In dramatic terms a catharsis essentially refers to self-actualization based upon a sudden realization of previous escaped insight and knowledge. In most instances, a catharsis comes after a character has refused to accept this self-actualization and realization. In a way, a catharsis provides the “great change” that makes the ending worth waiting for. In Oedipus the King, the ending of the play is incredibly memorable because it provides one of the most stunning cathartic experiences for both the characters in the play as well as the audience.
In the play, Oedipus is a self-aggrandizing figure that is figuratively blind to his own faults as well as being shockingly stubborn is regards to accepting what his destiny is. This is where the first symbolism of blindness rears its head. Oedipus is blind to his destiny and moves forward thinking he can escape it. While he may seek to avoid reality there comes a time when reality is not longer avoidable and it brings a brutal catharsis to the character as well as teaching a morality lesson to the audience.
When Oedipus discovers he has murdered his father and slept with his mother he becomes aware of his prior blindness to accepting his destiny. But, the cathartic moment comes when Oedipus gouges out his own eyes. The symbolism here is impossible to miss: in order to truly see Oedipus must become blind. The reason for this is now he can only look inward and must accept what he sees. So, in that regard the catharsis that he now has a new perspective and understanding of his plight through his self inflicted blindness.
The morality lesson (catharsis) this invariably provides the audience is that a destiny can never be escaped when one is blind to reality. As such, the action of blind clearly displays catharsis in the clearest manner. What type of comedy is A Midsummer Night’s Dream? What makes it that type of comedy? Shakespeare had written several comedies during his playwriting years but one of the most endearing would be A Midsummer Night’s Dream mainly because it was a departure from the types of comedies he had previously written.
To a great extent, the type of comedy employed in A Midsummer’s Night Dream could be considered “dark comedy. ” That is to say, the humor derived from the play is drawn from what would normally not considered humorous and, instead, draws its “laughs” from material that is generally considered more foreboding and serious than whimsical. Now, there will be those who insist that this play should fall into the category of a romantic comedy.
While it is true that romance is at the center of the play and it does draw elements from traditional romantic comedies, but there is much weirdness present in the play that creates a backdrop of dark humor. In a way, this overrides some of the humorous romantic elements. Because of the inherent weirdness of the mystical elements in the play it can be said that much of the backdrop to the play follow an almost horror film style approach. That is to say, there are a number of mythical creatures that provide a unique backdrop that creates the whimsy that the humor in the play derives.
This has led to many critical interpretations of the play as taking place in an environment of sheer madness and such imagery tips the scales of the play into the realm of dark humor. Clearly, when the specter of insanity is raised as a definition of the environment in which the play takes places it becomes difficult to refer to the play as anything less than a dark comedy despite the apparent lighthearted nature that most of the humor emotes on a surface level.