Overview: Tragedy is a literary work in which the central character experiences great sorrow or is brought to ruin, often as a result of a tragic flaw, moral weakness, or inability to cope with adverse circumstances. Aristotle's Poetics defines tragedy as an imitation of serious and complete action with some degree of importance. The primary objective of tragedy is to evoke emotions of pity and fear among the audience, a phenomenon referred to as catharsis.
Elements of TragedyAccording to Aristotle, tragedy consists of six main components, including plot, character, diction, thought, spectacle, and song. Plot is the backbone of any tragedy, while characterization provides the foundation for the plot. Thought encompasses the intellectual aspect of the drama, while diction represents the language used by the dramatist to evoke emotions in the audience. Music, such as chorus songs, is a vital part of tragedy, and stagecraft is used to enhance the relevance of the events on stage.
The Dramatic UnitiesThe three principles from Aristotle’s Poetics, unity of action, unity of place, and unity of time, require a play to have a single action taking place within a single place and day.
The Ideal Tragic HeroA tragic hero must be a mixture of virtue and human weakness, with his misfortune arising from an error in judgment. The hero should fall from a position of great power or glory, leading to the emotions of pity and fear among the audience. The hero's error or frailty, referred to as hamartia, is often referred to as his tragic flaw. Famous examples of tragic heroes include Creon in Sophocles' Antigone, Lear in Shakespeare's King Lear, and Romeo in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
Characteristics of TragedyTragedy is characterized by a tragic flaw, a tragic hero, catharsis, revenge, catastrophe, a central belief in fate, the presence of a chorus, and a sad ending. The protagonist usually has a tragic flaw or weakness, leading to his downfall. Catharsis refers to the emotions of pain and fear experienced by the audience. The whole story may be written in the stars, with fate playing a significant role. A tragedy must always have a sad ending, with a catastrophe leading to great loss or suffering.
Types of TragedyThere are six main types of tragedies in English literature, including revenge tragedy, social tragedy, romantic tragedy, domestic tragedy, heroic drama, and melodrama. Revenge tragedy is centered on the theme of revenge, while social tragedy is a collective representation of injustice. Domestic tragedy focuses on the tragedy of the middle-class or working-class individuals. Romantic tragedy usually revolves around an event triggering two characters to be apart from each other due to excess love or passion. Heroic tragedy is focused on heroic actions that lead to tragic consequences, while melodrama usually involves complex events that lead to the separation of characters.
In summary, tragedy is a form of literature that evokes emotions of pity and fear through a portrayal of the downfall of a tragic hero. Aristotle's Poetics has provided the basis for understanding tragedy, and the different types of tragedies continue to play a vital role in literature.