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COMPARATIVE STUDY OF TRAGEDY USING J. P. CLARK’S OZIDI AND AKAN ESSIEN TINKORIKO
1.1 Background to the Study
This work focuses on a comparative study of tragedy using J.P. Clark’s Ozidi and Akan Essien’s Tinkoriko. The word tragedy has been subject to different views in the modern times from the way it was viewed in the past. The changes in the conception of tragedy is in line with Holman’s idea that each definition is correct subject to the interpretation of the age in which the tragic play is produced (Holman, 532).
The classical conception of tragedy offers modern literary writers, especially playwrights, the inspiration to write. T.S. Elliot in his popular essay “Tradition and the individual Talent” emphasized the continuity and the unity of arts that “no poets, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone…” (588). In the contemporary society, many writers have however, used their works to respond to trends in tragedy.
The meaning of tragedy has evolved through different eras from the classical, Shakespearean into the contemporary period. As explained by Abrams, tragedy is the presentation of “serious and important actions which turn out disastrously for the protagonist” (201). Tragedy refers to any literary work or play which shows the leading character being brought through suffering to the moment of death.
Greek tragedies were essentially religious plays which were acted to celebrate the feast of gods and goddesses. This indicated that supernatural beings jealously supervised the actions of human beings and when humans overstepped their bounds and tried to reach out to the gods, or behaved like the gods, such humans invited destruction on themselves because the gods regarded their action as hubris or pride. The Greek tragedy involved the notion that the greatest men “suffer greatly and they are fated to suffer” (Ifenyin, 81).
The earliest tragedies were part of Attica religious festivals held in honour of the god Dionysus in the 5th century BC, in Greece and the subjects of the tragedies were the misfortune of heroes, legends, religious myths and history (Beckson, 921-922). The god Zeus controlled the Greek pantheon and Thespis was the first Greek actor. According to M.H. Abrams, the three greatest tragedians of the Greek classical period were Aeschylus C552-456BC, Sophocles C496-406BC, and Euripides 480-406Bc (202).
Shakespearean tragedy may have many characters, but it is pre-eminently the story of one person or at most two. According to Bradley… “it is pre-eminently the story of one person or at most of two, the hero and the heroine (2). Shakespearean great tragedies were human-centred; they showed a deep knowledge of the conflicting forces in a person’s character. They were largely concerned with the death of a protagonist. Bradley explains further that “…no play at the end of which the hero remains alive is in the full Shakespearean sense of tragedy (3). Every of his play uses highly placed individuals, men of noble birth who fall from Olympian heights to the valley of misery. His fall reveals:
… the powerlessness of man, and of the omnipotence, perhaps the caprice of fortune or fate, which no tale of private life can possibly rival (Bradley, 19).
As explained by Valency, the Aristotelian idea of tragedy is one that “the tragic hero must have a flaw” (335). A tragic hero in classical drama is a person:
… who is eminently good and just yet whose misfortune is brought not by vice or depravity but by some error or frailty. He must be one who is highly renowned and prosperous… like Oedipus and Thyestes…(Dukore, 42).
Neither the Greek nor Shakespearean tragic forms are found on the stage today, since the world image or religious faith out of which they grew is no longer shared by the Western audience. Tragedy is no longer as it was among the Greeks or Elizabethans. Modern drama portrays social man’s response to the inevitability of the order. It deals with mental and psychological anguish and confirms the exactness, correctness as certitude of a known world order. This is to show that modern tragedy represents the miseries of man who lacks exalted spirit. This is in line with Kermode’s explanation that “… the modern age is characterized by a new set of theme”. (39).
A.C. Bradley divided tragedy into an exposition of the state of affairs; beginning, growth and vicissitudes of the conflict; and the final catastrophe or tragic outcome. A tragic hero has been redefined from age to age according to the significance held by the age in question. Greek tragedy aroused the emotions of fear and pity because the audience identified itself with the plight of the hero who was usually a person of renowned status. Tragedy in the 20th century modernist era draws its heroes not only from the upper stratum of the society but also from among the social rejects; the haves and have nots. He is often portrayed as “a victim of social, hereditary and environmental forces (Holman, 531). In this regard the creative work and theoretical postulations of Wole Soyinka, Arthur Miller, Samuel Beckett, and Femi Osofisan among others, illustrate the various strands of revisioning of the classical concept of tragedy. Yerima notes that “there are no rules for writing tragedy anymore (27).
Echoing J. P. Clark’s theory on origin of Nigerian drama in his essay “Aspects of Nigerian drama”, Yerima contends that African tragedy is determined by cultural dictates. It evolves from religious rites, myth, legend and history. Other elements are magic, music, poetry, dance, symbols and a kind of social content or realism with which the audience can identify (13). However, this research will analyse J. P. Clark’s Ozidi and Akan Essien’s Tinkoriko as tragic plays and also compare and contrast both plays in the light of the conception of tragedy by both playwrights to bring out similarities and differences in their themes, techniques and vision.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Drama is an imitation of life. What life entails is acted on stage to teach some lessons. However, some people cannot come to terms with the reality that drama like all other concepts obeys natural laws of change. The conception of tragedy has changed from what it was during the classical times, through the Elizabethan to what it is today. This work will consider two literary texts from two Nigerian playwrights, one from the old order which is J. P. Clark’s Ozidi and the other an emerging Nigerian playwright in the dramatic world, Akan Essien’s Tinkoriko as tragic plays. The study will also compare and contrast both plays and the conception of tragedy by both playwrights as classical and modern plays respectively.
1.3 Aim and Objectives
This research work aims at achieving the following objectives:
1. Analyse Clark’s Ozidi and Akan Essien’s Tinkoriko as tragic plays.
2. Identify and isolate the tragic elements in both plays.
3. Compare and contrast both plays and the conception of tragedy by both playwrights to bring out similarities and differences in their themes, techniques and vision.
For the purpose of this study, Clark’s Ozidi and Akan Essien’s Tinkoriko shall constitute the primary source of information. Furthermore, since this study is based on library research, the library will serve as a major source of information, while books, journals reviews and notes on related subject matter shall be adequately consulted. Additionally, the internet will also be surfed for useful material that will further enrich the contents of the study.
1.5 Scope and the Delimitation
This study shall not attempt to demarcate between the classical tragedy and the and modern tragedy as some scholars opine, but rather our focus is on the characteristics or elements of modern tragic drama from the Nigerian or African perspective and specifically, the tone and the attitude of modern playwrights.
1.6 Limitation of the Study
This research work shall be limited as a result of lack of funds, inadequate up-to-date research equipment and unavailability of research materials and so on.
1.7 Significance of the Study
This work serves as a modest contribution to the growing discourse in drama in general and modern tragedy in particular. It will help the reader to appreciate the dynamic of human society where change is inevitable. It will also serve as a reference material for others who may undertake researches in this area of study in the future.
1.8 Theoretical Framework
This research will be based on realism as the critical theory. Realism, as a modern literary concept is known to have surfaced in 19th century France. As stated by Oscar Brockett in The Theatre: An introduction, realism had its background from some influences prominent among which was Auguste Comte. Comte (1798-1859) argued that sociology is the highest form of science and that all knowledge should be used for the improvement of the society. The key to knowledge lies in precise observation and experimentation, and all events must be understood in terms of natural cause and effect. His philosophy of positivism placed emphasis on the five senses of smell, touch, taste, hearing and sight (312).
According to the realist the basic characteristics of the well made play are:
Clear exposition of situation; careful preparation for future events; unexpected but logical reversals. Continuous and mounting suspense; and obligatory scene and a logical resolution (Brockett, 312-313).
Realism as opposed to Idealism presents life as we would have it be: more adventurous and more heroic than the actual. Realist writers chose to depict everyday and banal activities and experiences, instead of using a romanticized or similarly stylized presentation. They strove for detailed realistic and factual description. They tried to represent events and social conditions as they actually are, without idealization.
This forum of literary writers believes in fidelity to actuality in its representation. According to Donna Campbell, realism may be said to be the faithful representation of reality (7). This is to say that realism in the arts is the attempt to represent subject matter faithfully, without artificiality and avoiding artistic conventions, implausible, exotic and supernatural elements.
Realism, ultimately aims to interpret the actualities of any aspect of life, free from subjectivity, prejudices, idealism or romantic colour. It is in direct opposition to the concerns of the unusual, the basis of Romanticism, according to Carol Scheidenhelm (11). Realism stresses the real over the fantastic. Donald Pizer believes that it seeks to treat the common place truthfully and uses characters from everyday life (30).