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"Death Of A Salesman": A Tragedy Or Not?

2997 words - 12 pages

A Tragedy or Not a Tragedy? That is the Question.Tragedy or not? That is the question. Is "Death of a Salesman" correctly labeled as a tragedy according to the Aristotelian view of a tragedy? To determine this, the Aristotelian views should be examined along with the play to determine whether or not the play fits the description of an Aristotelian view of a tragedy. Throughout the reading of "Death of a Salesman" it becomes clear that the author did not intend to create an Aristotelian tragedy because the play simply does not fit Aristotle's criteria.There are several distinct characteristics that define a tragedy. The first is that the "tragedy tells a story based on a series of cause and effect events in the life of a person" (Tragedy according to Aristotle). Further, these events of the plot lead to a catastrophe, usually some sort of disaster that may have been expected or deserved. Another characteristic of a tragedy is that "the drama is one of great dignity or serious" (Tragedy according to Aristotle). In other words, the drama must be of serious magnitude which "allows the hero to pass by a series of probable necessary stages from happiness to misfortune, or vice versa" (Aristotle 16). And with the last characteristic of a tragedy, the protagonist "must be neither completely good nor completely bad" (Tragedy according to Aristotle).Next the characteristics of a tragic hero should be examined. These should include "someone who is highly renowned or prosperous" (Tragedy according to Aristotle) or "of a persons better than the average man" (Aristotle 27), or a noble person. This protagonist must have a tragic flaw which leads to his misery. And finally, by the end of the play, the protagonist must recognize his own error and accepts the consequences (Tragedy according to Aristotle).Finally, there is the audience reaction to the plot in the tragedy. The audience should feel pity for the following reasons: (1) "the hero's punishment exceeds his crime" and (2) "the hero is a suffering human being that's flawed like all of mankind" (Tragedy according to Aristotle). And finally, the audience should feel "fear because the hero is better than most of mankind and they still fail" (Tragedy according to Aristotle).Although "Death of a Salesman" does meet most of the criteria as described by Aristotle to be labeled as a tragedy, it does not meet them all. And in that case it should not be classified as a true Aristotelian tragedy.The first views of the Aristotelian tragedy that should be examined are the characteristics of the tragedy. These characteristics of the Aristotelian tragedy are broken down into four sub-categories. The first is that the story or play is based on a series of events in the life of the hero. It is inclusive of the plot, time, and themes of the play. Second, these events of the plot lead to some sort of catastrophe. Thirdly, the tone is one of great magnitude or seriousness. And finally, the protagonist is neither all good nor...

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