Aristotle Defined the Proper Pleasure (Oikeia Hedone) of Tragedy
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The aim of this essay is to analyze the relationship between tragedy and its audience and how according to Aristotle, the play is supposed to achieve its final cause. Through the essay i am going to examine the proper pleasure of tragedy by looking at Oedipus tragedy from Sophocles.The story is the following: A terrible famine has struck Thebes and Delphi Oracle requires the punishment of the murderer of the previous Κing Laiou. Oedipus who succeeded Laius and married his widow Ιocasti, is cursing the killer and starts an investigation. The seer Tiresias accuses Oedipus of being the killer. So, Oedipus becomes incensed, suspecting a conspiracy against him and blames his brother, Creon. And here begins one of the best tragic story. The play is consisted of three parts: The psychoanalytic (the agony of her son be released from his paternal power and connected to the womb that gave him birth), the Theological (the inevitable fate) and the Political (the organizing principle of a democratic society) part.
Tragedy is defined by Aristotle as an imitation, a free representation of a remarkable act, which has beginning, middle and end (telos) and is characterized by a melody. All these elements are not random, but they follow a specific sequence. Moreover, the dominant feature of tragedy is the action, which proceeds in the imitation of heroes1. In the myth of Oedipus, we discern the common fate, the tragic clergy of a man who is destined to fight in the dark and solve mysteries. He is insisting on uncompromising determination to discover the secret of existence, which has been held by the gods. He is forced to act, to justify human existence, without being able to foresee the consequences of his actions, and therefore the unexpected results start to startle him, as they are often in contrast to his intentions. He is condemned to live in the darkness of ignorance and pain within an irrational and mysterious world, and constantly fighting, driven against his will to the fatal outcome, his condemnation to death. As we can see, the same features have been followed by Sophocles in this play. During the play, the main character is going through many difficulties which keep the viewer’s attention throughout the play till the end. In that point, we can add that in the area of art, tragic belongs to human/artist.
However it also belongs to human/viewer who is able to be shocked from the tragic pity, fear which both lead to catharsis. Now, catharsis, is ”another Aristotelian term that has generated considerable debate. The word means “purging,” and Aristotle seems to be employing a medical metaphor—tragedy arouses the emotions of pity and fear in order to purge away their excess, to reduce these passions to a healthy, balanced proportion. Aristotle also talks of the “pleasure” that is proper to tragedy, apparently meaning the aesthetic pleasure one gets from contemplating the pity and fear that are aroused through an intricately constructed work of art.” 2 Without catharsis of suffer, theatrical act is meaningless. Without pity and fear, proper pleasure is not accomplished. Also, according to Aristotle, being touched by the suffer of the heroes of the story does not effect the viewer’s ethos because it comes from noble ideas of human destiny. Therefore the pity and fear pleasure raises the viewer to a higher moral and emotional atmosphere.
Looking at Oedipus, hιs percussion with destiny and nemesis make him a tragic character. At the confrontation of inner freedom with external necessity, we find the tragedy of the whole play.3 Oedipus life was trapped in ignorance. His tragic wedding, the earlier murder of his father as well as him, having children with his own mother, demonstrate the poetic depiction of the consequences of ignorance and the mythological mortal fear of the unknown. But how is psychologically explained that although the tragic spectacle causes agony, horror and terror to the viewer, it regales and pleases him? The viewer usually relates himself to the main character of the play. What he has been through and what fate has given him. He seems to understand and compassion the ‘‘hero’’ of the play. Therefore, at the end, the mental relief comes, when the viewers have been commiserated, and felt agonizes over the fate of the play characters. Pleasure comes through imitation.
The clearance is the emotional movement, stimulated the soul of the audience, is the last phase of theatrical synthesis something that happens in the area of objective reality as presented by the myth. This can not be happen if the myth is not complete, or if it does not contain “suffering.” So we see that pity and fear are interrelated. To conclude, the relationship between tragedy and its audience leads to catharsis. So catharsis is the effect followed by lots of emotions created while the viewer is watching the play. If the tragedy had no suspense and suffer, the viewer would have not be able to achieve the final cause (catharsis). At Oedipus tragedy, his endless suffer is what makes him a tragic character and tragic characters always find a way to redeem themselves. So he did, by blinding himself at the end. Therefore, this is how we found relief after seeing the play. Once we have related ourselves to the main ‘hero’ of the play, we feel calm when the character is not suffering anymore but his soul has found finally peace.
List of References
Π.Ν. ΠΑΝΤΑΖΑΚΟΣ, ΤΟ ΤΡΑΓΙΚΟ ΣΤΟΝ ΕΓΕΛΟ ΚΑΙ ΤΟ ΣΟΦΟΚΛΗ, (σ. 2) Τ. ΡΟΥΣΣΟΣ – Α. ΣΤΕΦΟΣ, ΣΟΦΟΚΛΕΟΥΣ ΤΡΑΓΩΔΙΑΙ ׃ ΟΙΔΙΠΟΥΣ ΤΥΡΑΝΝΟΣ – ΑΙΑΣ ΕΚΔΟΣΗ Α’, 2000, (σ. 15 ) . 2012. . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.literature-study-online.com/aristotle_poetics.html. [Accessed 21 November 2012]. . 2012. . [ONLINE] Available at:http://www2.cnr.edu/home/bmcmanus/poetics.html . [Accessed 24 November 2012].