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Passions in Poetry

Tragic Heroes

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Ryan
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since 06-10-99
Posts 318
Kansas


0 posted 08-31-2000 11:26 PM       View Profile for Ryan   Email Ryan   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Ryan

So I'm fascinated by tragic heroes.  I have a poem in CA right now that is the beginning of my poetical analysis of my ideal tragic hero.  I'm wondering what others think of these characters.

To me, I can see a sort of progression of tragic characters starting with Greek plays, moving up through Shakespeare's plays and then into modern day literature.  Starting with the early Greek plays, I'm going to concentrate mostly on The Oresteia and Orestes (I'd like to bring Oedipus into this, but it's been too long since I've read the Oedipus trilogy for be to use it).  You look at most Greek tragic heroes (Orestes, Achilles and/or Hektor from the Illiad, and I guess I can use Oedipus) and though they all have their tragic faults, their downfall almost invariably occurs b/c of the gods or prophecies.  The Greek playwrights seemed to mark the cause of the tragic downfall of human characters on supernatural forces combined with an unrealized tragic flaw.

By the time we hit Shakespeare, the supernatural influence disappears for the most part (one could argue MacBeth or Hamlet as an exception).  The tragic hero's downfall is brought about exclusively by his blindness to his flaw (thinking of Othello right now).  Another more recent example is Okonkwo from Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart."

Finally, we reach what modern times and what I believe to be the coming of a new type of tragic hero, one which I consider to be the most tragic of all.  This type of tragic character is one who recognizes his flaw, yet is powerless (for one reason or another) to avoid his downfall.  Two examples I use as a basis for this is Jack Kerouac who wrote a lot about his alcoholism in his books.  In fact, "Big Sur" is a very moving tale of a near dip into madness brought on by his alcoholism.  Another person I feel fits this description is Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett.  I don't know how many people are familiar with Pink Floyd's early works (or Syd Barrett himself), but Barrett's songs can be seen as a chronicle into the mental instability that ended his career (he's the model for the poem "A Piper" I have in CA).

Anyways, I'm near the end of my ideas and my roommate needs our computer, so that's all from now.  I'd like to hear any thoughts, ideas, etc. that you guys have.

Ryan


I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till i drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.
óJack Kerouac

Ryan
Member
since 06-10-99
Posts 318
Kansas


1 posted 09-06-2000 09:11 PM       View Profile for Ryan   Email Ryan   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Ryan

Paraphrase from my Philo teacher today on tragedies:  "In a tragedy, two sides are involved in conflict.  They then come to a resolution of the conflict.  Soon after, one side breaks the peace in a most viscious manner, leading to renewed conflict.  The side that breaks the peace (the tragic side) is subsequently vanquished."

He used this definition to validate the idea that Thucydides's "History of the Peloponnesian War" is a tragedy.  Thoughts on this specific idea or if it is accurate for tragedies in general?

Though I believe "History..." can be seen as a non-fiction tragedy, I haven't yet thought of how any other tragedies I can think of can fit into this definition.


(probably overwhelmed by the perceptive reality thread, but I will survive)

Ryan


I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till i drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.
óJack Kerouac



[This message has been edited by Ryan (edited 09-06-2000).]
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