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A single flaw is the most imperative ingredient in creating a tragic hero in literary work. In a tragedy this single flaw can structure every living moment of the individual’s life, or perhaps an entire nation’s. Such is the case of tragic literature. As a result of a single error in judgment, the tragic hero is brought down to ruins from great heights or from high esteem. The hero encounters severe pain and suffering, emotionally or physically as a result of his tragic flaw, and essentially realizes that his mistake is irreversible and he must accept a tragic death. In Durrenmatt’s play, The Visit, a hostile situation is created to not only emphasize on man’s attempt at escaping his fate but to further illustrate the social morality within a society. It is for this reason Durrenmatt’s play can be seen as a tragic comedy and epic theater. Through tragedy he illustrates man’s inevitable fall down as a result of his tragic flaw, the comedy that lies within the lack of a society’s social morality and the folly of man trying to escape fate. Furthermore, Durrenmatt’s epic theater informs the audience about the moral dilemma in which their society is in. Aristotle’s definition for a tragic hero is one who is not in control of
his own fate. This constant idea is simultaneously demonstrated in the town of Guellen. The protagonist Ill is adequate for the role of a tragic hero. Ill’s entire life is destroyed due to a flaw that he committed fifty years ago, and in the present day as a result of his tragic flaw he must cope with his hostile situation and ultimately try to escape his fate. Ill’s condition can be seemingly observed throughout every individual’s character response towards Ill’s death. For instance, in the play the most elite members of society dismiss him and inform him that his fear of Claire is rather absurd. A specific incident from the play is as Ill inquires for the help of the mayor. Durrenmatt emphasizes on Ill’s doomed fate through every aspect of social and political justice. The town of Guellen places Ill in the tense situation, where neither law, religion, or his family are willing to rescue him from his destiny. The Visit not only portrays the role of tragic literature through Ill’s hostile situation but furthermore through his tragic flaw which brought his character down to ruins from a great estate. Ill’s error in judgment as a young adult resulted in destroying Claire Zachannasians and in the present day this mistake has come back to destroy him. Slowly Ill’s social assets begin to deteriorate as well he loses his position as mayor and his respect amongst his community. This makes evident that his play fills the criteria of tragedy. Essentially Ill loses his lack of control in the face of his predetermined future and downfall as a result of his tragic flaw he must face death, which he does.
Although the play fills the criteria of tragedy through the use of humor and irony The Visit is also portrayed as a comedic play. Durrenmatt not only illustrates man’s miserable attempt at escaping fate, moreover he presents the idiocy of man avoiding tragedy. Irony is a literary device which spins a web through Durrenmatt’s play and imitates the lack of social morality with the Guellen society. Ill is fulfilling the criteria of a tragic hero; however in the town of Guellen tragedy is impossible. The easily persuaded minor characters in The Visit alter their sense of right in wrong as soon as a person from higher authority comes along. For instance when the mayor comes to a decision of killing Ill he has the support of the entire town. In the same manner when the school master gives his speech about dignity the town members are convinced to stick with the principles. Through irony the events in the play unfold in a logical manner how society would approach receiving wealth and prosperity in exchange for someone’s life. The fact the people of Guellen convince themselves that killing Ill is the ethical decision is pure comedy. Once the town’s people have killed Ill instead of being washed down with guilt they are ignorant to the fact that they have committed a crime and simply discuss their town new found wealth. The irony is further emphasized on as Ill is trying to escape his fortune. As Ill attempts to leave town at the train station he is prevented by the entire town in a very odd manner as they gather in on him. In addition the man of peace (the priest) rejects to help Ill escape his dilemma and then holds up a shot gun and convinces Ill that he should in fact focus on his soul since, irony leaks in the fact that the priest knows his body will not and cannot be saved. The mayor asks Ill to make it easier and kill himself and the police beings drinking and telling Ill to calm down.
Comedy is not an element in the play strictly used for the purpose of audience entertainment but in fact it is used to an object to fulfill the criteria of an epic theater. The Visit is densely structured; the greed driving the plot seems the least of its characters’ sins. The play as an epic theater illustrates and highlights that, people, not money, are the root of all evil. The Visit is constructed as in epic theater to capture the audience’s attention and allow them to relate to what they see in the theater and apply it to the condition in society and would ultimately seek to alter the corruption. This fact is evident throughout Durrenmatt’s entire play he presents both sides of the argument. The Visit challenges the audience to draw conclusions from the ideas that are being presented. The comedy is used to distance the audience from the more serious event that are partaking nonetheless it is still used as an element to engage the audience in the moral dilemma. For instance the minor characters in The Visit represent regular people in society, their ignorance and how easily they can be persuaded. A specific example from the play is Ill’s own family, his wife is ready to exchange her husband’s life for money, and just like the rest of the town she too begins wearing expensive products. As Ill’s wife her love for him must be strong enough not to be bought with money yet just like the rest of the town she is ignorant to that fact. The Visit is rich with insight in every aspect of society, the law, the authority and the religious governors of society whom claim to be with God. The use of epic theater emphasizes that in human nature everyone can be bought and human life is not as valuable. It is up to each individual audience to decide whether the town had the right to kill Ill because of the miserable condition of their town, or whether Ill had the right to live after what he did to Claire. Above all The Visit involves the audience in the moral dilemma by pointing of how justice along with human life can be purchased. The visit criticizes all members of society from the leaders of the country to the town members engaging them in the moral dilemma.
In conclusion Durrenmatt’s play The Visit fulfills the criteria of a tragic-comedy and epic theatre. The play reaches the criteria of tragedy through Ill’s tragic flaw which essentially ruins his reputation and leads him towards his inevitable death. Durrenmatt’s focus however was not mainly on the death of Ill it was in fact on the towns people inability to grasp the meaning behind their decision and the humor and irony within their irrational thoughts, along with Ill’s attempt at escaping faith. Furthermore the role of an epic theater is fulfilled as the audiences are engaged into the issues within the Guellen town.
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