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Transcript of Tragedy
A tragedy is a drama, not in a narrative form; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its catharsis of such emotions.
The perfect plot…must have a single issue, the change in the hero’s fortunes must be not from misery to happiness, but on the contrary from happiness to misery; and the cause of it must lie not in any depravity, but in some great error on his part; the man himself being either such as we have described, or better, not worse than that.
Tragedie is to seyn a certeyn storie,
As olde bokes maken us memorie,
Of him that is stood in great prosperitee
And ys y fallen out of heigh degree
Into miserie, and endeth wretchedly.
…the high and excellent Tragedy, that openeth the great wounds, and showeth froth ulcers that are covered with tissue; that maketh kings fear to be tyrants, and tyrants manifest their tyrannical humours; that, with stirring the affects admiration and commiseration, teacheth the uncertainty of this world, and upon how weak foundations gilden roofs are builded….
Shakespeare was not attempting to justify the way of God to men, or to show the universe as a Divine Comedy. He was writing tragedy, and tragedy would not be tragedy if it were not a painful mystery.
Tragedy is only possible to a mind which is for the moment agnostic. The last touch of any theology which has a compensating Heaven to offer to the tragic hero is fatal…Tragedy is perhaps the most general, all-accepting, all-ordering experience known.
The spring is wound up tight. It will uncoil itself. That is what is so convenient about tragedy. The least little turn of the wrist will do the job… The rest is automatic; you don’t need to lift a finger. The machine is in perfect order… Tragedy is clean, it is restful, it is flawless. It has nothing to do with melodrama – death in a melodrama is really horrible because it is never inevitable.
In a tragedy, nothing is in doubt and everyone’s destiny is known. That makes for tranquillity. There is a sort of fellow-feeling among characters in a tragedy: he who kills is as innocent as he who gets killed: it’s all a matter of what part you are playing. Tragedy is restful; the reason is that hope, that foul, deceitful thing, has no part in it. There isn’t any hope, you’re trapped. The whole sky has fallen on you, and all you can do about it is to shout…
Wheels have been set in motion, and they have their own pace, to which we are… condemned. Each move is dictated by the previous one – that is the meaning or order. If we start being arbitrary it’ll be just a shambles: at least, let us hope so. Because if we happened, just happened to discover, or even suspect, that our spontaneity was part of their order, we’d know we were lost.
What is meant by
Introductions off stage?
a fatal error or simple mistake on the part of the protagonist that eventually leads to the final catastrophe.
a pivotal or crucial action on the part of the protagonist that changes his situation from seemingly secure to vulnerable.
A cleansing of emotion at the end of a tragedy when resolution has been reached. It involves a sense of loss but also a sense that justice has been achieved.
Dionysus, the god of tragedy
The form arose from a choral song in honour of Dionysis.
I believe that the common man is as apt a subject for tragedy in its highest sense as kings were. On the face of it this ought to be obvious in the light of modern psychiatry, which bases its analysis upon classic formulations, such as the Oedipus and Orestes complexes, for instance, which were enacted by royal beings, but which apply to everyone in similar emotional situations.
More simply, when the question of tragedy in art is not at issue, we never hesitate to attribute to the well-placed and the exalted the very same mental processes as the lowly. And finally, if the exaltation of tragic action were truly a property of the highbred character alone, it is
inconceivable that the mass of mankind should cherish tragedy above all other forms, let alone be capable of understanding it.