Hamartia. This term is also interpreted as "tragic flaw" and usually applied to overweening pride, or hubris



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Aristotle’s Poetics - Tragedy
According to Aristotle, the tragic hero must fall through his or her own error, or hamartia. This term is also interpreted as "tragic flaw" and usually applied to overweening pride, or hubris, which causes fatal error.

The classic example of Aristotelian principles is Sophocles' Oedipus the King (ca. 428 B.C.); Shakespeare's Othello (1603-04) follows a similar pattern of pride, error, and self-destruction (though Oedipus merely mutilates himself on discovering his crimes, whereas Othello commits suicide). (See catharsis for more details.)


Anagnorisis (Ancient Greek: ἀναγνώρισις), also known as discovery, originally meant recognition in its Greek context, not only of a person but also of what that person stood for, what he or she represented; it was the hero's suddenly becoming aware of a real situation and therefore the realization of things as they stood; and finally it was a perception that resulted in an insight the hero had into his relationship with often antagonistic characters within Aristotelian tragedy.

In Aristotelian definition of tragedy it was the discovery of one's own identity or true character (Cordelia, Edgar, Edmund, etc. in Shakespeare's King Lear) or of someone else's identity or true nature (Lear's children, Gloucester's children) by the tragic hero. In his Poetics, Aristotle defined it as "a change from ignorance to knowledge, producing love or hate between the persons destined by the poet for good or bad fortune."


Aristotle argues in his Poetics (fourth century B.C.) that tragedy allows a healthy release or purifying of emotions. This tragic catharsis is achieved through the emotions of pity and fear (forms of sympathy or empathy), which are aroused in the audience by the tragedy of a protagonist who suffers unjustly but is not wholly innocent.

Pity and fear are inspired in the audience by the suffering of someone who is morally typical: he or she is not overwhelmingly good or evil, but susceptible to error (as when acting unjustly through ignorance or passion). The protagonist's misfortune therefore inspires pity because it is worse than he or she deserves, and fear because the audience sees in it their own potential errors and suffering. (See under Hamartia ("error" or "flaw") for more on tragic error, or flaw.)


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