On Broadway right now there is a popular musical that takes its audience through the life of one of it founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton. During the time of the American Revolution, many people were tired of how Britain was stepping all over them. In an effort to change things Hamilton worked his entire 47 years to make the world the best place it could be. Even though Hamilton did make several bad decisions that tainted his name politically, he still worked to fix anything and everything that was not they way he believed it should be.
Today we seemed to have gotten caught up in too much red tape to be able to fix any injustice very fast, it may take someone’s whole lifetime to fix one issue. In the Kafta Parable Before the Law, a man sees the law and he wants to be able to do something with it but when he is told by the gatekeeper he can’t enter he just waits until he is told he can enter. The problem with his waiting is that he is never told he can enter, so all the changes he could have made never occur because he accepts the gatekeepers words instead of challenging them.
In Antigone, Antigone sees the law that Kreon has passed, her brother is to be unburied, food for the dogs; however, she doesn’t accept it. Like Hamilton, Antigone challenged the law, doing what she believed was right. In the end doing what they stood by ended up killing both Antigone and Hamilton, but in standing up for what they believed in they made others reevaluate and make a change.
In the world of Sophocles’s Antigone and Oedipus death seems like the only option when anything goes poorly. Instead of being able to deal with the pain of the death of your family, you kill yourself. Your cat died, kill yourself. You failed your math test, welp your life has no potential so you better kill yourself. You lost your pencil, you set yourself up to fail so you better just die now because you will never get anywhere.
While all of that was a pretty big exaggeration, in Antigone “Kreon has shown there is no greater evil than men’s failure to consult and to consider.” While tragedy is supposed to bring about a “happy” realization amidst a disaster if people just waited and thought about things not as many people would die!!!!!!!!!! I understand that they realized through all the deaths that Kreon could change, and if he had changed earlier nobody would be dead.
Kreon blames all the death on himself and his lack of change, but if people could just stop and talk about things before they react then things could have ended differently. If everyone had paused and waited about five minute Kreon would have changed his ways and everyone would still be alive. I guess that this also could be another lesson amidst the tragedy, take time to think before reacting irrationally.
There are many shared themes in tragedies to help bring about the “happy” realization at the end. While these characteristics-death, fights, and drama-may become a little too much for readers over time yet they are needed to create a tragedy.
With the amount of choices we make in a day we often feel that we are completely in control of our lives. We choose what we wear, eat, and if we are going to work hard or be lazy each day. In the TED Talk, ’Are we in control of our decisions?’ Dan Ariely argues that we don’t actually make as many decisions as we think. This is known as “decision illusion” and while it may just seem like a crazy theory, that a paranoid man has created because he is scared that everyone is trying to control him, but it is a very true.
“Not knowing our preferences that well leaves the choices to help us decide.” Ariely did a study in which he narrowed down which two choices were the most popular, and took out the least popular choices. The interesting thing that happened when the middle choices were taken out the most popular became the second most popular, and vice versa. The middle choices really do help us make up our mind, so when we are facing a problem that is either flight or fight, sink or swim, many people have difficulty making decisions. This difficulty is often what causes people to have errors or have a tragedy fall upon them.
The fallacy of tragedy is that it is an awful experience that at the end has left the person going through said tragedy in a pit of despair, but in reality the tragedy has left the person with a new realization or life experience. In “The Tragic Fallacy,” Joseph Krutch agrees with this statement, saying, “We accept gladly the outward defeats which it describes for the sake of the inward victories which it reveals.” Many people who hang motivational quotes on their walls know the saying fall down seven times, get up eight times. Each defeat brings about a new drive and determination towards a goal.
While the drive towards a goal is a little different that a tragedy, going through a tragedy will bring about a new realization. If Romeo had not killed himself because he didn’t love Juliet as much as she thought, her killing herself would been only in vain. Juliet killed herself knowing that Romeo loved her so much he would rather die than live in a world without her. She died knowing and feeling true love. This is an inward victory in the midst of an outward defeat. This is what the getting up an eighth time is, and why tragedies are what gives people their drive to work and live.
One of the oldest tragedies that has survived throughout history is Oedipus Rex. The tragedy of this story is the fact that Oedipus’s mother, Jocasta, and Oedipus himself both tried to avoid two tragic prophecies and yet the prophecies still came true. While looking at the structure of this tragedy we can often see this problem in real life. We often feel that we are in a good place in life, stable and fortunate, yet when something comes along that threatens to that we do anything to stop it. In the act of trying to stop the road block we end up creating an even more devastating one.
“Apollo caused all this dismay but it was I alone, not, he who struck my eyes. What good are they when there is nothing sweet to see?/I could not disagree.” We see that Oedipus finally has realized what he has done to the fullest extent and while he may still be mourning he owns up to what he has done. People often don’t own up to what they have done and yet those around them do. The people who view the tragedy from the outside often feel sympathy for those experiencing the tragedy, seeing as life isn’t easy.
There are two different roles in a tragedy those who are observing it and those who are experiencing it. While everyone does at one point or another experience tragedy, they often forget what it feels like. The tragedy Oedipus Rex and many others help the audience remember what it feels like to be on both sides of tragedy and it creates a catharsis for the audience as well.
One way that tragedy often comes around is that people envy those that they can relate to. In the TED Talk, A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy of Success, Alan de Botton says “If you can’t relate to someone you can’t envy them.” No one can relate to the Queen of England, so therefore they don't envy her. Tragedy can often be avoided by not coveting what others have, but society has another idea about individuality. With people being so similar everyone is bound to get jealous at one point or another. Due to the jealousy of others people are always going to try their hardest to be the best of the best, the cream of the crop.
When people fall behind those around them, their failure becomes more impactful. They see those around them succeeding, while they are stationary. This feeling is like when a running race is going on, the gun goes off and instead of you running along with everyone else, you are stuck to the ground. Alan de Botton describes this, saying, “the problem with meritocracy is that failure seems much more crushing.” The similarity of people and meritocracy, is what causes tragedy to enter the world. While the world would be very easy without tragedy it would also be very boring and no one would have any work ethic.
The definition of tragedy in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “a very sad, unfortunate, or upsetting situation : something that causes strong feelings of sadness or regret.” Why is every tragedy always classified in a way that is creates a negative atmosphere? In “Tragedy and the Common Man,” Arthur Miller argues that a “tragedy requires a nicer balance between what is possible and what is impossible.” The balance that Miller is talking about is the the belief that man is entirely imperfect or entirely perfect. Tragedy is often thought to be above or below the average man, depending on our perspective, but it only comes about when the person has a very major flaw. When the person is finally forced to face their flaw and in doing so something devastating happens. While many people would see that there is just all negativity, that man is completely flawed, this is not true. In a tragedy the person’s views on their perfection is changed, forcing them to realize that while humans are no perfect, you can strive for your own form of perfection, bringing the balance to negativity.
Tragedies have been written since as early as the Athenian area. The structure is often the same, a person experiences a reversal of good fortune. The end result for the audience is a catharsis, seeing as they have gone through similar emotions in their own life. However they have not exactly been through the same scenarios. These reactions can often be referred to as ‘the tragedy of the commons’.
While the ‘tragedy of the commons’ is often a misnomer because the commons is referring to something shared only by a community and not humanity as a whole, the common tragedy is what makes this type of literature so attractive to the common man. “The word ‘tragedy’ appears to have been used to describe different phenomena at different times,” the tragedy of the commons has evolved over time. Early versions of tragedies started off with a different structure than that of those written by Shakespeare, but they all have the same basic structure.
Although tragedies have evolved over time to become more relevant to the times, the maintained the same structure. They all are created to help the audience cope with loss or reversal of fortune, and while they do contain some humor, they create an experience for both the performers/characters and the audience.