Identify a thesis statement and detailed outline for a paper about how Dr. Faustus and Macbeth fit Aristotle's definition of a tragic hero. 

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Evolution and transformation are essential to Aristotle's tragic hero. Aristotle saw that pure tragedy is fundamentally different from any other type of drama  because  tragedy had to employ "pleasing language" or "enhanced utterance." This action enabled the protagonist to understand what constitutes "catharsis" or "purgation" "through pity and fear." The Aristotelian tragic hero is unique in this regard:  “the change of fortune presented must not be the spectacle of a virtuous man brought from prosperity to adversity."  Aristotle believed that the tragic hero must experience this notion of "reversal," a condition in which "the action veers round to its opposite."  This definition of the Aristotelian tragic hero is one that encompasses Faustus and Macbeth.  From this point, the outline becomes to explore how both protagonists affirm Aristotle's tragic hero.

Marlowe's vision of Faustus represents action that "veers round to its opposite."  Faustus' ambition and unchecked coveting of power and knowledge is an essential part of his characterization in the narrative's exposition:

O, what a world of profit and delight,
Of power, of honor and omnipotence,
Is promised to the studious artisan!
All things that move between the quiet poles
Shall be at my command.

Words such as "profit," "omnipotence," and "command" are significant in how Faustus' character is forged.  His tragic journey towards reversal commences with an absolutist foundation of self- importance.  Faustus consolidates more power and, in doing so, progresses towards his eventual transformation.  A reversal presents itself at the end, It is when Faustus is confronted with the implications of his actions.  Faustus begins to recognize the transgression in his actions and pivots towards self- sacrificing actions, such as when Faustus sends his friends away so that they would avoid his fate: "Gentlemen, away! lest you perish with me."  At the same time, Faustus calls out to the divine, a force he had forsaken earlier on in the drama:  

See, see where Christ's blood streams in the firmament!
One drop would save my soul—half a drop: ah, my
Christ!(80)
Ah, rend not my heart for naming of my Christ!

Such evolution and reversal exemplified how Faustus could be seen as an Aristotelian tragic hero.

When Macbeth expresses a hollow condition of being regarding news of his wife's death, similar reversal is seen. Macbeth's soliloquy upon receiving the news of Lady Macbeth's death shows a reversal in characterization and perception.  The nihilist condition seen in "full of sound and fury/ yet signifying nothing" and "a poor player that struts his hour on the stage" and "all our yesterdays have lighted fools" are all examples of how much Macbeth has changed. In contrast to the figure who sought power and control at all costs, Macbeth is shown to be an empty figure at the drama's end.  He has become hollowed, almost as a recognition of his folly.  Even Macbeth's embrace as a warrior in his final confrontation with Macduff is one where he has reversed himself from the power hungry tyrant.  He comes across as one that almost accepts the inevitability of his doom.  The emptiness of his condition is an essential component to his reversal, where action was "veered round to its opposite."  Macbeth has experienced a reversal from the person he once was.  Aristotle's notion of "adversity" has become supplanted "prosperity" to facilitate such a change.  In this, Macbeth embodies the Aristotelian tragic hero.

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eng505050 | (Level 1) Honors

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Thank you, but I don't see a clear thesis or argument here. Above all Aristotle defines tragedy as a representation of life; not of man.

Also, diction, song and melody are not as important as 1) plot and 2) character.

*I am hoping to formulate a thesis argument based how the tragic hero's may not be the most important part(according to poetics) but their actions are the catalysts to forming a successful tragedy.

Can you please help form a thesis and outline based on this information?

Thank you!

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