Blah Blah, Tragedy in this "Helen-ic" age
Posted by Ian of Erin on May 04, 1998 at 22:34:11:
In response to Aristotle and tragedy..., written by Helen on May 03, 1998 at 14:47:18
Due to my incredibly over inflated sense of my own value (I'm like Darcy without the quasi pornagraphic slacks) I have been cajoled into posting the following exceptionally long post. This may or may not be in agreement with what has been said. I can only hope that my image will oneday be hung in effigy from the Cyber Halls of this here discussion board..
Tragedy (as Aristotle envisioned it) died many centuries ago. The only truly tragic writer in recent times was Jean Paul Sartre. Ironically Jean Paul is tragic merely out of a heavy handedness and fundamental when it came to writing. I often wondered to myself, what's all the hullabaloo with that French fart, well as it turns out, he's tragic.
But what is tragic? To begin there should be no realistic characters. Comedy is about characters in the Aristotelian sense. Tragedy is about situations, with characters as mere placeholders for the ideal situations that the Greek playwrights ought to investigate.
OOOW - OOOW, I thought of another tragedy, the movie Chasing Amy. The character played by Ben Affleck in that movie was so fundamentally stupid, which is to say so fundamentally determined by the plot, that I become disgusted with the film. Yet, what I had not realized until now is that that is tragedy. It ain't the characters (who the hell believes Oedipus as a character, it's the Oedipal Situation or Complex as it were) it's the situations into which the characters are placed and by which they are solely determined.
The problem with Jane Austen and Tragedy is that Jane's characters are horrifically believable. If one must use that naughty word hubris, the "hubris" of the characters are determinative of the plot or circumstance, rather than circumstance being determinative of the characters and their Hubris.
Which brings me to Eugene O'Neal. The New Tragedian. In Mourning Becomes Electra Eugene reworks characterization back into the paper thin characters of Greek situational drama/tragedy. Eugene adds to the hubris and tragedy of the Greeks, an explicability to the characters that would be superfluous to the Greeks. It doesn't really matter if Oedipus makes sense if the plot is edifying (See Jean Paul (The Raging Hack) Sartre on this topic).
Which brings us to Austen. A judgement of either Greek of New Tragedy is inexplicable here. For one thing things don't end undone, which is to say there is a happy ending, or at the very least an ending that reunites the comedic mess of the characters foibles into an orderly and fulfilled resolution. Tragedy does not resolve it self except into greater fiascos. Secondly without a fall there is no hubris no matter how flawed the characters. Finally there is no catharsis. Which is to say that absent a complete fiasco, an incomplete fiasco (Like Lydia) merely arouses our fear of Fear and Pity, we are never allowed to feel the full force of the emotions that must accompany the tragic fall of the tragic hero with the tragic flaw. From a more modern perspective, one must have a character who is propelled to a fall (tragic fall) through a character flaw (tragic flaw) while remaining human and undeserving of the fall (which is to say that the character is not melodramatically evil, or "asking for it"). That Darcy is not "asking" for it, despite his flaw is what draws us in, and had the story ended in a more negative fashion with Mr. Bennett dead and the daughters destitute due to improper pride (the reader having understood the result of the pride, then this would be tragedy).
In Conclusion, if its not a tragedy, it must be a comedy.
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