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Elements Of Aristotelian Tragedy Depicted In Shakespeare's Romeo And Juliet

1811 words - 7 pages

An Aristotelian tragedy includes many different characteristics. It is a cause-and-effect chain and it contains the elements of catharsis, which is pity and fear, and hamartia, which is the tragic flaw embedded in the main characters. The famous play Romeo and Juliet, written by William Shakespeare, is about two lovers of two different families who hate each other and the misdemeanors they have to surpass. Many debate on whether it is an Aristotelian tragedy or simply tragic. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet should be regarded as an Aristotelian tragedy because catharsis is exhibited in the play, Juliet’s blindness of love is shown, and Romeo’s impetuousness is the tragic flaw that leads to his demise.
Catharsis is shown throughout the play in many different ways, making it an Aristotelian tragedy. To begin, the audience feels the purging of catharsis directly after Romeo delivers his soliloquy in Act I, scene iv: “I fear, too early; for my mind misgives/Some consequence yet hanging in the stars/Shall bitterly begin his fearful date” (I, iv, 106-108). This soliloquy leaves the audience with fearful anticipation of coming events and how they will affect Romeo later on in the play. Another example of catharsis is exemplified when the two lovers, Romeo and Juliet, meet for the first time. As Juliet says, “My only love, sprung from my only hate!” (I, v, 137) the audience feels extreme pity due to the fact that they know that these two people, who love each other, cannot be together because they are enemies. Yet, the reader wants them to be together, but know that it is impossible because of the blistering hatred of these two families. Aristotle explains that “tragedy arouses the emotions of pity and fear in order to purge away their excess, to reduce these passions to a healthy, balanced proportion” (McManus). By this quote, he means that expressing catharsis is a way of redirecting one’s emotions and passions to a different form. For example, Juliet loves Romeo so much that it causes her physical pain to be without him. The audience feeling pity and fear is a way to get out or purge her emotions for her. One will also feel the tragic element of catharsis when Romeo stabs Tybalt: “O, I am fortune’s fool!” (III, i, 130). This quote makes the audience feel bad for Romeo because he recognizes his mistake of letting rage control his actions, but the Prince still punishes him for the horrible crime he has committed. Since the reader can almost feel Romeo’s love for Juliet, this should upset one that they have to live without each other because Romeo is banished from Verona. In addition, the reader feels catharsis when Romeo wants to kill himself after he learns that he must be banished: “In what vile part of this anatomy/Doth my name lodge? Tell me, that I may sack/The hateful mansion” (III, iii, 106-108). This quote expresses pity because Romeo is so upset by his banishment that he wants to kill himself, so he does not have to go through this pain....

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