Revisiting the Question of Tragic Protagonist in Onyekaonwu's Plays

Iwu, I. (2014-07-03)

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Tragedy as a dramatic form has been popular from the classical period especially with the prominence Aristotle gave it in his theory or concept of the tragic hero in Poetics which scholars, over the years, have used as paradigm in their analysis of the tragic hero. It has, however, been observed that the innovativeness of playwrights in the subsequent two thousand years and more has led to the development of many and new artistically effective types of serious tragedies - types that Aristotle had no way of foreseeing(Abrams, 1999: 322).There is, therefore, the feeling that efforts to extend Aristotle's analysis to apply to these later tragic forms could blur his critical categories, and obscure the essential differences that exist in diverse plays that are equally dramatically effective. Onyekaonwu's four tragic plays were all published in the 1980s, over three millennia after Aristotle, making them to be identified with the later tragic forms Igbo scholars like Uzochukwu (1988) and Eze (1990) who analyzed the tragic Protagonists in Onyekagnwu’s plays, using the Aristotelian canon, have shown how the characters either deviate or conform to the norm enunciated by Aristotle. While Uzochukwu’s analysis that focuses only on Nwata Rie Awo concludes that the death of it dramatic evokes only one of the two types of emotion identified by Aristotle - fear, Eze who carries out a more in-depth study of all Onyekaonwu's tragic plays not only agrees with Uzochukwu but also reveals how the death of other tragic characters in the playwright’s other works evokes in the audience either one or the two types of emotion Aristotle discusses. This paper is of the view that the status of the tragic hero in Onyekaonwu's plays has not been adequately delineated by these scholars. The paper, therefore, revisits the conclusions of the previous studies on characterization in Onyekaonwu’s four tragic plays.