A Guest Post by Henry O. Arnold
The Invention of Tragedy
The invention of tragedy as a form of dramatic storytelling often is attributed to Aristotle and the ancient Greeks. The basic construct of a tragedy is that the protagonist—the one with outstanding qualities—rises to prominence before succumbing to disaster and being destroyed due to personal failures, circumstances beyond their control, or a combination of these two factors. Tragedy has been a creative style of expression in multiple art forms ever since.
The Role of Catharsis in Tragedy
When told well, a literary tragedy gives an audience the opportunity to experience catharsis. Simply put, when we become engrossed in a story, we experience deep and intense connection with the characters and, thus, identify with them. With our imaginations, we enter the story’s unfolding action and see ourselves in the different characters. Our emotions are engaged, and by the end we will have had a complete empathic experience. It is like a cleansing for the soul.
Long before the Greek playwrights wrote their stories and the actors donned their masks and began to orate in the amphitheaters, there was King Saul, the first true tragic figure of this kind in the Bible. Preceding when Sophocles wrote of Oedipus’ encounter with the prophet Tiresias, Saul encountered the prophet Samuel.
The Tragic Formula in Crown of the Warrior King
In my novel Crown of the Warrior King, the story of King Saul picks up where my first novel, A Voice Within the Flame, left off. Saul is in the early days of his kingship, winning the hearts and minds of the people of Israel with his success on the battlefield and benevolent leadership. But then personal hubris (excessive pride and self-confidence), crept in, and the tragic formula began to develop.
Art holds up the mirror of our humanity reflecting the tragic and comedic realities of our human nature. In Crown of the Warrior King, Saul reveals those human qualities we recognize in ourselves and makes choices that prove to have fatal consequences. It is a cautionary tale for us all.