The Byronic Hero And Tragedy Honors Thesis In Selected Schools

Uyehara, Jayna
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
Self-contradiction, a key quality of the Byronic hero, is nothing new to tragic literary figures. As early as tragedies of Aeschylus, the hero emerges from the tension between two elements: his "larger than life" quality and the crime which arouses his guilt. Aristotle, the first to describe the genre of tragedy calls the tragic hero "better than the average person" (Dorsch, trans., 52): the powers and abilities of the average person are magnified in this hero, making him seem a titan among men. He stands out because of the "sharpness of an anagorisis [revelation], particularity of the distress, or through possession of a special virtue or dignity" (Leech, 37-8). In awareness, suffering, or abilities, then, the tragic hero is simply greater than other human beings dare to be. This troubled superiority of the hero leads to his crime. Together, such qualities in the individual become hubris, a general sense of pride, which prepares the way for hamartia, an error in judgment (Dorsch, trans., 48). Greatness thus implies weakness, for "Aristotle rejected the notion of an evil or a totally good hero: the one would not move us to pity, he said; the fall of the other would merely shock us" (Leech, 38). Although Aristotle does not include moira or fate in the Poetics, it does play an important role within the tradition of Greek tragedy such as in Aeschylus's Oresteia, and certainly over the years fate becomes increasingly emphasized in discussions of tragedy.
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