Catharsis


‘Using his ideas about the fictional status of art, Aristotle made a particular study of the emotions aroused by tragic drama. This formed the basis for his theory of “catharsis”. Aristotle perceived how tragic drama draws on the audience’s feeling of pity and fear – it was common for Athenian spectators to weep openly at stage performances.

[Aristotle]
“These feelings are aroused particularly when the hero suffers a significant reversal of fortunes such as when Oedipus, in Sophocles’ drama Oedipus Rex, discovers that Jocasta, his wife, is in fact his mother. The tragedy is compounded by the fact that the messenger who reveals Oedipus’ true identity initially came to deliver joyous news.”

Catharsis is the feeling of sympathy aroused in the audience for Oedipus in this tragic moment of reversal. Aristotle argued that the fictional status of the play creates a sense of distance between the spectator and the tragic hero, and that because of this it is possible to enjoy tragedy and take aesthetic pleasure in it.’

– Kul-Want. C. (2012) Aesthetics London, United Kingdom: Icon Books p. 21-22

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One thought on “Catharsis

  1. Sounds as though, in Aristotle, we have the early seeds of psychology.

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