In this module, we have briefly discussed Aristotle’s assertion that tragedy’s primary purpose is to provide the audience with an experience of catharsis. According to his account, by witnessing the suffering of the tragic figure, the audience is purged of its feelings of pity and fear – as a result, they leave the dramatic performance feeling energized and also curiously relieved of anxiety.
However, we have read one work of ancient Greek tragedy that seems to complicate this view. In Antigone, we are presented with a strong female protagonist whose commitment to a higher form of love and justice challenges the audience to gain any satisfaction from her suffering. Similarly, Susan Glaspell’s one-act play,Trifles, focuses on a conflict between competing notions of justice. Once again, it is the female protagonist and her companions who come into conflict with a male dominated society.
In this essay, you will consider whether or not it is appropriate to interpret this play as a work of tragic drama. After reading Part XIII of Aristotle’s Poetics, in which he offers his definition of an ideal tragedy, explain whether or not Trifles ought to be considered a tragedy.
- * Does Mrs. Wright possess a tragic flaw, or like Antigone, is it possible that she does not fit easily into Aristotle’s definition of tragedy?
- * Finally, does Glaspell’s play offer its audience an experience of catharsis?
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