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Catharsis, one of the elements of Tragedy, according to Aristotle, is not so much an element of the play itself as it is the effect on the audience. Meaning “cleansing,” a catharthis is an emotional, social, and psychological change that the audience undergoes as they follow the plot and character development to a conclusion. The tragedy begins in media res, as the sorry condition of Thebes is described, through some unknown cause, a punishment from the gods’ who are dissatisfied with something out of balance in the community. As the story unfolds and we learn, through various dramatic devices, that the imbalance was caused initially by trying to avoid the prophecy (that Oedipus would kill his father), and the playing out of the events leading to his marrying his mother, as we witness the play’s developments, we as an audience (and especially as a social community) want to come back to a balance. This occurs at the climax of the play, and the audience gets a catharsis, a “cleansing” or return to balance and to favor in the gods’ eyes once again.
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