What Makes A Tragedy?

Decent Essays
What Defines a Tragedy? The dictionary describes a tragedy as, “a serious drama typically describing a conflict between the protagonist and a superior force (as destiny) and having a sorrowful or disastrous conclusion that elicits pity or fear.” Aristotle’s “Poetics” have long been the standard of a proper tragedy. Yet, could there be more to the perfect tragedy than what either the dictionary or Aristotle suggests? What are the actual characteristics that form a “true” tragedy? In Sophocles’ “Oedipus the King” and Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” (two of the most renowned tragedies ever written), lay the keys to unearthing the facts about what characteristics produce the ultimate tragedy. “Oedipus the King” tells the terrible tale of a brilliant man who became king of Thebes and later discovers that he is the cause of a plague on the city because he killed his father and married his mother. “Hamlet” follows the events of a Danish prince who has been called upon to kill his uncle and thereby avenge his father’s murder. These two tragedies appear to have little in common on the surface, but upon closer inspection, share the many qualities of an epic tragedy. Another critical element in the perfect tragedy (in order from greatest to the least) is the presence of strong “Plot, Character, Language, Thought, Spectacle, and Melody” (Aristotle 780-781). These, in Aristotle’s opinion, are the “six constituent elements” that comprise a marvelous tragedy (780). Of the six, Aristotle focuses
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