Thomas Hardy's Tragic Stories

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Thomas Hardy's Tragic Stories

For centuries, various writers have endeavored to encapsulate the constituents of tragedy, and create works of literature that adhere to their understanding of an ostensibly universal system of tragic structure, tragic plot, and tragic theme. Nevertheless, the etymology of the word, "tragedy," proves to be as elusive and arcane as the tragic construct is seemingly concrete and unequivocal; indeed, the word, "tragedy," can be traced to the Greek word, "tragoidia," which literally means, "goat-song." We do not know whether actors in the Choral Odes read their lines clad in goatskins, or if goats were bestowed as prizes; we do know, however, that Aristotle reconfigured the more bucolic play tradition, and,
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He reformulates his tragedies based on the idea of the Immanent Will, even while he incorporates, so tenaciously, the tragic elements of his predecessors: Aristotle, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, the mystery play tradition, and, of course, Shakespeare. Hardy, therefore, is a figure who stands on the abyss of modern tragedy even while he plants himself firmly in the embrace of his literary antecedents.

Perplexity surrounding Hardy and tragedy is compounded when we consider that he was neither atheist nor religious, and ascribed to the school of meliorism, whose basic tenet was to improve the world through the sympathetic balance of optimism and pessimism, love and loathing, and happiness and pain; indeed, sympathy typifies Hardy's perspective on the world, and we must extend this perspective to his own meliorist vision of tragedy. For Hardy, the tragic stage is none other than Nature herself, and this natural stage ultimately consumes the very characters that he places upon it. If we peer closely into the world of Edgon Heath, the stage that comprises, in some form or another, Hardy's three major novels - The Return of the Native, The Mayor of Casterbridge, and Tess of the d'Urbervilles - we see that the protagonist of each story unites with this mysterious entity by each novel's
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