First of all, I'm aware of the Greek origin of the word. I have looked this word up in a dozen different dictionaries but I still don't quite understand what a catharsis is. A definition:
Originating from ancient Greece, the word "catharsis" refers to the emotional outpouring of a character. Often, when a character in a tragedy realizes his/her flaws or downfall, a cathartic speech is delivered.
In other definitions it also says that the audience also experiences this, but I don't understand at all what is meant by this. The above definition reminds me of an epiphany, but I don't see at all why the audience would experience this too, since the flaws of a character are usually known by the audience from the start. Can someone clear up my confusion regarding this subject?