Jason as the Tragic Hero of Medea
Sources of World Drama
In The Poetics, Aristotle argues that plot is “the first and most important thing in
Tragedy” (p. 226, VII). Complex plots use peripeteia (Reversal of the Situation; which is
“a change by which the action veers round it its opposite [p. 229, XI]) and anagnorisis
(recognition; “a change from ignorance to knowledge” [p. 229, XI]) that “should arise
from the internal structure of the plot” (p. 229, X) to resolve the action. Aristotle
concludes that the best way to achieve katharsis (evoke and then purge “pity and fear” in
an audience) is to present the unexpected reversal of circumstances or situation
(peripeteia) of a “highly renowned and prosperous” “man who is not eminently good and
just, yet whose misfortune is brought about not by vice or depravity, but by some error or
frailty (hamartia)” (p. 230, XIII).
Apply Aristotle’s theories, (draw upon the entire selection from The Poetics in the Norton
Anthology of Drama) to either Agamemnon or Medea and construct an argument
regarding the tragic hero(ine) of either play. Your essay should consider whether the
character is “highly renowned and prosperous” although “not eminently good and just”
and “whose misfortune is brought about not by vice or depravity, but by some error or
frailty (hamartia).” Examine the expository evidence along with analyzing what the
character does within the plot of the play. In your analysis, you will also find it useful to
consider how others in the play perceive your character’s actions, especially the chorus.
Does the action of the plot include a recognition (anagnorisis) or a peripeteia (reversal of
fortune or situation)? Is there a scene of suffering? Sections VII through XVI provide
more detail regarding elements of plot and character, such as various forms of reversals
and recognitions that Aristotle finds more or less effective. These sections will help you
write a more nuanced and sophisticated essay. Base your argument on Aristotle’s theories
and use his theories to ground the discussion in your essay; that is, demonstrate that you
understand his theory in the body of your essay. However, feel free to disagree with or
challenge any part, or all, of Aristotle’s theory.
Papers should be roughly 900 – 1200 words, typed, double-spaced. Please feel free to
print on both sides of the paper. Remember to proof read your final drafts. Include your
name on each page and use page numbers.