Death of a Hero in Modern Tragedy
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Is there anything that can evoke more emotion from an audience than a hero's downfall? The most effective plays in history, from " Oedipus ", the most famous of all tragedies, to plays like " Romeo and Juliet ", tragedies are always the plays with the greatest emotional impact on an audience.
There are many critics who believe that tragedies can no longer be effectively written in today's world. These critics believe that " the tragic mode is archaic, fit only for the very highly placed, the kings or the kingly "and therefore cannot realistically exist in the modern world (Tragedy 1). Tragedy is possible in the modern world. In fact, modern tragedy has the potential to affect an audience even more than archaic tragedies, but only if the tragic hero is an average man, whose downfall can be linked to man's quest to belong in society.
To examine modern tragedy, there is no better author to look at than Arthur Miller. His play, " Death of a Salesman" is indeed one of the finest modern tragedies to date, and his paper, " Tragedy and the Common Man," gives excellent insight on the aforementioned play, and has become the definition on modern tragedy. By examining these two works, one can determine if indeed, modern tragedy to Millers definition exists in Millers play.
One of the major arguments against modern tragedy is that all previous tragic characters were " the kings or kingly, and where this admission is not made in so many words, it is often implied"( Tragedy 1). Willy Loman is " past sixty years of age, dressed quietly. Even as he crosses the stage to the doorway of his house, his exhaustion is apparent... A word-sigh escapes his lips-it might be ' Oh, boy, oh, boy'"( Death 12). Willy Loman is in no way a regal, kingly figure, as classical tragedy dictates. According to Miller, " common man is as apt a subject for tragedy ...as kings were... In the light of modern psychiatry, which bases its analysis upon classic formulations... which apply to everyone in similar emotional situations"( Tragedy 1). According to Miller, an Oedipus complex, although originally portrayed by a King, could as easily be transferred to any character to be a tragic hero in today's world.
Willy, in the play, as well as any character, is described by his virtues. The following quote is almost like a description of Willys virtues;
I think tragic feeling is evoked in us when...