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The Tragic Hero of Aristotle and that of Arthur Miller

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The Tragic Hero of Aristotle and that of Arthur Miller
Letícia Lannes de O. Aidukaitis
The term tragedy is originated from the Greek, it was used to name a specific kind of play performed at festivals in Greece, a fine definition is found in Aristotle’s Poetics: 
“Tragedy is an imitation of an action that is admirable, complete (composed of an introduction, a middle part, and an ending), and possesses magnitude; in language made pleasurable, each of its species separated in different parts; performed by actors, not through narration; effecting through pity and fear the purification of such emotions.”
By his definition we may understand that there is a form and a function in tragedy that should be followed; for instance, there are some elements that, according to Aristotle, should always be present in a tragedy, such as a great or well-known man; reversal of fortune caused by some action; a tragic flaw (hamartia) etc., it is not difficult to find plays that fit the description Aristotle gave, like Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare, or Oedipus Rex, by Sophocles. 
On the other hand, Arthur Miller on Tragedy and The Common Man articulates that it is not necessary to have a great man to make a tragedy, he says: “the common man is as apt a subject for tragedy in its highest sense as kings were.”, Miller’s idea breaks with the classical notion of tragedy and brings it closer to the mass spectator, making catharsis more powerful, since in Miller’s way it is more relatable to them.
Following Arthur Miller’s proposal, Tennessee Williams wrote, among other plays, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the story of a common family which the main characters are Brick, Maggie, Big Daddy and Big Mama; Brick is the favorite son but also a broken man, he mourns the death of his best friend Skipper and suffocates his homosexual feelings towards him, these factors combined to the pressure he suffers inside his marriage for performing his role as a husband makes Brick succumb to alcoholism; the institution of marriage gives the couple a sense of roles, when Brick does not want Maggie – his wife - sexually, automatically Maggie cannot play her role, since giving birth to heirs is, probably, the main function of a woman inside an old fashion marriage. 
Miller, in another essay, argues the following:
“Tragedy arises when you are in the presence of a man who has missed accomplishing his joy. But the joy must be there, the promise of the right way of life must be there. // In a word, tragedy is the most accurately balanced portrayal of the human being in his struggle for happiness.” (MILLER, Arthur. The Nature of Tragedy).
It is possible to affirm that Brick, the tragical hero of Cat on Hot Tin Roof, is exactly in that situation, he is “a man who has missed accomplishing his joy”, and he looks for it inside bottles of liquor in an attempt to numb all the pain he feels. The following passage illustrates this: 
“BRICK: It's just a mechanical thing. /BIG DADDY: What is a mechanical thing? /BRICK: This click that I get in my head that makes me peaceful. I got to drink till I get it. It's just a mechanical thing, something like a--like a--like a--/BIG DADDY: Like a-- /BRICK: Switch clicking off in my head, turning the hot light off and the cool night on and-- [He looks up, smiling sadly.] --all of a sudden there's--peace! /BIG DADDY [whistles long and soft with astonishment; he goes back to Brick and clasps his son's two shoulders]: Jesus! I didn't know it had gotten that bad with you. Why, boy, you're--alcoholic! /BRICK: That's the truth, Big Daddy. I'm alcoholic.” (WILLIAMS, Tennessee. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, act II [1955])
After reading the passage above one may see that Brick is nothing more than a regular man, dealing with real struggles: alcoholism and his sexuality; those subjects were – and for many, still are – issues that many people from the audience would be able to relate, but also, they question religious and ethical beliefs of our society, and probably this has become the main purpose of tragedy. 
Bibliography 
LAPCHAK, Elizabeth. Literary Interpretations and Homosexual Identity: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Angels in America: Literary Interpretations and Homosexual Identity. Disponível em: <http://blogs.millersville.edu/musings/literary-interpretations-and-homosexual-identity/>. Acesso em: 28 out. 2017
MILLER, Arthur. “The Nature of Tragedy”; “Tragedy and the Common Man”. In The Theater Essays of Arthur Miller. Harmonsworth: Viking Penguin Books, 1978. Pdf 
WILLIAMS, Tennessee. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof [1955]

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