Necessity & Inevitability in Tragedy

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      The concept of ‘necessity’ is difficult to distinguish from that of fate. In ancient Greek, Ananke is a term used to mean ‘force, constraint, necessity’. It is a personification of inevitability, compulsion and necessity. For the Greek, necessity was in the main an external force confronting man. In Aeschylus, we are sometimes aware that even Zeus is subject to a supernatural Ananke. In Prometheus Bound, when the chorus suggest that the hero may return to power if he forgoes his wish to aid man ‘unrighteously’, the hero replies -

“Not so nor yet hath all-determining Fate (Moira)
Ordained the end, hut, when ten thousand pains
Have crushed my body, form my bonds shall I escape.
For Art is weaker than Necessity.”

      The concept of inevitability, on the other hand, has been interpreted in various manners. Firstly, inevitability may imply that any other arrangement of events would be inartistic. Secondly, inevitability may imply that character and situation being what they are, the catastrophe had to take place. The first implication has to do with the form of tragedy, the second with content, so far as this is separate from form. Naturally the two implications are connected, for the art of the playwright ought to discover the logic inherent in the dialectic of action and character. If a play is to be ‘right’ it must express the characters naturally and aptly.

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