30th October 2018

Significant connections

Through the studies and the exploration of the genre of tragedy through a variety of texts and literary theories, we have been able to identify and congregate different elements of the genre that has been unified and employed in different texts by different authors and writers in order to allow the audience to feel catharsis. Tragedy has different aspects and has 6 different foundational elements of plot, characters, thought (ideas), diction, spectacle and melody. An overarching and conspicuous idea shared among the genre of tragedy is the idea of hamartia, a fatal flaw leading to the downfall of a tragic hero or heroine. Texts including “King Lear”, “Citizen Kane”, “The Great Gatsby”, and “The Gladiator” show us how the directors and writers manipulate their characters to have a perfect start of the story the create a fatal flaw to them which leads to their ultimate downfall. Through this manipulation in the context, the audience are able to feel catharsis where they are able to release and provide relief from themselves from their strong and repressed emotions.

The notion of hamartia is introduced at the very beginning of most texts in the genre of tragedy in order to make an institute to the elements of a tragic hero. A tragic hero is a literary character who makes an error that inevitably leads to his/her own destruction. King Lear is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare. It depicts the gradual descent into madness which lead to catastrophic consequences after abandoning his kingdom by giving bequest to two of his daughters, Goneril and Regan. Lear’s flaws are his arrogance, ignorance and misjudgements, each contributing to his downfall at the end of the script. He viewed himself to be the best of the best in which he thought everyone should love him, especially his daughters. He was effortlessly deceived by Regan and Goneril’s flattery that only added to his arrogance and ignorance that he already portrayed. “Which of you shall we say doth love us most?”, from this question it is clear that Lear is ignorant and self-serving s he wants to pass the responsibility of owning of a kingdom yet wants to keep the privileges of being a king. From the beginning and only until his near death that he realizes how much he has been blinded by his arrogance and ignorance and his error judgements which led him to his death. With great similarity to the film Citizen Kane by Orson Welles, the protagonist, Charles FOster kane also had a hamartia that lead to his downfall. Kane’s story was an influential one with him starting out with completely nothing then becoming one of the richest men in America. But with great power, fame and money comes greed and pride. This is when we could identify his flaw, he started feeling too proud and ignorant, just like Lear and he felt that everything should revolve around him. Both Lear and Kane were men who were in desperate need to be loved yet they were both unable to show love in return and the only way they coped with the lack of love is to expel the person from their life who refused to show them love.

Through the novel of The Great Gatsby written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, we see how hamartia leads to downfall of a hero. The film portrays the story through the narration of Nick Carraway and is focused on the life of Jay Gatsby, the most hopeful man he had ever met. Jay Gatsby is a tragic hero who depicts the corruption of the ultimate American Dream through his tragic flaws. He was a character who deeply wished acceptance from the wealth, thus motivated himself to work hard to become a wealthy figure. He began earning money through bootlegging through his ties with the mob and as he got wealthier, he discard his true name of James Gatz to Jay Gatsby to create a false image of ‘old wealth’ to gain the acceptance he has always wanted from those in West and East Egg. Gatsby’s reinvention of himself was the irrefutable cause of his downfall, primarily due to his absolute devotion and obsession to his dreams of power and love for Daisy Buchanan. He has great similarities with Charles Foster Kane’s character due to the fact that they both started with nothing then became extremely rich and then had a great change in their personalities. Gatsby started having the mindset that money can buy anything and that he was able to gain Daisy back if he had money. Wealth and power got to both of the men’s heads and largely contributed to their downfall at the end. 

From the film “Gladiator” directed by Ridley Scott shows the tragic story of Maximus Decimus Meridius and how his fatal flaw lead to his downfall at the end of the film. The director had constructed his character to be an honest and good person that wanted the best for his people yet he still ended with the fate that he didn’t deserve. Maximus’s goodness was his hamartia because he had too much pride in doing good things and being a good person that he refused to do anything wrong. This flaw ended up getting himself and his whole family killed. Maximus’s character shows a great contrast from King Lear’s character as he possessed such goodness yet Lear showed the opposite. Although blinded by his judgements, Lear was a selfish person whom had no care for anyone but himself and Maximus was a selfless figure who wanted to save Rome and everyone he cared for. This just shows us that although both tragic heroes showed different qualities and flaws, they shared the same thing which was a fate greater than they deserved. 

By studying and researching different texts in the genre of tragedy, we have been able to recognise what all four pieces of  “King Lear “, “Citizen Kane”, “The Great Gatsby” and “The Gladiator” similarly possess.. The discovery of hamartia in the characters in the novels and films tells us that in order for a hero to be tragic, they need a fatal flaw that would be the cause to their downfall and which prominently helps the author and directors to ignite catharsis in the audience. All four different tragic heroes dominated disparate flaws but had the same out comes in which resulted death. This manifests the fact that there are no exceptions to a tragic hero and its course of life once a fatal flaw has been designed to its character. 

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