Aristotle's Definition of a Tragedy

According to Aristotle, a tragedy is defined by a number of characteristics. The plot must have a major changing point in which a discovery is made and there must be suffering. (Aristotle 638). The main character must also be good, appropriate, realistic, and consistent. The people must be able to sympathize with him (Aristotle 643). Using this definition of tragedy, one can apply it and come to the conclusion that Pericles' life was tragic and Socrates' not.

The changing point of Pericles rule was when he decided to help the Corinthian breakaways (Kish 77). This act was not seen in good light by Corinth, and in 432 BCE,

they convinced Sparta that Athens was fast becoming a threat to their state. Pericles did not think that anything bad could happen to his beloved Athens and so was caught by surprise when Sparta declared war on them. Socrates, however, had no discovery. He knew quite well that his philosophizing and criticisms would anger many and eventually get him into trouble (Plato 36a).

Socrates did not suffer from his situation with the government. He did not care about death (Plato 32d). He, in fact, would rather die than to stop his investigations and philosophizing (Plato 29d). Pericles though, suffered greatly. He was forced to watch the State that he loved fall out of it's Golden Age and go into decline (Kagan 247) and was rejected by his people and kicked out of office (Kagan 246).

One of the most important elements of a tragedy is whether or not one can pity the hero or not. If one is not saddened by a tragedy, then the story has not fulfilled its purpose. The story of Pericles is a sad and depressing one. Pericles had about as much good in him as an average person does. This makes him easy to sympathize with. He was also in an important position. It is hard for one to pity a peasant since he is already in a piteous situation, while it is easy to feel sorry for a leader (Class 11/5). Socrates was much more a peasant than a leader (Plato 30d). He also was an annoying person in general (Class 11/5) which makes it hard to feel sorry for him.

Pericles started as the leader of a great state. He was loved and respected by all. After a period of glory, he fell to a tragic end. Socrates was not liked by anyone except his followers. His fall was not unexpected or tragic. The only thing these two people have in common is that they were both children of Athens.

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