Tragedy (from the Greek: τραγῳδία, tragōidia[a]) 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, as well as a large number of fragments from other poets; through its singular articulations in the works of Shakespeare, Lope de Vega, Jean Racine, and Friedrich Schiller to the more recent naturalistic tragedy of Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg; Samuel Beckett's modernist meditations on death, loss and suffering; Müller's postmodernist reworkings of the tragic canon, 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.
In the wake of Aristotle's Poetics (335 BCE), tragedy has been used to make genre distinctions, whether at the scale of poetry in general (where the tragic divides against epic and lyric) or at the scale of the drama (where tragedy is opposed to comedy). In the modern era, tragedy has also been defined against drama, melodrama, the tragicomic, and epic theatre. Drama, in the narrow sense, cuts across the traditional division between comedy and tragedy in an anti- or a-generic deterritorialisation from the mid-19th century onwards. Both Bertolt Brecht and Augusto Boal define their epic theatre projects (non-Aristotelian drama and Theatre of the Oppressed, respectively) against models of tragedy. Taxidou, however, reads epic theatre as an incorporation of tragic functions and its treatments of mourning and speculation.
The word "tragedy" appears to have been used to describe different phenomena at different times. It derives from Classical Greek τραγῳδία, contracted from trag(o)-aoidiā = "goat song", which comes from tragos = "he-goat" and aeidein = "to sing" (cf. "ode"). Scholars suspect this may be traced to a time when a goat was either the prize in a competition of choral dancing or was that around which a chorus danced prior to the animal's ritual sacrifice. In another view on the etymology, Athenaeus of Naucratis (2nd–3rd century CE) says that the original form of the word was trygodia from trygos (grape harvest) and ode (song), because those events were first introduced during grape harvest.
Writing in 335 BCE (long after the Golden Age of 5th-century Athenian tragedy), Aristotle provides the earliest-surviving explanation for the origin of the dramatic art form in his Poetics, in which he argues that tragedy developed from the improvisations of the leader of choral dithyrambs (hymns sung and danced in praise of Dionysos, the god of wine and fertility):
Anyway, arising from an improvisatory beginning (both tragedy and comedy—tragedy from the leaders of the dithyramb, and comedy from the leaders of the phallic processions which even now continue as a custom in many of our cities), [tragedy] grew little by little, as [the poets] developed whatever [new part] of it had appeared; and, passing through many changes, tragedy came to a halt, since it had attained its own nature.— Poetics IV, 1449a 10–15
In the same work, Aristotle attempts to provide a scholastic definition of what tragedy is:
Tragedy is, then, an enactment of a deed that is important and complete, and of [a certain] magnitude, by means of language enriched [with ornaments], each used separately in the different parts [of the play]: it is enacted, not [merely] recited, and through pity and fear it effects relief (catharsis) to such [and similar] emotions.— Poetics, VI 1449b 2–3
There is some dissent to the dithyrambic origins of tragedy, mostly based on the differences between the shapes of their choruses and styles of dancing. A common descent from pre-Hellenic fertility and burial rites has been suggested. Friedrich Nietzsche discussed the origins of Greek tragedy in his early book The Birth of Tragedy (1872). Here, he suggests the name originates in the use of a chorus of goat-like satyrs in the original dithyrambs from which the tragic genre developed.
Scott Scullion writes:
There is abundant evidence for tragoidia understood as "song for the prize goat". The best-known evidence is Horace, Ars poetica 220-24 ("he who with a tragic song competed for a mere goat"); the earliest is the Parian Marble, a chronicle inscribed about 264/63 BCE, which records, under a date between 538 and 528 BCE: "Thespis is the poet ... first produced ... and as prize was established the billy goat" (FrGHist 239A, epoch 43); the clearest is Eustathius 1769.45: "They called those competing tragedians, clearly because of the song over the billy goat"...
Athenian tragedy—the oldest surviving form of tragedy—is a type of dance-drama that formed an important part of the theatrical culture of the city-state. Having emerged sometime during the 6th century BCE, it flowered during the 5th century BCE (from the end of which it began to spread throughout the Greek world), and continued to be popular until the beginning of the Hellenistic period. No tragedies from the 6th century and only 32 of the more than a thousand that were performed in the 5th century have survived.[b] We have complete texts extant by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides.[c]
Athenian tragedies were performed in late March/early April at an annual state religious festival in honor of Dionysus. The presentations took the form of a contest between three playwrights, who presented their works on three successive days. Each playwright offered a tetralogy consisting of three tragedies and a concluding comic piece called a satyr play. The four plays sometimes featured linked stories. Only one complete trilogy of tragedies has survived, the Oresteia of Aeschylus. The Greek theatre was in the open air, on the side of a hill, and performances of a trilogy and satyr play probably lasted most of the day. Performances were apparently open to all citizens, including women, but evidence is scant. The theatre of Dionysus at Athens probably held around 12,000 people.
All of the choral parts were sung (to the accompaniment of an aulos) and some of the actors' answers to the chorus were sung as well. The play as a whole was composed in various verse metres. All actors were male and wore masks. A Greek chorus danced as well as sang, though no one knows exactly what sorts of steps the chorus performed as it sang. Choral songs in tragedy are often divided into three sections: strophe ("turning, circling"), antistrophe ("counter-turning, counter-circling") and epode ("after-song").
Many ancient Greek tragedians employed the ekkyklêma as a theatrical device, which was a platform hidden behind the scene that could be rolled out to display the aftermath of some event which had happened out of sight of the audience. This event was frequently a brutal murder of some sort, an act of violence which could not be effectively portrayed visually, but an action of which the other characters must see the effects in order for it to have meaning and emotional resonance. A prime example of the use of the ekkyklêma is after the murder of Agamemnon in the first play of Aeschylus' Oresteia, when the king's butchered body is wheeled out in a grand display for all to see. Variations on the ekkyklêma are used in tragedies and other forms to this day, as writers still find it a useful and often powerful device for showing the consequences of extreme human actions. Another such device was a crane, the mechane, which served to hoist a god or goddess on stage when they were supposed to arrive flying. This device gave origin to the phrase "deus ex machina" ("god out of a machine"), that is, the surprise intervention of an unforeseen external factor that changes the outcome of an event.
Following the expansion of the Roman Republic (509–27 BCE) into several Greek territories between 270–240 BCE, Rome encountered Greek tragedy. From the later years of the republic and by means of the Roman Empire (27 BCE-476 CE), theatre spread west across Europe, around the Mediterranean and even reached England. While Greek tragedy continued to be performed throughout the Roman period, the year 240 BCE marks the beginning of regular Roman drama.[d] Livius Andronicus began to write Roman tragedies, thus creating some of the first important works of Roman literature. Five years later, Gnaeus Naevius also began to write tragedies (though he was more appreciated for his comedies). No complete early Roman tragedy survives, though it was highly regarded in its day; historians know of three other early tragic playwrights—Quintus Ennius, Marcus Pacuvius and Lucius Accius.
From the time of the empire, the tragedies of two playwrights survive—one is an unknown author, while the other is the Stoic philosopher Seneca. Nine of Seneca's tragedies survive, all of which are fabula crepidata (tragedies adapted from Greek originals); his Phaedra, for example, was based on Euripides' Hippolytus. Historians do not know who wrote the only extant example of the fabula praetexta (tragedies based on Roman subjects), Octavia, but in former times it was mistakenly attributed to Seneca due to his appearance as a character in the tragedy.
Seneca's tragedies rework those of all three of the Athenian tragic playwrights whose work has survived. Probably meant to be recited at elite gatherings, they differ from the Greek versions in their long declamatory, narrative accounts of action, their obtrusive moralising, and their bombastic rhetoric. They dwell on detailed accounts of horrible deeds and contain long reflective soliloquies. Though the gods rarely appear in these plays, ghosts and witches abound. Senecan tragedies explore ideas of revenge, the occult, the supernatural, suicide, blood and gore. The Renaissance scholar Julius Caesar Scaliger (1484–1558), who knew both Latin and Greek, preferred Seneca to Euripides.
Classical Greek drama was largely forgotten in Western Europe from the Middle Ages to the beginning of the 16th century. Medieval theatre was dominated by mystery plays, morality plays, farces and miracle plays. In Italy, the models for tragedy in the later Middle Ages were Roman, particularly the works of Seneca, interest in which was reawakened by the Paduan Lovato de' Lovati (1241–1309). His pupil Albertino Mussato (1261–1329), also of Padua, in 1315 wrote the Latin verse tragedy Eccerinis, which uses the story of the tyrant Ezzelino III da Romano to highlight the danger to Padua posed by Cangrande della Scala of Verona. It was the first secular tragedy written since Roman times, and may be considered the first Italian tragedy identifiable as a Renaissance work. The earliest tragedies to employ purely classical themes are the Achilles written before 1390 by Antonio Loschi of Vicenza (c.1365–1441) and the Progne of the Venetian Gregorio Correr (1409–1464) which dates from 1428–29.
In 1515 Gian Giorgio Trissino (1478–1550) of Vicenza wrote his tragedy Sophonisba in the vernacular that would later be called Italian. Drawn from Livy's account of Sophonisba, the Carthaginian princess who drank poison to avoid being taken by the Romans, it adheres closely to classical rules. It was soon followed by the Oreste and Rosmunda of Trissino's friend, the Florentine Giovanni di Bernardo Rucellai (1475–1525). Both were completed by early 1516 and are based on classical Greek models, Rosmunda on the Hecuba of Euripides, and Oreste on the Iphigenia in Tauris of the same author; like Sophonisba, they are in Italian and in blank (unrhymed) hendecasyllables. Another of the first of all modern tragedies is A Castro, by Portuguese poet and playwright António Ferreira, written around 1550 (but only published in 1587) in polymetric verse (most of it being blank hendecasyllables), dealing with the murder of Inês de Castro, one of the most dramatic episodes in Portuguese history. Although these three Italian plays are often cited, separately or together, as being the first regular tragedies in modern times, as well as the earliest substantial works to be written in blank hendecasyllables, they were apparently preceded by two other works in the vernacular: Pamfila or Filostrato e Panfila written in 1498 or 1508 by Antonio Cammelli (Antonio da Pistoia); and a Sophonisba by Galeotto del Carretto of 1502.
From about 1500 printed copies, in the original languages, of the works of Sophocles, Seneca, and Euripides, as well as comedic writers such as Aristophanes, Terence and Plautus, were available in Europe and the next forty years saw humanists and poets translating and adapting their tragedies. In the 1540s, the European university setting (and especially, from 1553 on, the Jesuit colleges) became host to a Neo-Latin theatre (in Latin) written by scholars. The influence of Seneca was particularly strong in its humanist tragedy. His plays, with their ghosts, lyrical passages and rhetorical oratory, brought a concentration on rhetoric and language over dramatic action to many humanist tragedies.
The most important sources for French tragic theatre in the Renaissance were the example of Seneca and the precepts of Horace and Aristotle (and contemporary commentaries by Julius Caesar Scaliger and Lodovico Castelvetro), although plots were taken from classical authors such as Plutarch, Suetonius, etc., from the Bible, from contemporary events and from short story collections (Italian, French and Spanish). The Greek tragic authors (Sophocles and Euripides) would become increasingly important as models by the middle of the 17th century. Important models were also supplied by the Spanish Golden Age playwrights Pedro Calderón de la Barca, Tirso de Molina and Lope de Vega, many of whose works were translated and adapted for the French stage.
The common forms are the:
A contemporary of Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, also wrote examples of tragedy in English, notably:
John Webster (1580?–1635?), also wrote famous plays of the genre:
Contemporary with Shakespeare, an entirely different approach to facilitating the rebirth of tragedy was taken in Italy. Jacopo Peri, in the preface to his Euridice refers to "the ancient Greeks and Romans (who in the opinion of many sang their staged tragedies throughout in representing them on stage)." The attempts of Peri and his contemporaries to recreate ancient tragedy gave rise to the new Italian musical genre of opera. In France, tragic operatic works from the time of Lully to about that of Gluck were not called opera, but tragédie en musique ("tragedy in music") or some similar name; the tragédie en musique is regarded as a distinct musical genre. Some later operatic composers have also shared Peri's aims: Richard Wagner's concept of Gesamtkunstwerk ("integrated work of art"), for example, was intended as a return to the ideal of Greek tragedy in which all the arts were blended in service of the drama. Nietzsche, in his The Birth of Tragedy (1872) was to support Wagner in his claims to be a successor of the ancient dramatists.
For much of the 17th century, Pierre Corneille, who made his mark on the world of tragedy with plays like Medée (1635) and Le Cid (1636), was the most successful writer of French tragedies. Corneille's tragedies were strangely un-tragic (his first version of Le Cid was even listed as a tragicomedy), for they had happy endings. In his theoretical works on theatre, Corneille redefined both comedy and tragedy around the following suppositions:
Corneille continued to write plays through 1674 (mainly tragedies, but also something he called "heroic comedies") and many continued to be successes, although the "irregularities" of his theatrical methods were increasingly criticised (notably by François Hédelin, abbé d'Aubignac) and the success of Jean Racine from the late 1660s signalled the end of his preeminence.
Jean Racine's tragedies—inspired by Greek myths, Euripides, Sophocles and Seneca—condensed their plot into a tight set of passionate and duty-bound conflicts between a small group of noble characters, and concentrated on these characters' double-binds and the geometry of their unfulfilled desires and hatreds. Racine's poetic skill was in the representation of pathos and amorous passion (like Phèdre's love for her stepson) and his impact was such that emotional crisis would be the dominant mode of tragedy to the end of the century. Racine's two late plays ("Esther" and "Athalie") opened new doors to biblical subject matter and to the use of theatre in the education of young women. Racine also faced criticism for his irregularities: when his play, Bérénice, was criticised for not containing any deaths, Racine disputed the conventional view of tragedy.
Bourgeois tragedy (German: Bürgerliches Trauerspiel) is a form that developed in 18th-century Europe. It was a fruit of the Enlightenment and the emergence of the bourgeois class and its ideals. It is characterised by the fact that its protagonists are ordinary citizens. The first true bourgeois tragedy was an English play, George Lillo's The London Merchant; or, the History of George Barnwell, which was first performed in 1731. Usually, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's play Miss Sara Sampson, which was first produced in 1755, is said to be the earliest Bürgerliches Trauerspiel in Germany.
In modernist literature, the definition of tragedy has become less precise. The most fundamental change has been the rejection of Aristotle's dictum that true tragedy can only depict those with power and high status. Arthur Miller's essay "Tragedy and the Common Man" (1949) argues that tragedy may also depict ordinary people in domestic surroundings thus defining Domestic tragedies. British playwright Howard Barker has argued strenuously for the rebirth of tragedy in the contemporary theatre, most notably in his volume Arguments for a Theatre. "You emerge from tragedy equipped against lies. After the musical, you're anybody's fool," he insists.
Critics such as George Steiner have even been prepared to argue that tragedy may no longer exist in comparison with its former manifestations in classical antiquity. In The Death of Tragedy (1961) George Steiner outlined the characteristics of Greek tragedy and the traditions that developed from that period. In the Foreword (1980) to a new edition of his book Steiner concluded that ‘the dramas of Shakespeare are not a renascence of or a humanistic variant of the absolute tragic model. They are, rather, a rejection of this model in the light of tragi-comic and “realistic” criteria.’ In part, this feature of Shakespeare’s mind is explained by his bent of mind or imagination which was ‘so encompassing, so receptive to the plurality of diverse orders of experience.’ When compared to the drama of Greek antiquity and French classicism Shakespeare’s forms are ‘richer but hybrid'.
Though rarer in modern day there are some who continue to embrace the genre of tragedy and have created many acclaimed works in the genre. An example of such a person is the Japanese writer Gen Urobuchi who has become world renowned for his tragic works, of which examples include Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Fate/Zero and Psycho-Pass. He himself acknowledges that he's a writer of tragedy and defines his work as such. He writes tragedies that derive from a variety of the classic traditions as well as modern takes on Shakespearean to Senecan to Greek tragedy. With Fate/Zero exemplifying the Greek model of tragedy. Modern day directors and writers that have made tragic films and television programs and have cited the genre as an influence on their work, notable examples include Darren Aronofsky, Michael Haneke, Asghar Farhadi, David Simon, Kurt Sutter, and Louis C.K.
Numerous books and plays continue to be written in the tradition of tragedy to this day examples include Froth on the Daydream, The Road, The Fault in Our Stars, Fat City, Rabbit Hole, Death of a Salesman, Thirteen Reasons Why, Requiem for a Dream, Revolutionary Road, Thomas's Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Oscar Wilde's Salome and Victor Hugo's Les Misérables.
Aristotle wrote in his work Poetics that tragedy is characterised by seriousness and involves a great person who experiences a reversal of fortune (Peripeteia). Aristotle's definition can include a change of fortune from bad to good as in the Eumenides, but he says that the change from good to bad as in Oedipus Rex is preferable because this induces pity and fear within the spectators. Tragedy results in a catharsis (emotional cleansing) or healing for the audience through their experience of these emotions in response to the suffering of the characters in the drama.
According to Aristotle, "the structure of the best tragedy should not be simple but complex and one that represents incidents arousing fear and pity—for that is peculiar to this form of art." This reversal of fortune must be caused by the tragic hero's hamartia, which is often translated as either a character flaw, or as a mistake (since the original Greek etymology traces back to hamartanein, a sporting term that refers to an archer or spear-thrower missing his target). According to Aristotle, "The misfortune is brought about not by [general] vice or depravity, but by some [particular] error or frailty." The reversal is the inevitable but unforeseen result of some action taken by the hero. It is also a misconception that this reversal can be brought about by a higher power (e.g. the law, the gods, fate, or society), but if a character’s downfall is brought about by an external cause, Aristotle describes this as a misadventure and not a tragedy.
In addition, the tragic hero may achieve some revelation or recognition (anagnorisis--"knowing again" or "knowing back" or "knowing throughout") about human fate, destiny, and the will of the gods. Aristotle terms this sort of recognition "a change from ignorance to awareness of a bond of love or hate."
"Ἔστιν οὖν τραγῳδία μίμησις πράξεως σπουδαίας καὶ τελείας μέγεθος ἐχούσης, ἡδυσμένῳ λόγῳ χωρὶς ἑκάστῳ τῶν εἰδῶν ἐν τοῖς μορίοις, δρώντων καὶ οὐ δι᾽ ἀπαγγελίας, δι᾽ ἐλέου καὶ φόβου περαίνουσα τὴν τῶν τοιούτων παθημάτων κάθαρσιν."
which means Tragedy is an imitation of an action that is admirable, complete (composed of an introduction, a middle part and an ending), and possesses magnitude; in language made pleasurable, each of its species separated in different parts; performed by actors, not through narration; effecting through pity and fear the purification of such emotions.
Common usage of tragedy refers to any story with a sad ending, whereas to be an Aristotelian tragedy the story must fit the set of requirements as laid out by Poetics. By this definition social drama cannot be tragic because the hero in it is a victim of circumstance and incidents that depend upon the society in which he lives and not upon the inner compulsions — psychological or religious — which determine his progress towards self-knowledge and death. Exactly what constitutes a "tragedy", however, is a frequently debated matter.
According to Aristotle, there are four species of tragedy:
2. Suffering, tragedies of such nature can be seen in the Greek mythological stories of Ajaxes and Ixions
3. Character, a tragedy of moral or ethical character. Tragedies of this nature can be found in Phthiotides and Peleus
G.W.F. Hegel, the German philosopher most famous for his dialectical approach to epistemology and history, also applied such a methodology to his theory of tragedy. In his essay "Hegel's Theory of Tragedy," A.C. Bradley first introduced the English-speaking world to Hegel's theory, which Bradley called the "tragic collision", and contrasted against the Aristotelian notions of the "tragic hero" and his or her "hamartia" in subsequent analyses of the Aeschylus' Oresteia trilogy and of Sophocles' Antigone. Hegel himself, however, in his seminal "The Phenomenology of Spirit" argues for a more complicated theory of tragedy, with two complementary branches which, though driven by a single dialectical principle, differentiate Greek tragedy from that which follows Shakespeare. His later lectures formulate such a theory of tragedy as a conflict of ethical forces, represented by characters, in ancient Greek tragedy, but in Shakespearean tragedy the conflict is rendered as one of subject and object, of individual personality which must manifest self-destructive passions because only such passions are strong enough to defend the individual from a hostile and capricious external world:
The heroes of ancient classical tragedy encounter situations in which, if they firmly decide in favor of the one ethical pathos that alone suits their finished character, they must necessarily come into conflict with the equally [gleichberechtigt] justified ethical power that confronts them. Modern characters, on the other hand, stand in a wealth of more accidental circumstances, within which one could act this way or that, so that the conflict is, though occasioned by external preconditions, still essentially grounded in the character. The new individuals, in their passions, obey their own nature... simply because they are what they are. Greek heroes also act in accordance with individuality, but in ancient tragedy such individuality is necessarily... a self-contained ethical pathos... In modern tragedy, however, the character in its peculiarity decides in accordance with subjective desires... such that congruity of character with outward ethical aim no longer constitutes an essential basis of tragic beauty...
Hegel's comments on a particular play may better elucidate his theory: "Viewed externally, Hamlet's death may be seen to have been brought about accidentally... but in Hamlet's soul, we understand that death has lurked from the beginning: the sandbank of finitude cannot suffice his sorrow and tenderness, such grief and nausea at all conditions of life... we feel he is a man whom inner disgust has almost consumed well before death comes upon him from outside."
The writer Bharata Muni, in his work on dramatic theory A Treatise on Theatre (Sanskrit: Nātyaśāstra, नाट्य शास्त्र, c. 200 BCE – 200 CE), identified several rasas (such as pity, anger, disgust and terror) in the emotional responses of audiences for the Sanskrit drama of ancient India. The text also suggests the notion of musical modes or jatis which are the origin of the notion of the modern melodic structures known as ragas. Their role in invoking emotions are emphasised; thus compositions emphasising the notes gandhara or rishabha are said to provoke "sadness" or "pathos" (karuna rasa) whereas rishabha evokes heroism (vira rasa). Jatis are elaborated in greater detail in the text Dattilam, composed around the same time as the Treatise.
The celebrated ancient Indian epic, Mahabharata, can also be related to tragedy in some ways. According to Hermann Oldenberg, the original epic once carried an immense "tragic force". It was common in Sanskrit drama to adapt episodes from the Mahabharata into dramatic form.
I wanted to make a tragedy, in the classical sense, says Aranofsky.
Eighty percent of ticket sales across the world go to Hollywood movies, he points out, and because of that, people are almost brainwashed into expecting a catharsis. But anyone who's been on the planet long enough knows that, in the end, things seldom work out OK. That's what tragedy is about. And tragedy is an art form that's been killed by Hollywood. I mean, with Requiem, the catharsis is really there for the audience the day after they've seen the movie.
These topics are also uncomfortable for me, that’s why I make movies about them! To provoke an emotional response is the essence of drama. The Greek tragedy is not funny. I choose topics that irritate or agitate me. The point is to create a feeling of concern or shock, to be made to feel something more profound than is the case in mainstream cinema.
Classic tragedy is the fight between good and bad,” Farhadi said. Citing “A Separation” as an example, he followed that up by saying, “The modern tragedy is the fight between good and good. We don’t know who is right. Both sides want to understand each other, but the situation pushed them to fight.
When I was working in theatre I was reading a lot of tragedies. But this kind of tragedy—if you want to compare it to the classic tragedies of the past—has one historic difference. In a classic tragedy, there is a war between good and evil, but in modern tragedies, the war is between good and good. In classic tragedies, you hope the bad guy dies, so you feel better. But in this modern tragedy, you don’t know which character you want to win, which one you want to lose, and you’re probably not going to feel good about either. There’s also another difference between the classic tragedy and the modern tragedy. The weakness–the Achilles heel–of the classic tragic hero comes from within himself. For example, Hamlet doubts too much. King Lear is not very with it. Macbeth is too hungry for power. But for the characters of the modern tragedy, their weaknesses don’t come from within themselves; they come from the environment, the pressure that the environment puts on them.
Sutter talks to THR about writing the scene he describes as straight-up Shakespearean tragedy.
His great novel, "L'Écume des jours" ("Foam of the Daze"), is a tragedy of young love in which a woman dies of the lily growing in her lung.
The characters aren’t meant to be real. But it’s also devastating when the novel central tragedy strikes – that all too real feeling of an unjust world that takes away as easily as it gives, and of people trying as hard as they can to be happy despite it.
Aeschylus (UK: , ; Greek: Αἰσχύλος Aiskhylos, pronounced [ai̯s.kʰý.los]; c. 525/524 – c. 456/455 BC) was an ancient Greek tragedian. He is often described as the father of tragedy. Academics' knowledge of the genre begins with his work, and understanding of earlier tragedies is largely based on inferences from his surviving plays. According to Aristotle, he expanded the number of characters in the theater and allowed conflict among them; characters previously had interacted only with the chorus.Only seven of his estimated seventy to ninety plays have survived, and there is a long-standing debate regarding his authorship of one of these plays, Prometheus Bound, which some believe his son Euphorion actually wrote. Fragments of some other plays have survived in quotations and more continue to be discovered on Egyptian papyrus, often giving further insights into his work. He was probably the first dramatist to present plays as a trilogy; his Oresteia is the only ancient example of the form to have survived. At least one of his plays was influenced by the Persians' second invasion of Greece (480–479 BC). This work, The Persians, is the only surviving classical Greek tragedy concerned with contemporary events (very few of that kind were ever written), and a useful source of information about its period. The significance of war in Ancient Greek culture was so great that Aeschylus' epitaph commemorates his participation in the Greek victory at Marathon while making no mention of his success as a playwright. Despite this, Aeschylus's work – particularly the Oresteia – is generally acclaimed by modern critics and scholars.Bhopal disaster
The Bhopal disaster, also referred to as the Bhopal gas tragedy, was a gas leak incident on the night of 2–3 December 1984 at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. It is considered to be the world's worst industrial disaster. Over 500,000 people were exposed to methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas. The highly toxic substance made its way into and around the small towns located near the plant.Estimates vary on the death toll. The official immediate death toll was 2,259. The government of Madhya Pradesh confirmed a total of 3,787 deaths related to the gas release. A government affidavit in 2006 stated that the leak caused 558,125 injuries, including 38,478 temporary partial injuries and approximately 3,900 severely and permanently disabling injuries. Others estimate that 8,000 died within two weeks, and another 8,000 or more have since died from gas-related diseases. The cause of the disaster remains under debate. The Indian government and local activists argue that slack management and deferred maintenance created a situation where routine pipe maintenance caused a backflow of water into a MIC tank, triggering the disaster. Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) argues water entered the tank through an act of sabotage.
The owner of the factory, UCIL, was majority owned by UCC, with Indian Government-controlled banks and the Indian public holding a 49.1 percent stake. In 1989, UCC paid $470 million ($929 million in 2017 dollars) to settle litigation stemming from the disaster. In 1994, UCC sold its stake in UCIL to Eveready Industries India Limited (EIIL), which subsequently merged with McLeod Russel (India) Ltd. Eveready ended clean-up on the site in 1998, when it terminated its 99-year lease and turned over control of the site to the state government of Madhya Pradesh. Dow Chemical Company purchased UCC in 2001, seventeen years after the disaster.
Civil and criminal cases filed in the United States against UCC and Warren Anderson, UCC CEO at the time of the disaster, were dismissed and redirected to Indian courts on multiple occasions between 1986 and 2012, as the US courts focused on UCIL being a standalone entity of India. Civil and criminal cases were also filed in the District Court of Bhopal, India, involving UCC, UCIL and UCC CEO Anderson. In June 2010, seven Indian nationals who were UCIL employees in 1984, including the former UCIL chairman, were convicted in Bhopal of causing death by negligence and sentenced to two years imprisonment and a fine of about $2,000 each, the maximum punishment allowed by Indian law. All were released on bail shortly after the verdict. An eighth former employee was also convicted, but died before the judgement was passed.Coriolanus
Coriolanus ( or ) is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1605 and 1608. The play is based on the life of the legendary Roman leader Caius Marcius Coriolanus. The tragedy is one of the last two tragedies written by Shakespeare, along with Antony and Cleopatra.
Coriolanus is the name given to a Roman general after his more than adequate military success against various uprisings challenging the government of Rome. Following this success, Coriolanus becomes active in politics and seeks political leadership. His temperament is unsuited for popular leadership and he is quickly deposed, whereupon he aligns himself to set matters straight according to his own will. The alliances he forges along the way result in his ultimate downfall.Deus ex machina
Deus ex machina (Latin: [ˈdeʊs ɛks ˈmaː.kʰɪ.naː]: or ; plural: dei ex machina; English ‘god from the machine’) is a plot device where an unexpected power or event resolves a seemingly hopeless situation, especially as a contrived plot device in a play or novel. Its function can be to resolve an otherwise irresolvable plot situation, to surprise the audience, to bring the tale to a happy ending, or act as a comedic device.Drama (film and television)
In film and television, drama is a genre of narrative fiction (or semi-fiction) intended to be more serious than humorous in tone. Drama of this kind is usually qualified with additional terms that specify its particular subgenre, such as "police crime drama", "political drama", "legal drama", "historical period drama", "domestic drama", or "comedy-drama". These terms tend to indicate a particular setting or subject-matter, or else they qualify the otherwise serious tone of a drama with elements that encourage a broader range of moods.
All forms of cinema or television that involve fictional stories are forms of drama in the broader sense if their storytelling is achieved by means of actors who represent (mimesis) characters. In this broader sense, drama is a mode distinct from novels, short stories, and narrative poetry or songs. In the modern era before the birth of cinema or television, "drama" within theatre was a type of play that was neither a comedy nor a tragedy. It is this narrower sense that the film and television industries, along with film studies, adopted. "Radio drama" has been used in both senses—originally transmitted in a live performance, it has also been used to describe the more high-brow and serious end of the dramatic output of radio.Euripides
Euripides (; Greek: Εὐριπίδης Eurīpídēs, pronounced [eu̯.riː.pí.dɛːs]; c. 480 – c. 406 BC) was a tragedian of classical Athens. Along with Aeschylus and Sophocles, he is one of the three ancient Greek tragedians for whom a significant number of plays have survived. Some ancient scholars attributed 95 plays to him but, according to the Suda, it was 92 at most. Of these, 18 or 19 have survived more or less complete (there has been debate about his authorship of Rhesus, largely on stylistic grounds) and there are also fragments, some substantial, of most of the other plays. More of his plays have survived intact than those of Aeschylus and Sophocles together, partly because his popularity grew as theirs declined—he became, in the Hellenistic Age, a cornerstone of ancient literary education, along with Homer, Demosthenes, and Menander.Euripides is identified with theatrical innovations that have profoundly influenced drama down to modern times, especially in the representation of traditional, mythical heroes as ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. This new approach led him to pioneer developments that later writers adapted to comedy, some of which are characteristic of romance. Yet he also became "the most tragic of poets", focusing on the inner lives and motives of his characters in a way previously unknown. He was "the creator of...that cage which is the theatre of Shakespeare's Othello, Racine's Phèdre, of Ibsen and Strindberg," in which "...imprisoned men and women destroy each other by the intensity of their loves and hates", and yet he was also the literary ancestor of comic dramatists as diverse as Menander and George Bernard Shaw.Unique among writers of Ancient Athens, Euripides demonstrated sympathy towards the underrepresented members of society. His male contemporaries were frequently shocked by the 'heresies' he put into the mouths of characters, such as these words of his heroine Medea:
His contemporaries associated him with Socrates as a leader of a decadent intellectualism, both of them being frequently lampooned by comic poets such as Aristophanes. Whereas Socrates was eventually put on trial and executed as a corrupting influence, Euripides chose a voluntary exile in old age, dying in Macedonia. Recent scholarship casts doubt on ancient biographies of Euripides. For example, it is possible that he never visited Macedonia at all, or, if he did, he might have been drawn there by King Archelaus with incentives that were also offered to other artists.Exile
To be in exile means to be away from one's home (i.e. city, state, or country), while either being explicitly refused permission to return or being threatened with imprisonment or death upon return.
In Roman law, exsilium denoted both voluntary exile and banishment as a capital punishment alternative to death. Deportation was forced exile, and entailed the lifelong loss of citizenship and property. Relegation was a milder form of deportation, which preserved the subject's citizenship and property.The terms diaspora and refugee describe group exile, both voluntary and forced, and "government in exile" describes a government of a country that has relocated and argues its legitimacy from outside that country. Voluntary exile is often depicted as a form of protest by the person who claims it, to avoid persecution and prosecution (such as tax or criminal allegations), an act of shame or repentance, or isolating oneself to be able to devote time to a particular pursuit.
Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile."Hamlet
The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, often shortened to Hamlet (), is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare sometime between 1599 and 1602. Set in Denmark, the play depicts Prince Hamlet and his revenge against his uncle, Claudius, who has murdered Hamlet's father in order to seize his throne and marry Hamlet's mother.
Hamlet is Shakespeare's longest play and is considered among the most powerful and influential works of world literature, with a story capable of "seemingly endless retelling and adaptation by others". It was one of Shakespeare's most popular works during his lifetime and still ranks among his most performed, topping the performance list of the Royal Shakespeare Company and its predecessors in Stratford-upon-Avon since 1879. It has inspired many other writers—from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Charles Dickens to James Joyce and Iris Murdoch—and has been described as "the world's most filmed story after Cinderella".The story of Shakespeare's Hamlet was derived from the legend of Amleth, preserved by 13th-century chronicler Saxo Grammaticus in his Gesta Danorum, as subsequently retold by the 16th-century scholar François de Belleforest. Shakespeare may also have drawn on an earlier Elizabethan play known today as the Ur-Hamlet, though some scholars believe Shakespeare wrote the Ur-Hamlet, later revising it to create the version of Hamlet we now have. He almost certainly wrote his version of the title role for his fellow actor, Richard Burbage, the leading tragedian of Shakespeare's time. In the 400 years since its inception, the role has been performed by numerous highly acclaimed actors in each successive century.
Three different early versions of the play are extant: the First Quarto (Q1, 1603); the Second Quarto (Q2, 1604); and the First Folio (F1, 1623). Each version includes lines and entire scenes missing from the others. The play's structure and depth of characterisation have inspired much critical scrutiny. One such example is the centuries-old debate about Hamlet's hesitation to kill his uncle, which some see as merely a plot device to prolong the action but which others argue is a dramatisation of the complex philosophical and ethical issues that surround cold-blooded murder, calculated revenge, and thwarted desire. More recently, psychoanalytic critics have examined Hamlet's unconscious desires, while feminist critics have re-evaluated and attempted to rehabilitate the often-maligned characters of Ophelia and Gertrude.Julius Caesar (play)
The Tragedy of Julius Caesar (First Folio title: The Tragedie of Iulius Cæsar) is a history play and tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1599. It is one of several plays written by Shakespeare based on true events from Roman history, which also include Coriolanus and Antony and Cleopatra.
Although the play is named Julius Caesar, Brutus speaks more than four times as many lines as the title character; and the central psychological drama of the play focuses on Brutus' struggle between the conflicting demands of honour, patriotism, and friendship.King Lear
King Lear is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare. It depicts the gradual descent into madness of the title character, after he disposes of his kingdom by bequeathing his power and land to two of his three daughters in exchange for insincere declarations of love, bringing tragic consequences for all. Derived from the legend of Leir of Britain, a mythological pre-Roman Celtic king, the play has been widely adapted for the stage and motion pictures, with the title role coveted by many of the world's most accomplished actors.
The first attribution to Shakespeare of this play, originally drafted in 1605 or 1606 at the latest with its first known performance on St. Stephen's Day in 1606, was a 1608 publication in a quarto of uncertain provenance, in which the play is listed as a history; it may be an early draft or simply reflect the first performance text. The Tragedy of King Lear, a more theatrical revision, was included in the 1623 First Folio. Modern editors usually conflate the two, though some insist that each version has its own individual integrity that should be preserved.
After the English Restoration, the play was often revised with a happy, non-tragic ending for audiences who disliked its dark and depressing tone, but since the 19th century Shakespeare's original version has been regarded as one of his supreme achievements. The tragedy is particularly noted for its probing observations on the nature of human suffering and kinship. George Bernard Shaw wrote, "No man will ever write a better tragedy than Lear."Macbeth
Macbeth (; full title The Tragedy of Macbeth) is a tragedy by William Shakespeare; it is thought to have been first performed in 1606. It dramatises the damaging physical and psychological effects of political ambition on those who seek power for its own sake. Of all the plays that Shakespeare wrote during the reign of James I, who was patron of Shakespeare's acting company, Macbeth most clearly reflects the playwright's relationship with his sovereign. It was first published in the Folio of 1623, possibly from a prompt book, and is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy.A brave Scottish general named Macbeth receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders King Duncan and takes the Scottish throne for himself. He is then wracked with guilt and paranoia. Forced to commit more and more murders to protect himself from enmity and suspicion, he soon becomes a tyrannical ruler. The bloodbath and consequent civil war swiftly take Macbeth and Lady Macbeth into the realms of madness and death.
Shakespeare's source for the story is the account of Macbeth, King of Scotland; Macduff; and Duncan in Holinshed's Chronicles (1587), a history of England, Scotland, and Ireland familiar to Shakespeare and his contemporaries, although the events in the play differ extensively from the history of the real Macbeth. The events of the tragedy are usually associated with the execution of Henry Garnet for complicity in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.In the backstage world of theatre, some believe that the play is cursed, and will not mention its title aloud, referring to it instead as "The Scottish Play". Over the course of many centuries, the play has attracted some of the most renowned actors to the roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. It has been adapted to film, television, opera, novels, comics, and other media.Othello
Othello (The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice) is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1603. It is based on the story Un Capitano Moro ("A Moorish Captain") by Cinthio, a disciple of Boccaccio, first published in 1565. The story revolves around its two central characters: Othello, a Moorish general in the Venetian army and his treacherous ensign, Iago. Given its varied and enduring themes of racism, love, jealousy, betrayal, revenge and repentance, Othello is still often performed in professional and community theatre alike, and has been the source for numerous operatic, film, and literary adaptations.Richard III (play)
Richard III is a historical play by William Shakespeare believed to have been written around 1593. It depicts the Machiavellian rise to power and subsequent short reign of King Richard III of England. The play is grouped among the histories in the First Folio and is most often classified as such. Occasionally, however, as in the quarto edition, it is termed a tragedy. Richard III concludes Shakespeare's first tetralogy (also containing Henry VI parts 1–3).
It is the second longest play in the Shakespearean canon after Hamlet and is the longest of the First Folio, whose version of Hamlet is shorter than its Quarto counterpart. The play is often abridged; for example, certain peripheral characters are removed entirely. In such instances, extra lines are often invented or added from elsewhere in the sequence to establish the nature of characters' relationships. A further reason for abridgment is that Shakespeare assumed that his audiences would be familiar with his Henry VI plays and frequently made indirect references to events in them, such as Richard's murder of Henry VI or the defeat of Henry's wife, Margaret.Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare early in his career about two young star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately reconcile their feuding families. It was among Shakespeare's most popular plays during his lifetime and along with Hamlet, is one of his most frequently performed plays. Today, the title characters are regarded as archetypal young lovers.
Romeo and Juliet belongs to a tradition of tragic romances stretching back to antiquity. The plot is based on an Italian tale translated into verse as The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet by Arthur Brooke in 1562 and retold in prose in Palace of Pleasure by William Painter in 1567. Shakespeare borrowed heavily from both but expanded the plot by developing a number of supporting characters, particularly Mercutio and Paris. Believed to have been written between 1591 and 1595, the play was first published in a quarto version in 1597. The text of the first quarto version was of poor quality, however, and later editions corrected the text to conform more closely with Shakespeare's original.
Shakespeare's use of his poetic dramatic structure (especially effects such as switching between comedy and tragedy to heighten tension, his expansion of minor characters, and his use of sub-plots to embellish the story) has been praised as an early sign of his dramatic skill. The play ascribes different poetic forms to different characters, sometimes changing the form as the character develops. Romeo, for example, grows more adept at the sonnet over the course of the play.
Romeo and Juliet has been adapted numerous times for stage, film, musical, and opera venues. During the English Restoration, it was revived and heavily revised by William Davenant. David Garrick's 18th-century version also modified several scenes, removing material then considered indecent, and Georg Benda's Romeo und Julie omitted much of the action and added a happy ending. Performances in the 19th century, including Charlotte Cushman's, restored the original text and focused on greater realism. John Gielgud's 1935 version kept very close to Shakespeare's text and used Elizabethan costumes and staging to enhance the drama. In the 20th and into the 21st century, the play has been adapted in versions as diverse as George Cukor's 1936 film Romeo and Juliet, Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 version Romeo and Juliet, and Baz Luhrmann's 1996 MTV-inspired Romeo + Juliet.Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting
The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, United States, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed 26 people, including 20 children between six and seven years old, and six adult staff members. Before driving to the school, he had shot and killed his mother at their Newtown home. As first responders arrived at the school, Lanza committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.
The incident remains the deadliest mass shooting at either a high school or grade school in U.S. history and the fourth-deadliest mass shooting by a single person in U.S. history. The shooting prompted renewed debate about gun control in the United States, including proposals to make the background-check system universal, and for new federal and state gun legislation banning the sale and manufacture of certain types of semi-automatic firearms and magazines with more than ten rounds of ammunition.
A November 2013 report issued by the Connecticut State Attorney's office concluded that Lanza acted alone and planned his actions, but provided no indication why he did so, or why he targeted the school. A report issued by the Office of the Child Advocate in November 2014 said that Lanza had Asperger's syndrome and as a teenager suffered from depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder, but concluded that they had "neither caused nor led to his murderous acts." The report went on to say, "his severe and deteriorating internalized mental health problems ... combined with an atypical preoccupation with violence ... (and) access to
deadly weapons ... proved a recipe for mass murder".Shakespearean tragedy
Shakespearean tragedy is the designation given to most tragedies written by playwright William Shakespeare. Many of his history plays share the qualifiers of a Shakespearean tragedy, but because they are based on real figures throughout the History of England, they were classified as "histories" in the First Folio. The Roman tragedies—Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus—are also based on historical figures, but because their source stories were foreign and ancient they are almost always classified as tragedies rather than histories. Shakespeare's romances (tragicomic plays) were written late in his career and published originally as either tragedy or comedy. They share some elements of tragedy featuring a high status central character but end happily like Shakespearean comedies. Several hundred years after Shakespeare's death, scholar F.S. Boas also coined a fifth category, the "problem play," for plays that do not fit neatly into a single classification because of their subject matter, setting, or ending. The classifications of certain Shakespeare plays are still debated among scholars.Theatre
Theatre or theater is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers, typically actors or actresses, to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place, often a stage. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music, and dance. Elements of art, such as painted scenery and stagecraft such as lighting are used to enhance the physicality, presence and immediacy of the experience. The specific place of the performance is also named by the word "theatre" as derived from the Ancient Greek θέατρον (théatron, "a place for viewing"), itself from θεάομαι (theáomai, "to see", "to watch", "to observe").
Modern Western theatre comes, in large measure, from the theatre of ancient Greece, from which it borrows technical terminology, classification into genres, and many of its themes, stock characters, and plot elements. Theatre artist Patrice Pavis defines theatricality, theatrical language, stage writing and the specificity of theatre as synonymous expressions that differentiate theatre from the other performing arts, literature and the arts in general.Modern theatre includes performances of plays and musical theatre. The art forms of ballet and opera are also theatre and use many conventions such as acting, costumes and staging. They were influential to the development of musical theatre; see those articles for more information.Theatre of ancient Greece
The ancient Greek drama was a theatrical culture that flourished in ancient Greece from 700 BC. The city-state of Athens, which became a significant cultural, political, and military power during this period, was its center, where it was institutionalised as part of a festival called the Dionysia, which honored the god Dionysus. Tragedy (late 500 BC), comedy (490 BC), and the satyr play were the three dramatic genres to emerge there. Athens exported the festival to its numerous colonies.Tragedy of the commons
The tragedy of the commons is a situation in a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting or spoiling that resource through their collective action. The theory originated in an essay written in 1833 by the British economist William Forster Lloyd, who used a hypothetical example of the effects of unregulated grazing on common land (also known as a "common") in Great Britain and Ireland. The concept became widely known as the "tragedy of the commons" over a century later due to an article written by the American ecologist and philosopher Garrett Hardin in 1968. In this modern economic context, commons is taken to mean any shared and unregulated resource such as atmosphere, oceans, rivers, fish stocks, roads and highways, or even an office refrigerator.
The term is used in environmental science. The "tragedy of the commons" is often cited in connection with sustainable development, meshing economic growth and environmental protection, as well as in the debate over global warming. It has also been used in analyzing behavior in the fields of economics, evolutionary psychology, anthropology, game theory, politics, taxation and sociology.
Although common resource systems have been known to collapse due to overuse (such as in over-fishing), many examples have existed and still do exist where members of a community with access to a common resource co-operate or regulate to exploit those resources prudently without collapse. Elinor Ostrom was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics for demonstrating exactly this concept in her book Governing the Commons, which included examples of how local communities were able to do this without top-down regulations.It has been argued that the very term "tragedy of the commons" is a misnomer since "the commons" referred to land resources with rights jointly owned by members of a community, and no individual outside the community had any access to the resource. However, the term is now used in social science and economics when describing a problem where all individuals have equal and open access to a resource. Hence, "tragedy of open access regimes" or simply "the open access problem" are more apt terms.
Death and mortality in art