Oedipus, which adds to the result of a very high level of reader identification.
The reader is able to see that if a man of such social status as Oedipus with only one major flaw was able to fall, then they, who have many flaws and are of a lower social status would be able to fall much more easily. The cathartic effect which is presented almost perfectly in Oedipus, is not as effective in Hamlet, as it does not follow all of Aristotle's criteria, although it still possess some reader identification. Hamlet is a story about a prince (Hamlet JR. ) who is told by a Ghost (Hamlet Sr. ) that his uncle (Claudius) had killed his father and married his mother. Thus, Hamlet seeks to take revenge on his uncle however his procrastination resulted in a catastrophic end. Hamlet does not cohere to all of Aristotle's criteria for stage two of catharsis, because there is no actual cathartic moment. Hamlets falling of shields occur before his highest of suffering and moment of enlightenment.
Hamlets moment of enlightenment and fall of shields occur almost at the end of the play. (Act 5, Sc. 2), his shields fall when he tells to Horatio that how his life is going along: How all occasions do inform against me And spur my dull revenge Now whether it be Bestial oblivion or some craven scruple Of thinking too precisely on th event How stand I then, That have a father killed, a mother stained Excitements of my reason and my blood, And let all sleep, while to my shame I see The imminent death of twenty thousand men That for a fantasy and trick of fame Go to their graves like beds, fight for plot Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause, Which is no tomb enough and continent Hamlets highest point of suffering (emotional) occurs when his mother and Ophelia die: Hamlet: I loved Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers Could not with all their quantity of love Queen: No, no the drink! O, my dear Hamlet! The drink, the drink! I am poisoned. When Hamlet realises that his mother had died he feels very depressed and he suffers (emotionally) due to this event.
Hamlet was more depressed when Ophelia, his love died, because Ophelia was his true love and he would not gave up his relationship with if he had forty thousand brothers. However, his physical suffering occurs when he dies Hamlet procrastination led to many tragedies where his love and his mother died and eventually caused his own death. Furthermore his mothers death caused him to be enlightened by his procrastination: Heaven make thee free of it. I follow thee I am dead, Horatio. -Wretched queen, adieu.
You that look pale and tremble at this chance, That are but mutes or audience to this act, Had I but time (as this fell sergeant, Death, Is strict in his arrest), O, I could tell you But let it be. -- -Horatio, I am dead. Thou livest; report me and my cause aright Hamlets procrastination of his revenge lead to his tragic flaw after realising that his mother as well as Ophelia both died. This caused his greatest point of suffering emotionally however his physical suffering occurs when he dies. Furthermore the moment of enlightenment occurs after his greatest point of suffering. Ironically, his shields fall before either of these elements which reduce the cathartic effect. The deterioration of the true tragic form is evident in Hamlets inability to produce a sound tragic effect.
As with Oedipus, Hamlet is a prince, which is relatively high social status, so the reader should be able to identify to some degree in that they may be more prone to catastrophe as they are of a lower social status with possibly as many as or more flaws. It is evident that because of the decreases of the number of cathartic elements present from Oedipus Rex to Hamlet, the reader identification will be much weaker in the latter. The dilapidation of the cathartic effect over time, which is evident in Hamlet, is even more visible in Ghosts. Henrik Ibsen's play Ghosts depicts the story of a mother whom is preventing her son to arise his fathers existence in him.
The cathartic moment in Ghosts is poorly done, as there is no highest point of suffering. There is the point of greatest misery, where all her shields fall when she is faced to tell the ultimate truth about the lies she had been telling Oswald and about her reputation in the community, which is illustrated in the quote: Mrs Alving: I cant bear it; I cant bear it! Never! Mrs. Alving approaches Oswald to ask him what was the aspect that was making him worried. Oswald relaxed and sitting in his chair; his face expressionless, his eyes have a glassy stare while Mrs.
Alving is quivering with terror. Then she falls on her knees and shakes him, however he looks at her and she shrieks. Oswald reveals the ultimate truth about himself. This is the greatest point of misery and the moment of enlightenment because at this point, Mrs. Alving was finally aware that all her plans to expel her husband from her life were hopeless dreams.
Also, she had to admit that all the things she tried to avoid from happening were actually took place in real life. Mrs. Alving social status is extremely low compared to that of Oedipus or Hamlet, as she is a prideful lady. The reader identification level is low due to the ineffective elements of the cathartic moment, the flaw of domestic pride, which is guilty of, as well as her low social status. Many readers would tend to feel contempt for this protagonist, and they would have great difficulties in identifying with his one major flaw. The deterioration of the cathartic effect is not only evident through reduction in cathartic elements present, but also the lack of pity and fear visualized by the audience.
The higher the social status of the protagonist in Oedipus and Hamlet allows a higher level of reader identification than that experienced in Miss Julie which is made by examining Stage 3 of Catharsis. Oedipus, which is an example of a tragedy in its truest form evokes both the feelings of pity and fear from the audience through the protagonists undeserved misfortune and the readers ability to identify with his tragic flaw. In Oedipus, the height of Oedipus undeserved misfortune occurs after Jocasta's death and his self-inflicted blindness, when he opts to uphold his proclaimed banishment of the murderer of Laius for the good of Thebes, which is shown in the quote: Aye. For me Nothing is left for sight. Nor anything to love: Nor shall the sound of greetings any more fall pleasant on my ear Away! ...
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