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Paper Topic:

concept of “catharsis” and apply it to both “Oedipus Rex” and “Hamlet.”


[professor /instructor]


May 23 , 2007

The Necessity of Catharsis in Drama

The fundamental purpose of a theatrical drama is to provoke an emotional response from the audience . All of the elements available to the playwright - stagecraft , characters and dialog - must be effectively used for this purpose . Great numbers of plays have been written in a manner that tells a story that once portrayed leaves the audience with an emotional response . A truly successful drama will , in a sense manipulate ' the emotions of the audience . At the onset

, the audience is a blank slate ' without any emotion . The playwright proceeds to develop the play in a fashion designed to produce emotion (s ) that may change , diminish or intensify during the course of the play . At the conclusion of the truly masterful play the audience has had a deeply emotional experience and will be left contemplating the impact . At different levels this is the effect of Sophocles Oedipus the King and William Shakespeare 's Hamlet . The ancient theatrical concept of catharsis is the crucial element to the emotional result and serves as an excellent method of analysis of the impact of these dramas

The modern term and concept of the role of catharsis in drama is traced to Aristotle 's allusion to (Greek ) katharsis , usually translated as purging . The modern definition of emotional release ' is appropriate to the theatrical setting . Aristotle places the word in the context of his idea of the perfect ' drama , recorded in his Poetics

For the emotion which affects some minds violently exists in all , but in different degrees , e .g . pity and fear , and also enthusiasm for some people are prone to this disturbance , and we can observe the effect of sacred music on such people : whenever they make use of songs which arouse the mind to frenzy , they are calmed and attain as it were healing and katharsis . Necessarily , precisely the same effect applies to those prone to pity or fear or , in general , any other emotion , and to others to the extent that each is susceptible to such things : for all there occurs purification and pleasurable relief (Butcher

Aristotle 's usage of the word continues to create debate . The historical record indicates Aristotle planned realized a fuller definition was required : (what I mean by katharsis will be stated simply now , and more clearly in the Poetics , however his explanation or clarification has yet to be found (Heath ) Nevertheless , Aristotle sets the concept of catharsis within the emotional responses of the audience , particularly fear and pity . However , there can be a broader concept in addition to his statement that there occurs purification and pleasurable relief from pity and fear . Perhaps the appropriate result is akin to the overused word closure . The audience has been evoked to feel pity or fear and the drama continues until these emotions have been resolved

Fear , pity , love and hatred are the most powerful emotions a drama can produce . Obviously , these emotions can stand opposite one another in...

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