Aristotle Concept of Catharsis

September 19, 2017 | Author: Sohel Bangi | Category: Tragedy, Aristotle, Subjective Experience, Emotions, Self-Improvement
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Aristotle’s concept of Catharsis Introduction Catharsis is the emotional cleansing of the audience or characters in the play. In relation to drama, it is an extreme change in emotion resulting from strong feelings of sorrow, fear, pity and laughter, this result has been described as purification or a purging of such emotions The concept “Catharsis” to refer to the emotions was first done by the Greek Philosopher Aristotle in his work poetics. It refers to the sensation or literary effect that would ideally overcome either the characters in a play or an audience after finishing of watching a tragedy. The concept of “Catharsis” has been used for centuries as a medical term meaning “purging”. Aristotle has used the word ‘Catharsis’ in his definition of tragedy in order to explain the function and the emotional effects of tragedy. He uses it while the end of tragedy as tragedy effects, through pity and fear, a Catharsis of such emotions.

Aristotle’s concept of Catharsis Aristotle writes that the function of tragedy is to arouse the emotions of pity and fear, and affect the Catharsis of these emotions. Tragedy is then a corrective, through watching a tragedy the audience learns how to feel there emotions at the proper levels. Some modern interests of the work infer that Catharsis is pleasurable. In literary aesthetics, Catharsis is developed by the conjunction of stereotyped characters and unique or surprising actions. Throughout a play we do not expect the nature of a characters to change significally.

Evolved Theories Regarding Catharsis Aristotle has used the term or concept ‘Catharsis’ only once, but critics, and poets have handled no phrase so frequently. Aristotle has not explained what exactly he meant by the word, nor do we get any help from the poetics. For this reason, help and guidance has to be taken from his other works. Further, Critics have evolved theories regarding “Catharsis” which they are; purification, purgation and clarification, and each critic have used the word in one or the other senses. All agree that tragedy arouses fear and pity, but there are sharp differences as the process, the way by which the rousing of these emotions gives pleasure. 1) Purification Theory. 2) Purgation Theory. 3) Clarification Theory.

1) Purification Theory During the Renaissance, another set of critics suggested that tragedy helped to harden or ‘temper’ the emotions spectators are hardened to the pitiable and fearful events of life by witnessing them in tragedies. Humphrey House rejects the idea of ‘purgation’ and forcefully advocates the ‘Purification’ theory, which involves “moral conditioning”. He points out that purgation means cleaning”. According to the purification theory catharsis implies that our emotions are purified of excess and defect, are reduced to intermediate state, they are trained and directed towards the right objects at the pity, fear and similar emotions by witnessing tragedy. In the way, we are made virtuous good. It is in this way that catharsis serves as a kind of moral conditioning. The basic defect of purgation” and “purification theory is that they are too much occupied with the psychology of the audience. Aristotle was writing a treatise “catharsis” not to the spectators but to the incidents which form the plot of the tragedy and the result is the classification theory.

2) Purgation theory Catharsis has been taken as a medical metaphor, “purgation”. Denoting a pathological effect on the soul similar to the effect of medicine on the body. This view is borne out by a passage in the politics where Aristotle refers to religious frenzy being cured by certain tunes, which excite religious frenzy. Jacob Barney’s pointed out that Catharsis was medical metaphor and meant “purgation”. By the act of excitement tragedy affords a pleasurable relief. In fact, the stage provides a harmless and pleasurable outlet for instincts, which demand satisfaction. In the neo-classical era, Catharsis was taken to be an allopathic treatment with the unlike curing unlike the arousing of pity and fear was supposed to bring about the purgation or “evacuation” of other emotions, like anger, pride etc. as Thomas Taylor holds “we learn from the terrible fates of evil men to avoid the vices they manifest”. F.L. Lucas rejects the idea that Catharsis is a medical metaphor, and says that: “the theatre is not a hospital”. Both Lucas and Herbert Reed regard it as a kind of safety valve. Pity and fear are aroused; we give free play to these emotions which is followed by emotional relief. I.A. Richards” approach to the process is also psychological. Fear is the impulse to withdraw and pity is the impulse to approach. Both these impulses are harmonized and blended in tragedy and this balance brings relief and repose.

The ethical interpretation is that the tragic process is kinds of lustration of the soul can inner illumination resulting in a more balanced attitude to life and its snuffing. Thus John Gassers says that a clear understanding of what was involved in the struggle of cause and effect, a judgment on what we have witnessed Can result in a state of mental equilibrium and rest, and can ensure complete aesthetic pleasure. Tragedy makes use realize that divine law operates in the universe, shaping everything for the best.

4) Clarification Theory Catharsis means clarification of the essential and universal significance of the incidents depicted, leading to an enhanced understanding of the universal law which governs human life and destiny, and such an understanding leads to pleasure of tragedy. In this view, Catharsis is neither a medical, nor a religions or moral term, but intellectual term. The refers to the incidents depicted in the tragedy and way in which the poet reveals their universal significance. Clarification theory has many motives first it is a technique of the tragedy and not to the psychology of the audience secondly, the theory is based on what Aristotle has said in politics and ethics thirdly, it relates catharsis both to the theory A imitation and to the discussion of probability and necessity fourthly the theory is perfectly in accord with current aesthetic theories According to Aristotle the basic tragic emotions are pity and fear and painful. If tragedy is to give pleasure the pity and fear must somehow be eliminated fear is aroused when we see someone suffering and think that similar fate might befall us. Pity is a feeling of pain caused by the sight of underserved suffering of others.

Conclusion To conclude, Aristotle’s conception of catharsis is mainly intellectual. It is neither didactic nor theoretical, though it may have residual theological elements. Aristotle’s catharsis is not a moral doctrine requiring the tragic poet to show that bad men come to bad ends. It is however significant to consider Aristotle’s concept of catharsis as a reply to Plato’s objections. A tragedy is more probable and universal than history; therefore it is only by the communications of its own special insight and provides the satisfaction. It is obtained by the structural unity, but it also provides a safe outlet for disturbing passions, which it siphons off. Tragedy gives new knowledge, fields aesthetic satisfaction and produces a better state of mind. Various theories evolved regarding Aristotle’s concept catharsis and each critic has produced different idea in his interpretation of catharsis and tragic pleasure by his own manner. Yet, catharsis is the purgation and purification of pity and fear and also some ather emotions.

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