What is anagnorisis, and how is it used in literature? 

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scarletpimpernel's profile pic

scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Anagnorisis refers to a character (normally a tragic hero) realizing who he is or discovering who another character truly is. In tragedies, the moment of anagnorisis often coincides with the standard "tragic realization" when a tragic hero admits that his tragic flaw has led to his or others' downfall. Several examples of anagnorisis are:

1. In Sophocles'Antigone, Creon hears the news of his family members' deaths and admits that his pride has brought about the suicides.

2. In Othello, Othello not only admits that his poor judgment led to his killing Desdemona but also finally recognizes Iago's true intentions.

3. In Julius Caesar, Brutus's anagnorisis comes about slowly. In the last two acts of the play, Brutus is haunted by Caesar's ghost, observes that his once strong friendship with Cassius has dissolved, and admits to himself that he acted rashly in assassinating his leader/friend.

Note that in many tragedies, a character's experience with anagnorisis often leads to his or her suicide.

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anjali989 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Honors

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ANAGNORISIS: (Greek for "recognition"): A term used by Aristotle in the Poetics to describe the moment of tragic recognition in which the protagonist realizes some important fact or insight, especially a truth about himself, human nature, or his situation. Aristotle argues that the ideal moment for anagnorisis in a tragedy is the moment of peripetia,the reversal of fortune. Critics often claim that the moment of tragic recognition is found within a single line of text, in which the tragic hero admits to his lack of insight or asserts the new truth he recognizes. This passage is often called the "line of tragic recognition.

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sheikhkp | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Honors

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                      Anagnorisis is a Greek term coined by Greek philosopher Aristotle in his "Poetics".

Aristotle defined the term as:

                             "the discovery of one's own identity or true character or of someone else's identity or true nature by the tragic hero".

For example Lear, in Shakespeare's "King Lear", driven out by his older daughter and rescued by his youngest, realizes their true characters.

   Anagnorisis is important in that it can bring about "the reversal of fate/fortune",

           as when Oedipus killed his father and married his mother in ignorance, and later learned the truth, he plucked out his eyes; thus his anagnorisis (recognition of truth) led him to a superior targedy.

laurto's profile pic

laurto | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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In the simplest way of describing it, it is a moment in a play or other work when a character makes an important discovery.