Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare in the beginning of his career. In his piece, the presents the audience with a story of love of two teenagers, the feud of whose families leads to the deaths of the lovers. Today, the tragedy is regarded as one of the greatest love stories of all times. As any classical tragedy, this one has the connections with ancient Greek tragedies. At the same time, it bears thematic and structural peculiarities of its time.
Hamartia is a term of Greek origin, which literally means “missing the mark” and was originally applied to archers. In dramatic context, hamartia is defined as a tragic flaw. In this regard, a tragic flaw is perceived as some kind of blindness, a lack of insight that ironically comes from a character’s abilities. In tragedies, not only Greek ones, a character has a particular tragic flaw that leads to a catastrophe because he / she disregards some truth, facts, signs etc. Also, hamartia, or a tragic flaw suggests that a trait that makes a particular character unique and easily recognized is what actually creates problems. In Romeo and Juliet, for instance, it is Romeo’s impulsiveness that prevents him from thinking before acting. Examples of such behavior is killing Paris despite Romeo does not know who he is and killing himself even though he notices Juliet has rosy lips, which means she might be alive. Hamartia, in fact, is what all people have. Personally, I am pretty shy, and sometimes this trait causes problems, for example, in classes when I know the answer to a question but choose not to answer because I do not want to attract attention.
Catharsis is defined as an emotional discharge. In his Poetics, Aristotle states, “Tragedy is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; […] through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation [catharsis] of these emotions”. In other words, by watching a tragedy, a person works out his / her own unresolved emotions; in this context, tragedy may be regarded a sort of therapy. In Romeo and Juliet, the audience experiences catharsis when the two families forget their conflict after Romeo and Juliet commit suicides and many other deaths take place. Catharsis may happen not only while watching a drama. For me, talking to someone about my experiences, especially unpleasant ones, for example, to my best friend, expressing my emotions and being relieved is a kind of catharsis because it gives an opportunity to purge of negative emotions.
Hubris is a Greek term which used to describe a character’s arrogance, overconfidence, and pride that are offensive to other people. In this regard, hubris may be regarded as a kind of hamartia, or a tragic flaw that leads to a problem or tragedy that befalls the character (“Norton Anthology of Drama”). In the play by William Shakespeare, the best example of hubris is that one of Friar Lawrence. It is his hubris that leads to deaths of two major characters. He decides he can beat destiny and marry Romeo and Juliet even if fate and their families are against it. Friar Lawrence feels that he can stop the feud between the two families without thinking about actual consequences of his actions for he believes he is right. In everyday life, hubris takes place as well, and this term is usually referred to arrogance and pride mostly in those who come from higher social backgrounds and are blinded with their power.
In Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare describes the issue of forbidden love. The author also shows how a rival between two families can destroy lives of two young people. In this tragedy, main elements of ancient Greek tragedy, such as hubris, hamartia, and catharsis, can be traced. Also, despite it was written in several centuries ago, the issues described in the tragedy are still relevant to this day. In fact, adherence to traditions and relevance are what make the piece a classic example of the genre.
Aristotle. “Poetics.” The Internet Classics Archive. N.p. Web. 4 Apr 2015. .
“Glossary of Dramatic Terms.” The Norton Anthology of Drama. W. W. Norton and Company. Web. 4 Apr 2015. <http://www.wwnorton.com/college/english/nadrama/content/review/glossary/G.aspx.