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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: December ::
Re: Tragic Flaw I
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 1028. Thursday, 29 December 1994.
 
(1)     From:   E. L. Epstein <epstein@QCVAXA.BITNET>
        Date:   Tuesday, 27 Dec 1994 13:37:02 EDT
        Subj:   RE: SHK 5.1024  Re: Fate and Tragic Flaw
 
(2)     From:   Nina Walker <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 27 Dec 1994 14:47:22 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.1027  Re: Tragic Flaw
 
(3)     From:   Al Cacicedo <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 28 Dec 1994 2:20:36 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   RE: SHK 5.1024  Re: Fate and Tragic Flaw
 
(4)     From:   Skip Shand <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 28 Dec 1994 10:29:05 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.1027  Re: Tragic Flaw
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           E. L. Epstein <epstein@QCVAXA.BITNET>
Date:           Tuesday, 27 Dec 1994 13:37:02 EDT
Subject: 5.1024  Re: Fate and Tragic Flaw
Comment:        RE: SHK 5.1024  Re: Fate and Tragic Flaw
 
It has always seemed to me that hamartia, with its root definition deriving
from archery, meant more like *pulling back to bow until you are ready to
shoot, and then, at the critical point, letting it go.* In other words, the
tragic hero goes on his way in a direction that is determined but that he does
not see, until the critical moment, when his fate cries out, to quote S, and
the event precipitates. It would resemble the Hindu notion of karma, more than
anything westers, I think. Any ideas? E.L.Epstein
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Nina Walker <
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Date:           Tuesday, 27 Dec 1994 14:47:22 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 5.1027  Re: Tragic Flaw
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.1027  Re: Tragic Flaw
 
On tragic flaw and the Victorians in particular:
 
I think it was Michael Groves who equated tragic flaw with "moral flaw" I don't
think this is necessarily as Aristotle would have it. An inherited/internal
character flaw (such as a bad temper) or even a physical flaw (a missing leg)
both of which are determined by "nature" and unchangeable,  enhanced by an
external flaw acquired by bad habit, usually hubris, and changeable by the
exercise of free will, in combination with an "error of judgement" which is
generally tied into not following the rules that a particular society, Greek or
English Renaissance or Victorian (or whenever/wherever) demands be
followed--the factor of time and place--set the stage for tragedy. I'm not sure
how "moral flaw" fits in this sequence, though it might be equated with the
external flaw.
 
 Avoiding secondary sources, since many have been mentioned, I suggest a close
reading of the "vicious mole of nature" speech in *Hamlet* in conjunction with
5.1.35-55 of *Coriolanus* in which Aufidius ponders the 'inevitable' fall of C.
Was it his pride, defect of judgement, nature or the three in combination.
 
I think Carlyle a great source of instruction but shorter and plainer is Geroge
Eliot's *Notes on Tragedy* contained in Cross's biography of his wife, Vol.2.
Eliot was a friend of Carlyle's, a scholar who studied Aristotle in Greek, and
a renowned expert on Shakespeare. Though short, the entry is very telling and I
believe she uses *Othello* as an example.
 
(I apologize for not remembering the name of the contributor who wishes to have
discussion about Victorian authors using Shakespeare, but I second the idea.
I'd love to hear about the *Vanity Fair* connection. Eliot is endlessly
influenced by Shakespeare and she admired Thackeray.)
 
I also think it worth mentioning that a good reading of *Nichomachean Ethics*
helps illuminate the Poetica.
 
Is there also another feature to be reckoned with regarding Aristotlean
constructs, fate, and/or accepting the consequences for one's actions
regardless of the cause. What about tragic flaw as Nemesis? Any theories? I
don't know how Aristotle or Shakespeare might view the combination, but Eliot
*seems* to believe the two are closely entwined.
 
Happy New Year
 
Nina Walker
(
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(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Al Cacicedo <
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Date:           Wednesday, 28 Dec 1994 2:20:36 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 5.1024  Re: Fate and Tragic Flaw
Comment:        RE: SHK 5.1024  Re: Fate and Tragic Flaw
 
It's easy to forget that Aristotle does not have a psychological approach to
character.  He says that a character is what a character does.  In that light,
I can't imagine that hamartia is a "flaw" *in* the character, but rather, as
others have pointed out, a missing of the mark in the action undertaken b by
the protagonist.  On the other hand, the inevitability of the protagonist's
doom seems to me to be very much a part of hamartia.  Surely Oedipus, one of
Aristotle's favorite examples as he appears in *Oedipus Rex*, is doomed
whatever he might choose to do in the present of that play.  If one puts the
moment of choice back at the time when Oedipus kills his father--another one of
those instances of indulging the male condition?--then the tragedy worked out
in the play demonstrates that murder will out (an idea whose time seems to have
passed, I think) because ultimately the gods are moral: any immoral act, then,
misses the mark. It's that ethical point that Plato, in his more retentive
moments, seems to miss entirely.  Maybe he'd been watching TV instead of
*Oedipus Rex*?
 
Joyfully finished with my grading,
Al Cacicedo (
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Albright College
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Skip Shand <
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Date:           Wednesday, 28 Dec 1994 10:29:05 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 5.1027  Re: Tragic Flaw
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.1027  Re: Tragic Flaw
 
For an interesting, perhaps still controversial, political spin on 'tragic
flaw,' see Augusto Boal's *Theatre of the Oppressed*, in the sections dealing
with Aristotle's 'coercive' theory of tragedy.
 

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