Definition of tragedy
-a dramatic composition, often in verse, dealing with a serious or
sombre theme, typically involving a great person destined to experience downfall
or utter destruction, as through a character flaw or conflict with some
overpowering force, as fate or an unyielding society.
Greek tragedy was a form of
drama performed across ancient Greece from the late 6th century BCE.
The most famous playwrights of
tragedy were Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. Greek tragedy led to Greek
comedy and, together, these genres have formed the foundation upon which all modern theatre is
Today it is common for the word
“tragedy” to be misused and it is often used to describe extremely sad events
like fatal accidents that cut short otherwise long lives or global issues such
as a deadly virus. However the truthful definition of a tragedy is a dramatic
plot where the protagonist dies after being faced with an issue which
highlights and tests their main flaws as a person. Although the main characters
fate is the most recognisable aspect of a tragedy, the central action is
important as it actually brings trials in which the character can overcome said
flaw but doesn’t.
Tragedy was one of the three
main genres that Shakespeare wrote (comedies, histories and tragedies) and
although he wrote more comedies/romantic comidies, Shakespeare’s tragedies are
probably what he is most well known for, with the plays Hamlet and Macbeth
taking the top spots in many lists of “Shakespeare’s greatest plays”
In this dissertation I will look
at “The Big Four”; Shakespeare’s most well known tragedies of Hamlet, Macbeth,
Othello and King Lear.
heroes, however mighty, can be brought down by the flaws in
their personalities that make them human. The higher and more praiseworthy the
character, the more devastating their fall must be
without the test, the important flaw might never surface.
In the “Poetics”, Aristotle wrote that the purpose of
Tragedy is to evoke catharsis.
Without being able to identify with a character (whether it
be wholly or in part) we cannot achieve a willing suspense of disbelief