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Page history last edited by William Patrick Wend 10 years, 2 months ago


  • Aristotle said in Poetics that Tragedy is "imitation of an action that is serious, complete in itself, and of a certain magnitude"
    • Happens to a superior person "of high estate," who falls from grace

    • They are normally grand, noble characters (although not so much sometimes in comteporary times)

    • Tragedy is all about the search for meaning in the individual human life

    • There is always a beginning, middle, and end

    • Events in a tragedy must at least be casually related and logically. The eventual fall of the protagonist is built up to through each action

    • Tragedies can be broken up into three parts: Part one expounds the state of affairs (exposition), part two is the beginning and growth of conflict, and part three portrays the issue of the conflict.  

    • Tragedy always hits where we do not want to be
    •  In Greek, tragedy often destroys an entire family, often over a number of generations
  • Catharsis

    • Aristotle also defines tragedy as coming in "the form of action, not narrative, through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions"  

    • The "purgation" of these emotions is known as Catharsis

    • Catharsis can refer to the audience or the characters (Professor Wend think the audience is essential here)

  • Shakespeare Specific Stuff 
    • In Shakespeare, not as much...

    • Heroes will often fall because of some flaw or cosmic fate

    •  Typically it is a mistake of judgment of character, misinterpretation of events, or the confusion of appearance with reality that dooms them

      • Othello mistakes Iago for an honest, well meaning, friend and mistakes Desdemona for an adulteress

    •   For Shakespeare, modern scholars do not consider it a tragedy unless the protagonist dies (So those originally considered tragedies in the first folio like Cymbeline, Winter's Tale or Troilus & Cressida are not anymore because of their "happy" ending) 

    • High tragedy=Great tragedies (Lear, Othello, etc)

    • Shakespeare knew of Aristotle and Greek tragedy and was well versed in it

    • Writes in Blank Verse (aka Unryhemed Iambic Pentemater) 

  • Denouement

    • Definition 

    • Tragic heroes will always blame others until denouement

  • Modern Tragedy 

    •  In comporaries times comedy has become the darker convience, the "dark comedy"

    • These days, a less dignified, much more disturbing, aesthetic has developed (EX-Pinter's The Homecoming)

    • Good books on Tragedy: Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy, Hegel's Aesthetics, Bradley's Shakespearean Tragedy, Steiner's The Death of Tragedy

  • General Advice For Understanding Tragedy 

    • Read slowly

    • Use the footnotes

You know you're insane if...

  • Clothes are unkempt

  • Keep flowers in your hair (Lear, Ophelia)

  • No social control, obscene (Ophelia) 

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