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Comparative Character Analysis of Classical Vs. Modern Tragic Protagonists.

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Comparative Character Analysis of Classical Vs. Modern Tragic Protagonists.

A hero/ heroine is described as the principal male/ female character in a literary or dramatic work or the central figure in an event, period, or movement. The classic tragic hero was defined by Aristotle in the fourth century as, "someone who is highly renowned and prosperous" (LATWP, 639), suggesting that there is a "natural right ordering and proportion of traits within the human being that if violated, produces calamity" (LATWP, 639). The book goes on to define classical tragedy as one that "involves the inevitable destruction of a noble person by means of character flaw, usually a disproportionate measure of a specific human attribute such as pride, jealousy or indecision" (LATWP, 639).

On the other hand, another type of tragic hero exists, the modern tragic hero. This type of hero is a product of a clash between the individual and the social environment. Arthur Miller, the famous playwright said, "each person has a chosen image of self and position, tragedy results when the characters environment denies the fulfillment of this self concept." (LATWP, 640). This is a contrast from Aristotle's classic tragic hero because the hero is no longer born into nobility but gains stature in the action of pitting self against cosmos, and the tragedy becomes, "the disaster inherent in being torn away from our chosen image of what and who we are in this world." (LATWP, 640).

In the tragic play named after its equally tragic heroine, Antigone's character unfolds as the perfect example of the classic tragic protagonist character. Antigone is the daughter of Oedipus, a former king who left the kingdom in a self imposed exile. Antigone and her sister, Ismene have been left under the care of her uncle, Creon who is now king. In his first official decree, Creon decides that for reasons he sees fit, the body of Antigone's brother Polynices should not be buried but left out, unattended to, for the birds to feast to their heart's content. Antigone is appalled by this and decides she cannot see her brother go out like that, so she takes it upon herself, not minding the consequences, to bury her brother and give him his full rites.

Antigone stands up for what she believes in even though it may, which it eventually does, result in her death. She knows that she has violated the king and the state's order not to bury her brother, but she defiantly does. Her independent act of defiance is daring, and completely opposite to the obedience expected of women in her society. So strong is her belief and the way in which she is driven by it, that she stops at nothing, and puts everything at stake. "It is by this extreme

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