Summer Scholars Essay Assignment

Essay on Hamartia in Greek drama

Due date: Monday, 2 August 2010, at the start of class.

Length: 3-5 pages; please use 12-point Times New Roman font and include page numbers.

Hamartia is an ancient Greek word that means ‘tragic flaw’; the Greek verb hamartanein means to ‘miss the mark.’ Hamartia refers to an error in judgment, to an unwitting mistake, that someone makes not necessarily because he or she is evil, or sinful, or morally weak and lacking, but because he or she does not know enough—because he or she is human.

Drawing on your notes and writing from the Explication of the Text Assignment (including the character analysis), identify the hamartia/tragic flaw’ in one of the characters in the Oresteia or the Frogs. While the latter is not, of course, a tragedy, the characters (not only the human ones, indeed!) are still ‘flawed’ and act ‘in error’ in some ways; you might consider how do the characters ‘get in their own way’ and (metaphorically) ‘trip themselves up,’ so that they do something terrible that leads to their own undoing.

  • Give examples of how the character’s hamartia is revealed as the play progresses: Is there ever a moment in the play in which the character recognizes what he or she has done wrong?
  • Describe this moment of self-knowledge and how the character feels about it (is he or she contrite, self-righteous, shameful, defiant).

Your essay should include an introduction, thesis statement, and a conclusion.

Make sure that you (1) quote from the play/text extensively; (2) cite page numbers and line numbers (if possible); (3) sufficiently explain in your own words what the play/text is saying.

Please include a Works Cited section using MLA format.


About kristinachew

classicist | translator (of ancient Greek & Latin poetry & drama) View all posts by kristinachew

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