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Tragedy


Tragedy (from the Greek: , tragōidia) is a form of drama based on human suffering that invokes an accompanying catharsis or pleasure in audiences. While many cultures have developed forms that provoke this paradoxical response, the term tragedy often refers to a specific tradition of drama that has played a unique and important role historically in the self-definition of Western civilisation. That tradition has been multiple and discontinuous, yet the term has often been used to invoke a powerful effect of cultural identity and historical continuity—"the Greeks and the Elizabethans, in one cultural form; Hellenes and Christians, in a common activity," as Raymond Williams puts it.

From its origins in the theatre of ancient Greece 2500 years ago, from which there survives only a fraction of the work of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides; through its singular articulations in the works of Shakespeare, Lope de Vega, Jean Racine, and Friedrich Schiller to the more recent naturalistic tragedy of August Strindberg; Samuel Beckett's modernist meditations on death, loss and suffering; Müller's postmodernist reworkings of the tragic canon; and Joshua Oppenheimer's incorporation of tragic pathos in his nonfiction film, The Act of Killing (2012), tragedy has remained an important site of cultural experimentation, negotiation, struggle, and change. A long line of philosophers—which includes Plato, Aristotle, Saint Augustine, Voltaire, Hume, Diderot, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Freud, Benjamin,Camus, Lacan, and Deleuze—have analysed, speculated upon, and criticised the genre.



  • Tragedy of circumstance: people are born into their situations, and do not choose them; such tragedies explore the consequences of birthrights, particularly for monarchs
  • Tragedy of miscalculation: the protagonist's error of judgement has tragic consequences
  • Revenge play
  • The stage—in both comedy and tragedy—should feature noble characters (this would eliminate many low-characters, typical of the farce, from Corneille's comedies). Noble characters should not be depicted as vile (reprehensible actions are generally due to non-noble characters in Corneille's plays).
  • Tragedy deals with affairs of the state (wars, dynastic marriages); comedy deals with love. For a work to be tragic, it need not have a tragic ending.
  • Although Aristotle says that catharsis (purgation of emotion) should be the goal of tragedy, this is only an ideal. In conformity with the moral codes of the period, plays should not show evil being rewarded or nobility being degraded.
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Wikipedia

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