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Copy of Greek Tragedy

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Eric Spiecker

on 24 September 2015

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Transcript of Copy of Greek Tragedy

Origins and Structure of
Greek Tragedy

During the 5th Century, B.C., performance competitions were held in Athens, Greece.
(Watch video up to 58 seconds)
Because the competitions had strict rules, Greek tragedies all follow the same structure and have the same elements.
Works like the exposition of a story and introduces the story and characters.
After the prologue comes the entrance of the CHORUS and its first song.
After several Scenes broken up by chorus odes, the final scene, or exodus, would conclude the tragedy, serving as the resolution of the story.
The last piece of a Greek tragedy is the protagonist of the story: the tragic hero.
Tragic Hero
Evolved out of ancient rituals performed for the God Dionysus, the god of wine.
Winners were highly respected throughout society. The greatest champion of tragedy was Sophocles -- with over 20 victories!
And his most famous plays were the Oedipus Trilogy --
The chorus was a group of 12-50 masked men. Who sang "Odes" as a transition between SCENES to external connections to the plot.
Occasionally, one member of the chorus (Choragus the leader of the chorus) would leave the group and become a character in the play.
A tragic hero has many specific traits and goes on a predictable journey.
Hamartia (ha-mar-sha) means "missing the mark", "ignorance" or in this case a tragic "fatal flaw."
Each tragic hero has a trait or makes a decision that leads to his/her downfall.

The trait is out of their control, and the decision is usually an innocent mistake with terrible outcomes.

DRAMATIC IRONY: The audience is aware of everything before the hero, so it makes
everyone sympathetic.
Tragic heroes come from noble/royal bloodlines and are flawed but ultimately good people.
Their nobility and essential "goodness" serves to lift them high and makes their fall greater and more tragic to the audience.
Remember, tragic heroes are good people who are just flawed -- why would Greek audiences want to see characters like this?
One of the most common flaws in tragic heroes is hubris. This is excessive arrogance or stubbornness.
Now that you know a little about a tragic hero's traits, let's take a look at his/her journey.
Step 1: The Mistake
After meeting the hero and learning some back-story, things get started with a mistake.

This is where the character's hamartia is revealed, and his/her destruction begins.
Greeks strongly believed in fate, so sometimes the mistake is brought on by the "will of the gods."
Step 2: Anagnorisis (an-ag-nor-a-sis)

This is a term meaning "recognition."
At this phase, the hero becomes aware of his/her mistake and may attempt to correct it . . .
Step 3: Peripeteia (pair-a-pa-tea-a)
This means "reversal."
Here, the outcome of the play switches.
Things may get better, or things may get worse for a different person.
Whatever happens, the predicted outcome of the play is changed . . .
for now.
Step 4: Nemesis and Catastrophe
This is the most intense point on the hero's tragic journey.
In Greek, "Nemesis" means "retribution" or "payback."

The reversal is ruined, and the hero's decision reaches its horrible conclusion.
And "catastrophe" means "disaster."

We'll learn the final destiny of each character . . . it won't be pretty.
Final Step: Catharsis
This means "renewal" or "purification," and it's intended more for the audience than the characters.
Because the audience just witnessed a lot of tragic events, the play ends with a moment of calm.

While certainly not a "happy ending," the catharsis shows the characters learning from their mistakes or moving on from the tragedy.
Quick Recap
Tragic Hero:
noble person born with flaw
mistake made
mistake understood too late
things might get better!
things end horribly

That's a
Greek tragedy!

What might this flaw lead to?
*Much more on these plays later!
We don't make our hero's journey end tragically anymore, but do we still like flawed heroes?
Sadly, the hero's "light bulb" moment always comes too late.
Oedipus the King
Oedipus at Colonus
The body of the play. Developing the conflict, rising action, climax and falling action
Full transcript