Tragedy is defined in Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary as 1) a medieval narrative poem or tale typically describing the downfall of a great man, or, 2) a serious drama typically describing a conflict between the protagonist and a superior force, such as destiny, and having a sorrowful or disastrous conclusion that excites pity or terror. The play of King Lear is one of William Shakespeare’s great tragic pieces, it is not only seen as a tragedy in itself, but also a play that includes two tragic heroes and four villains. In the tragedy of King Lear: the tragic hero must not be all good or all bad, the tragic hero is deprived through errors in judgment, the use of two tragic characters intensifies the tragedy, the tragedy develops more through action than through character and the tragic heroes gain insights through suffering.
We must be able to identify ourselves with the tragic hero if he is to inspire fear, for we must feel that what happens to him could happen to us. If Lear was completely evil, we would not be fearful of what happens to him: he would merely be repulsive. But Lear does inspire fear because, like us, he is not completely upright, nor is he completely wicked. He is foolish and arrogant, it is true, but later he is also humble and compassionate. He is wrathful, but at times, patient. Because of his good qualities, we experience pity for him and feel that he does not deserve the severity of his punishment.
Lear’s actions are not occasioned by any corruption or depravity in him, but by an error in judgment, which, however, does arise from a defect of character. Lear has a tragic flaw, egotism, which is exemplified thus: “Which of you shall we say doth love us most” (I.i.52)? It is his egotism in the first scene that causes him to make this gross error in judgment of dividing his kingdom and disinheriting Cordelia. “Thy truth then be thy dowry! /…Here I disclaim all my paternal care, / Propinquity and property of blood, / And as a stranger to my heart and me / Hold thee from this forever” (I.i.115, 120-123). Throughout the rest of the play, the consequences of these errors slowly and steadfastly increase until Lear is destroyed. There must be a change in the life of the tragic hero; he must pass from happiness to misery.
Life’s Findings in Homer’s Odyssey
The Odyssey: Life’s Findings
Homer’s The Odyssey can be truly considered as one of the best epic poems of all time. Odysseus’ journey in returning home becomes a test to prove himself. Only on the testing grounds of life can one discover inegrity, loyalty and perseverance. Homer’s craft is so profound that theme’s found in the poem still pertains to man today. The Odyssey is truly remarable in that Odyseus’ character, his morals, and his views are stil admired by people today.
A man’s actions sepaks for his integryit, especially in the face of corruption. Odysseus’ integrity is not questioned even when he slays the suitors. His moral principles are such that he sympathizes with Medon’s pitiful situation and spares him saying, “Be of good cheer, for he has cleared and saved you; that in your heart you may perceive and may report ot others how much more safe is doing good than ill” (219). Although Odysseus’ wrath against the suitors may be strong,his character plays the role of a peacemaker in his thoughtful actions. One can see that Odysseus’ integrity guids his decision even in the presence of iniquity.
One’s integrity is frequently tried through petty needs. Odysseus’ crew succumbs to their inability to resist hunger. Although Odysseus instructs them not to kill the Sun’s kine, hunger overpowers their sense of responsibility. Their ramshackle integrity gives out and hopes begins to waver among the crew. Some thinking “…to die by hunger…is the most pitiful of all” (120). The crew becomes so corrupt that they would rather, “…open-mouhted in the sea, give up…life at once than slowly let it wear away…” (120). The reader can see that the integrity of Odysseus’ c…
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… in his heart pitied his sobbing wife; but his eyes stood fixed as horn or iron. Through craft he checked his tears” (187). Homer’s use of epic simile in describing the tears Penelope shed enhances the reader’s understanding of her sorrow. Odysseus longs to be embraced by his wife after twenty years of roaming. However, he knows that if he would reveal his true identity, he might jeopardize his carefully plotted revenge. One can see that even Odysseus’ perseverance wavers when he encounters temptation to obtain what he longs for.
Loyalty, integrity, and perseverance are the supporting structures in life. Inegrity tests one’s morals, and it is frequently tried. Loyalty is a virtue that only some posses. Perseverance takes discipline to have. Odysseus’ test reveals aspects in life that one can only understand when tried in the test of life.