Oedipus Rex is considered to be one of the greatest and most quintessential greek tragedies of all time. This is probably because Oedipus has a lot of specific qualities that make him the ideal tragic hero. Oedipus is of the nobility in his story. He is the son of royalty by both his adoptive parents and his actual parents. He is also nobile in the sense that he solved the riddle of the sphinx and was given the ruling power in Thebes. Oedipus being noble quickly earns him the admiration of the audience and the people in the story. Going back to the Arthur Miller essay previously mentioned in class, I believe the reason subjects of great tragedies are alway nobility is because they are also the subject of praise and hope for their subjects. So not only are we the reader invested in the success of the protagonist but those who live under them are too.
Another reason Oedipus is able to draw so much catharsis is because of the nature of his “fatal flaw”. The thing that causes Oedipus’s downfall in the play (Killing his father, sleeping with his mother who he didn’t know was actually his mom) is completely out of oedipus’s control. This is important because if it was something Oedipus could control or even be conscious of, it would make him less likable of a character. Overall Oedipus Checks all the boxes of being a great tragedy as it makes you bond with, fear for, and pity the main character in a very cohesive way.
In Ariely's TED talk his main point is that we as humans don’t really make rational decision like we think we do. Humans are not rational being’s in the more complex sense. We do things on impulse. In our purest state we are not equipped to handle complex decisions, and sometimes the decisions we do make, are wrong for a different reason than previously thought. Even though Ariely’s TED talk never even mentioned the concept of tragedy I believe his point actually has a large role to play in one of the main aspects of tragedy. In Tragedy every main protagonist has a “hamartia” or “tragic flaw” which drives along the bad things about to take place. As shown in plays like Oedipus the King, the hero might not be in control of or even know about their tragic flaw, causing them to make decisions that actually cause their misfortune,without knowing they caused it. In Oedipus Rex, Oedipus is told in a prophecy that he will kill his father and mary his mother, so to avoid this he leaves his homeland because very badly does not want this prophecy to come true because that would bring misfortune in the people he loves. However in making this decision he inevitably ends up running into Laius, killing him, going to thebes, becoming king, marrying Jocasta and fulfilling the prophecy and hurting those he loves anyway, even of thought it was not the family he expected.
In Arthur Miller's “Tragedy of the Common Man” his main point is quite simple and pretty much summed up in the title: Tragedy can befall anyone, it is not just a plight of the nobility but is just as commonly expressed in the regular lives of regular people. As laid out in Miller’s writing, many of the great tragedies written about in older literature is that of kings and great heros. Some examples of this are Hamlet, Macbeth, and Oedipus. However the tragic flaws these characters might have they share with the common man as well. This is because the basis of the tragedy is people trying to change their circumstances, trying to prove their worth, or find their way in the world, and failing.
In my search for some background on this essay I found a very interesting article about how Arthur Miller wrote this essay a short time after releasing his play “Death of A Salesman”, a play that fits into this idea that the tragic flaws of the nobility applies to the common man.
My original idea of what tragedy is was “Bad things happen to people” and I enjoyed reading this essay because it adds another dimension to my thoughts about the subject. The idea that subjects of tragedy have a potentially tragic flaw in their person, regardless of situation means that tragedy is more than chance, that there is more reasoning than just unfortunate circumstances.
“We may be suffering because we are surrounded by snobs”. This is the piece of this week's TED talk that really stuck with me, and that’s because it’s true. The concept of “snobbery”, or in more american terms “Straight up judging someone based on one thing” is a prevalent thing in society, it always has been, its context has been shifting over time. Even as our society is become more open to things like homosexuality and class there is still one thing thing people base a lot of worth on, and that is a person’s choice of career.
Exposure to this starts early on. At a young age people are often asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?”, and depending on what the answer to that question is the response you get may be less than encouraging. I’ve been subject to this for most of middle and high school. When asked by family members, friends parents, mentors, and sometimes even my teachers the question my answer has been “high school teacher” which is usually met with “no you don’t”, “don’t you want to make more money?”, “oh you are so smart you can do something better than that”. It’s incredibly frustrating, to be told that what you want to do with your life “isn’t worth it”. This is where the tragedy comes in. At a young age we begin to lose sight of things that might might make us happy in pursuit of the gaining of material things. We are living in a society that isn’t focussed on the good, but the more instead.
As a student of english throughout all of high school, I feel like I should have some idea of what tragedy is. In the world we consider horrible sad things to be tragedies, things like natural disasters, acts of human cruelty, bad accidents, unexpected or early death and unfortunate circumstances. I guess lots of things can be considered tragic. This should hold true in literature too right? However, when I think about books I've read considered "tragedies" it seems that while including a mix of the things mentioned above, the characters also make a plethora of bad choices to go along with it. That might just be shakespeare though. The best way I can start to describe tragedy is in one word, unfortunate.
After reading a variety of articles the basic definition of tragedy in literature is a display of human suffering that invokes pleasure in audiences. So to fit into this I suppose most of the topics mentioned in the prior paragraph could be worked into plot in order to achieve the desired effect. To go along with my initial thought that bad choices often cause tragedy, I found examples of this while reading about “Tragedy of the Commons” and “Revenge Plays”. “Tragedy of the Commons” is when someone acts in their own interest and against the common good. This manifests in the real world in cases of overuse of natural resources and unethical business practices, but can also be applied to many situations in literature as well. Looking at “Revenge Plays” my thoughts about Shakespeare were somewhat confirmed that shakespeare characters make bad choices. However this kind of lust for vengeance is a very common type of story in literature. So while my ideas are a little more refined now, tragedy can still really be summed up as unfortunate.