The metamorphosis of the tragic hero

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When one takes an overview of the tragic tradition from Aristotle to the present. it is clear that tragedy has undergone changes in definition and practice over the years. In the light of this, the study tries to show the diversity of the tragic conception, its continuity, and major deviations from the classical order to the modem period. Sophocles, the Greek tragedian, looked at the tragic hero in the context of the fundamental Greek concept of law, crime and punishment. To Aristotle, however, the concept of hamartia is crucial to tragedy. Consequently, Greek tragedy focuses on the action and plot and not on character, and this is crucial to the definition of the concept of the tragic hero. The period of the Renaissance, during which Shakespeare wrote his plays, focused on the idea of the tragic flaw, as the basis of the presentation of the character of the tragic hero. The use of folktales and the reliance on the pagan concept of the hero also informed most tragic works produced during the period. During the French neo-classical period, playwrights like Racine, for example, dwelt on the nobility of action and of thinking in the presentation of their heroes. In an attempt to revive the classical period, Racine wrote adaptations of Greek plays in which his world views which were based on the beliefs of Jansenism were paramount. Thus, biensience is very crucial to the portrayal of the neo-classical tragic hero. The modern European period witnessed comedy as the major dramatic form because there was a dearth of tragedy in the 18th and centuries. The 20th century tragic hero is portrayed as having several characteristics and traits and therefore he cannot be focalised as having specific well-defined traits. The modern European tragic hero is more of an anti-hero than a hero. Such a hero combines ridiculous, purposeless behaviour with talks, which give the tragic hero a dazzling comic surface. Notwithstanding this comic surface, the underlying message Portrays the anti-hero as one with a metaphysical distress In African tragedy there is a distinction between the traditional hero who appear in traditjoj.iai folklore and the hero who -features in African writings. Achehe’s Okonkwo, for example exhibits traits resembling those of Shakespearean tragic heroes because of possible influences from the West. The notion of the “flaw” is thus evident in a character such as Okonkwo. Suffering, to the African, results not in disgrace but rather in regeneration Thus, tragedy relates to the person of the hero. As a genre, it excites human. sympathy, though the untying of the knot at times does not satisfy the expectations of the audience
A thesis presented to the Department of Languages,Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of a Master of Arts Degree in Comparative Literature, 2001