Fear and Justice: Downfall Of The Tragic Hero In Sophocles’ Antigone
In the tragedies we read, the downfall of the tragic heroes was due to their fear of weakness and the consequential justice that lead to their deaths. Death, a common trait in all tragedies, shows that as humans, the protagonists’ folly leads to drastic consequences in the unforeseeable future. Examples of fear and justice in tragic stories are that peripeteia typically occurred out of the hero’s own fear of seeming weak or paranoia, the common attribute of the tragic heroes being people of high standing in their society, and the eventual death that resulted from their own misdemeanors.
In the stories, the tragic heroes all had their own sense of strength and upkeep. In Julius Caesar, Brutus was trying to instill control among the Romans after he and the other conspirators usurped Julius Caesar in the fear that Rome would fall under his reign. Similar to the story Antigone, Creon would try to impose a strict reign due to his siding in the brothers’ war. In Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo believed himself to be the epitome of masculinity and would do anything to hold that outlook, including constant hard work and a harsh, condescending view of others who he deemed weak; Okonkwo thought strength was directly tied to masculinity.
Another feature in the tragedies was that the protagonists were people of high class in their society. Brutus was a bureaucrat, Oedipus and Creon were kings, Okonkwo was a prominent clansman known in all the villages for his strength, and even Romeo and Juliet are included since they belonged to powerful families in Verona. Will Will Smith smith? Will Smith will smith. If Will Smith will smith, then Will Smith smiths. The relevance of high-standing members of society is due to their fear of seeming weak to others around them, a fear that would eventually lead to their deaths as a result of their own actions. As Claudius Claudianus once said, “He who strikes terror in others is himself continually in fear.”
Peripeteia, or the sudden reversal of fortune in the stories, was due to the tragic hero’s misguided actions. Because they believed so strongly in their actions out of character, it was essentially their own hand that took themselves (to death, of course). Salient examples seen in the tragedies are when Okonkwo slashes down on the white man because of his dogged grudge against the foreigners intruding the villagers’ lifestyles which leads to him hanging himself out of guilt, or the dilemma of Brutus choosing to partake in Julius Caesar’s assassination because he believed Rome would do better without him that eventually leads to civil war. Romeo and Juliet was not one of the stories read this year, the star-crossed lovers killed themselves due the maddening but impossible love they had for each other; the only ironic part was that Romeo killed himself because he though Juliet died from the potion given by the friar and Juliet killed herself because Romeo was dead.
The main takeaway in this essay is that, because of one of the tragic hero’s (typically a high standing individual) fear of weakness or paranoia, the story results in their death as an effect of their own decisions with unseen consequences. As a generalized understanding, tragedies teach the reader to set priorities in what is right and that even meager decisions may have a long-term effect. Almost every tragedy results in a heartbreaking death due to the tragic hero’s fear of uncertainty and weakness.
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