The House That Del Built ruminates on advanced ways to heighten your improv in a Harold structure:
But in order to free ourselves from the constraint of archetype, but not find ourselves back in the dissatisfaction of forced linear narrative, we have to step back and talk about the purpose of heightening in the first place, and reconsider our options from that root.
And at the root of most things, we often find Aristotle. He was an all-around smart guy about life in general, but he had some pretty insightful things to say about theatre specifically that are worth considering, especially about how a performance achieves that ultimate and elusive goal: catharsis. Yes, the purification and purgation of emotions through art. Aristotle first spoke of it in reference to Greek tragedy, but if we work through the methods for achieving it, we’ll see how it can relate to comedy as well. After all, it was also Aristotle who saw tragedy and comedy as mirror images of each other, one dealing with the audience’s feelings of pity and fear and the other with its recognition of the ridiculous.
We don’t have a complete theory of comedy from Aristotle, but we do have extensive writings of his on tragedy, and the core of his theories here might help us understand why we find ourselves gravitating to archetypes in the Harold. You see, Aristotle laid out some qualifications for the tragic hero: he must be relatable (not evil but not perfect), somehow “better” than us so that we see his fall as all the greater (being king helps, but you could have beauty, fame, money, etc. as well), and he must have a flaw or error in judgment that leads to his utter downfall. If these qualifications are met, the audience (not the character—a common misunderstanding about tragedy) will experience a catharsis in his fall. And that was the goal of Greek tragedy—it was a communal experience wherein the audience itself was transformed by bearing witness to the story.
More awesome details over at The House That Del Built.