Les Liaisons Dangereuses: Is It an Aristotelian Tragedy?

Philosophy / April 23, 2015 / No Comments /
This paper examines Choderlos de Laclos’ story, `Les Liaisons Dangereuses`.

This paper is an attempt to support the thesis that `Les Liaisons Dangereuses` is an example of an Aristotelian tragedy. There are several elements that need to be present in a story in order to make it an Aristotelian tragedy. These elements include a tragic hero’s character flaw, the plot, use language in a variety of artistic methods, a radical change in the direction of the storyline, a tragic conclusion and a purge of emotions. This serves as the basis for Aristotle’s definition of a tragedy in literature. The author sites several passages from the story to support the thesis that this is indeed an Aristotelian tragedy.
An Aristotelian tragedy must use language in a variety of artistic methods appropriate for the specific parts of the story and, more importantly, to reflect the nature of the characters. Valmont’s letters, especially those to the Marquise, portray his high level of education; he often makes allusions to mythology to explain his view on the art of seduction and his actions towards Madame de Tourvel. The tone of his letters to Madame de Tourvel, however, have a more dramatic nature. Here his letters possess a desperate tone, full of emotion, in order to convince her of his love. This also causes her to feel even more guilt for not yielding to him. Valmont tells Madame de Tourvel, Never have I enjoyed writing to you so much; never have I felt whilst doing so such a tender, yet keen emotion (Laclos 95). The different language used in his letters to Madame to Tourvels and the Marquise thus reveals his character.

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