The Mayor of Casterbridge

The Mayor of Casterbridge as an Aristotelian tragedy College

According to Sidney Lamb in Tragedy (CBC: Toronto, 1964), although the form of tragedy written in Elizabethan England differs somewhat from that written in ancient Greece, in both eras tragedy was a reflection of a hierarchical society. Even late in the twentieth century with the tragedy of the average man well-established critically, we still tend to think of a tragedy as "the story of the fall from greatness of an exalted personage"--a king (Sophocles' Oedipus or Shakespeare's Lear), a general (Aeschylus' Eteocles or Shakespeare's Macbeth), or a man of great wealth, rank, and social prestige (The Old Testament's Job or Shakespeare's Romeo). Consequently, the fall of Michael Henchard from prosperity and power to obscurity and alienation is certainly the stuff of Aristotelian tragedy. The French tragedian Beaumarchais argued that "The nearer the suffering man is to my station in life, the greater is his claim upon my sympathy". Michael Henchard in his rise and fall from a common hay-trusser to a mayor of Casterbridge and then a nobody hay-trusser again surely evokes the sympathy of readers belonging to every social standing. The deft manipulation of peripeteia, anagnorisis and final suffering in the plot inevitably generates...

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