The image of Tragic Hero is well known from the ancient times. Such characters were mentioned in Greek, Roman, Indian legends, fairy tales as well as dramas, tragedies and other literature works. One of the most famous heroes, which possess all the features of the tragic character, is Oedipus the King mentioned in the Greek ancient drama written by prominent playwright Sophocles.
In times of ancient Greeks tragedy did not mean a play with unhappy or lethal ending. It only meant that the play would depict a hero, who must fight against his fate. The character should also possess features thanks to which he is considered to be noble and smart, and he runs into such consequences that make him reveal them all. At the beginning of those plays options are beneficial for the main hero, so he can hope for happiness. With the course of time tragic characters came to be recognized as they are in the modern world.
According to Aristotle (Aristotle, part XIV), the play Oedipus the King by Sophocles has all the features of Greek tragedy. The hero should overcome such stages of development as mistake or error (hamartia), purification or catharsis, reversal or peripeteia, recognition and pathos (suffering) (McManus, 1999).
The modern tragedies also use the system of principles described by Aristotle. For example, the film screened in 2007 titled I am Legend (IMDB) repeats all the main features of Greek ancient tragedy. First of all, the main hero of the movie, Robert Neville, is a noble man. In Oedipus the King the character is the future ruler of the country, wise and responsible man. Robert Neville is a military man. Besides, he is a Lieutenant Colonel and virologist. Main hero is both soldier and a doctor. Both these professions are respectable and honorable. So, the character can be called a noble man in accordance with the Aristotle’s rules. He patrols the Time Square with his rifle and his dog Samantha (Wetcher, 2008).
Secondly, an element of mistake of role of fate is seen in the movie. In the play Oedipus runs away from his home to avoid his sad fate. According to the prophecy, the King should have been killed his parents. On the contrary, the movie contains the scene of helicopter accidents, in which both wife and a daughter of the main hero are dying. This part of the plot changes Robert and his mind. Now he has the aim. He wants to find a cure and heal the infected people, who did not turn into the Darkseekers completely.
The element of purification is one of the most touching parts of the movie. According to Aristotle, catharsis generates the feeling of pity among the spectators. Probably, it makes viewers cry and somehow disappointed in the plot of the movie. It is very important to create a moment of hopelessness to reach the drama effect and make spectators empathize the main character. It is the moment when a pack of infected dogs attack Robert Neville and his pet, the shepherd Samantha. Though Robert and Samantha managed to get rid of stray dogs and to kill them, Sam was bitten by one of them. The main hero had to make a hard choice. He does not want his best friend to become a monster so he kills the dog.
After this the stage of reversal begins. Robert Neville finds Anna and Ethan who heard his radio broadcasts. Anna tells Robert about Bethel, the city in Vermont where survivors have settled. The spectator gains hope that everything can be ok and the film would have a happy ending. In case of Oedipus, the death of Polybus is that moment of reversal. The king thinks that Polybus is his real father so the fate is powerless and gods were wrong.
Furthermore, recognition or anagnorisis begins when characters discover that the infected woman rescued by Robert looks more like human as she was before. Unfortunately, this moment coincides with the attack of the Darkseeders when they finally get into the Robert’s house. For Oedipus this moment comes when he becomes aware of personality of King of Thebes.
The last accord of the tragedy is called pathos. It is the most dramatic moment and culmination of it. For Oedipus it is his blindness. He decides that he does not deserve to see this world again and it would be better to die. For Robert Neville pathos is his death. He sacrifices his life but distributes the sample of blood of recovered woman to Anna and Ethan. With this sample humankind has hope to survive and to restore the life on the planet.
The theater and cinema underwent lots of changes. Modern playwrights always try to discover something new to amaze the spectators. Nevertheless, main laws of drama and tragedy described by Aristotle are still on the stage. Basic principles are eternal and they still make the audience cry and laugh, hope and fear.
Aristotle, Poetics. Web. 4 Oct 2012. http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/poetics.2.2.html#101
Internet Movie Data Base. Web. 4 Oct 2012. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0480249/
McManus, Barbara. Outline of Aristotle’s Theory of Tragedy in the Poetics. 1999. Web. 4 Oct 2012. http://www2.cnr.edu/home/bmcmanus/poetics.html
Wetcher, Barry. “Will Smith Gets Lost in His Legend”. Time. 2 Jan 2008. Web. 4 Oct 2012. http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1694609,00.html