The genre of tragedy is quite well theorized unlike many other genre. The theory oftragedy is as old as 5 th Century BC when the Greek philosopher and thinker Aristotlewrote his treatise called, ‘Poetics’ analyzing the tragedies by the likes of Euripides,Sophocles etc.According to Aristotelian view tragedy as imitates of a serious and powerful actionwhich is self-sufficient and complete.
Tragedy is thus includes elements of dramaticpresentation and evocative language to produce cathartic effect. Generally, itincorporates powerful episodes of suffering, losses etc. There is a sense of pleasure inpity and fear that the audiences relish and the whole plot is governed by the aim toproduce such sensory response.In literature, a tragedy is a drama that shows the protagonist involved in a significantevent and meeting his spectacular downfall. It is dotted with ideas of fate, sacrifice,destiny and duty. The defeat also urges the hero to search for answers regardingrelationship between human beings and the Creator. Heroes are often taken from mythsand classical literature- flawed but courageous. Downfall or defeat is a function of anerror or weakness termed as ‘harmatia’ (fatal flaw) in his character like pride orarrogance.
There exists a chorus to provide commentary on the action. Greeks believedthat the Fates or Moirai (three goddesses) determine the suffering in one’s life and suchfate was inescapable. Examples – tragedies of ‘Antigone’ or ‘Oedipus’ etc.The neoclassical theory of tragedy developed in 16 th and 17 th centuries through the effortsif theorists like Cornellie etc. With Aristotelian unity of action they added two more,unity of time and unity of place, to form three unities of drama.
The major characteristics of tragedy are:PlotIt is the central pivot of any tragedy and unites all other elements. Plots can be simple orcomplex even though complex plots provide room for twists and reversals of fortunes forthe hero.In the plot, the tragic flaw of the protagonist causes intensification a complication and itin turn leads to a catastrophic and tragic end of the character. The various incidents in aplot exhibit a casual relationship with each other.
According to Aristotle, the Plot is thesoul of any tragedy and should elicit pity and fear in the minds of audiences.Plot provides the outline like in a painting and help lends meaning to the character.It necessitates a proper beginning, middle and end. Since it aims to imitate an action itdoes not have to include all the actions that are experienced by the character.CharacterCharacter comes in as subsidiary to the plot. It may denote dramatic personalities in thetragedy or the tendencies of those personalities/people.Since the main character or the flawed hero is not perfect, he is a mixture of good andevil. He somebody the ordinary man aspires to become in terms of courage, moralityand strength.
It is only such an admirable character who will be able to pity and fearfrom the audiences.The characters must represent true human nature and be loyal to the mythical orhistorical personalities they are modeled on. The writer should avoid unrealistic changesin the characters or their personalities and must stay true to their outline.Thought Thought is the faculty to enunciate something as appropriate or pertinent, a givensituation or condition. It represents the ideational or intellectual element of a tragicdrama. Example: a sad thought is enunciated for a tragic and melancholy event.This also includes the various themes depicted in the tragedy which are expressedthrough speech. Such speeches are employed to reveal and unravel character/s.
DictionIt is the primary mode of imitating the action. It is basically the choice of words orvocabulary used by the dramatist. Since the chosen words are deemed apt to arousefeelings in the audiences it is also affects the process of meaning making.Thus, diction is the expression of emotions through words.
These words carry with themmeanings which extract the desired response from the spectators.SongSong and music are the condiments used in a tragedy especially the song sung by thechorus. This group of singers narrates the major events do not occur before the eyes ofthe audiences on the stage.
The commentary provides an explanation and breakdown of past events, presentcircumstances and future possibilities. Thus, such embellishment intensifies thedramatic and cathartic elements of tragedySpectacleIt is the arrangement of scenes in a tragic drama or a translation of writing into asensorial experience through stagecraft. The scene is set by stage machinist or manageraccording to the designs of the writer.It adds a sense of pleasures and emotional appeal to the audience.
It enhances thesignificance of an event. Addition and execution of spectacular effects can elevate thetheatrical performance to a sensational one.