Greek theatre is based on religious and political performance with prestige playwrights. The roles are always played by men who wear masks and costumes and the performance were always outdoors. Greek theatre has had comedy and tragedy where comedies the heroes are ironic and disengaged to the situations. With the tragedy, heroes often respond with emotions such as pride, rage, lust, envy or grief. This essay will focus on the tragedy side of Greek theatre. Aristotle says that tragedy “is not the imitations of persons but of actions and of life.” (Butcher 1961). Here “imitation” meaning ‘mimesis’-poet creating a image out of nothing, representing reality itself giving it form and meaning. Furthermore the actions are the mimesis of the poet that is serious in context to pity, fear, moral, social and physiological senses directing to pathases. Aristotle is looking at the art of tragedy which is the making of the play that symbolizes an action. He states that tragedy is a form of action that displays visions and inspirations that leads the character into action such as singing.
Moreover he talks about action that is from two natural causes – character and thought (Butcher 1961). It is the changing circumstances of life that the character response in such a way to use his thoughts to seek or avoid situations. Aristotle emphasis action (praxis) is not a deed, event or physical activity rather the motivation that arouse from the deed - the thought and character that makes the action.
Tragedy depends on the dramatic performance (enactment) and not on the author telling the story (narrative). According to Aristotle tragedy stimulates the emotions and then purifies or purges it down, it is never created. On the other hand the tragic hero is a man of repute and prosperity who does not hold virtue or justice but undergoes a misfortune due to his own flaw (hamartia). The hero is basically a decent person, neither a villain nor a perfection model.
Aristotle says "A man cannot become a hero until he can see the root of his own downfall." This tragic flaw is the hero’s own free choice where his death is seen as a human waste. However it is not of pure loss as greater knowledge and self awareness is highlighted. In Macbeth, he is introduced as nobility, crowned for bravery as “Thane of Cawdor” The quote, "No more that Thane of Cawdor shall deceive our bosom interest. Go pronounce his present death, and with his former title greet Macbeth. What he hath lost, noble Macbeth hath won”, shows Macbeth’s nobility. Soon after which he is doomed, who bears the actions of his own responsibilities - a common trait of a tragic hero. Aristotle insists that the plot is the principle element of tragedy, the arrangements of the incidents and how it is presented to the audience together with its structure is the vital component. It is the incidents and themes of the plot that bring richness and value to the play.
In Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet, the tragedy is emphasized...