Shakespearean
Tragedy
The Substance of a
Tragedy - from A.C.
Bradley
Tragedy
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Concerned primarily with one person
Essentially a tale of suffering and calamity
leading to death
The suffering and calamity are exceptional. They
befall a significant person.
They are also, as a rule, unexpected, and
contrasted with previous happiness and/or glory.
Attended by tragic pity.
When he falls suddenly from the height of earthly
greatness to the dust, his fall produces a sense of
contrast, of the powerlessness of man, and of the
omnipotence - perhaps the caprice - of Fortune or
Fate.
Tragedy Continued…
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a)
b)
c)
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a)
b)
c)
The centre of the tragedy may be said with
equal truth to lie in action issuing from a major
character flaw, or a character flaw issuing from
action (from the common ingredients such as:
abnormal conditions of mind
The supernatural
A chance or accident
The action can be defined as conflict:
Between two persons
Between two passions or tendencies, ideas,
principles, forces…
There is also a conflict in the hero’s soul
The Tragic Hero
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Is an exceptional being.
His nature is also exceptional: in his nature there is an
intensification of ordinary qualities.
In almost all, we observe a marked one-sidedness, a
predisposition in some particular direction; a total
incapacity, in certain circumstances, or resisting the force
which draws in this direction; a fatal tendency to identify the
whole self with some interest, object, passion, or habit of
mind.
In the circumstances where we see the hero placed, his
tragic trait, which is also his greatness, is fatal to him.
In most cases the tragic error involves no conscious breach
of right; in some, it is accompanied by a full conviction of
right.
It is necessary that he should have so much of greatness
that in his error and fall we may be vividly conscious of the
possibilities of human nature.
And with this greatness of the tragic hero is connected,
secondly, the centre of the tragic impression: that of tragic
waste.
The Notion of Tragedy
The following definition has been pieced together from Aristotle’s Poetics:
Tragedy is an imitation of action. It is serious, complete and of
a certain magnitude. It treats of events which are pitiful and
terrible and concerns the reversal from good fortune to bad
of a great man who, by reason of some weakness or defect
of character, is thus the cause of his own downfall.
Because this man is great, either by birth or position, his
downfall seems more terrible than if he were an ordinary
man; it has also far-reaching effects in the lives of others.
Because morally he is a man like ourselves- neither
eminently virtuous nor viciously depraved- h is misfortune
arouses in us the emotion of fear. Because his downfall is
partly his own fault, and because it seems to be far out of
proportion to the evil of his actions, we experience a feeling
of pity for him. Through our sympathies with this tragic
hero we undergo a catharsis or purgation of the emotions.
The Notion of Tragedy Cont’d
Some technical Greek vocabulary of drama (from Aristotle):
Mimesis- the art of representation
Anagnorisis- moment of critical discovery
Catharsis- relief or purging
Dianoia- knowledge or theme
Opsis- visual elements
Hamartia- a mistake, or taking a flawed path
Hubris- pride, arrogance, out of touch with reality
Mythos- myth- story, the plot
Lexis- diction
Peripeteia- reversal
Nemesis- arch-enemy
Ethos- characters
Melos- music
Aristotle’s 6 elements include Lexis, Ethos, Melos, Opsis, and Mythos
Modern Definition of Tragedy
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A tragedy is a drama of a protagonist
who commands our earnest good will
and is impelled in a given world by a
purpose, or undertakes an action, of
a certain seriousness and
magnitude; and by that very purpose
or action, subject to that same given
world, necessarily and inevitably
meets with grave spiritual or physical
suffering.
Another Modern Definition
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Tragedy, in its pure idea, shows us a
mortal will engaged in an unequal
struggle with destiny, whether that
destiny be represented by the forces
within or without the mind, the
conflict reaches its tragic issue when
the individual perishes, but through
his ruin the disrupted order of the
world is restored and the moral
forces reassert their way.
Shakespearean Tragedy
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A tragedy is a drama of a significant person who,
because of a flaw in his character, experiences a
fall that leads to suffering and earth, the whole
experiences producing pity and fear in the
audience.
Drama: This means there is ACTION o a serious
magnitude involving a number of people
interacting on a stage.
Significant Person: this is usually a king or prince,
or a person of high standing in the community.
More than this, the person is significant in that he
is noted for being a noble in character in some
way that raises him above ordinary people.
Plot
A. The Story of a Hero
i) Leads up to and
includes the death
of the hero
ii) A tale of suffering
and calamity
leading to death
B. Suffering
i) Severe
ii) Unexpected and
contrast to presvious glory
Shakespearean
Tragedy
Shakespearean Tragedy
Cont’d…
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A Flaw: there is a serious problem or imperfection or
predisposition in his character that causes him to err in his
actions. The tragic hero, because of his flaw in character,
is responsible for his actions and for his own death. The
very character trait that makes the person exceptional
may be also his flaw.
A Fall: the tragic hero “falls” physically to his death, but
also falls in the sense of not realizing his true potential.
There is a sense of waste at the end of the drama, of the
person not having achieved what he should have
achieved.
Pity and Fear- these are emotions instilled in the
audience. The audience identifies with the hero (we put
ourselves in his shoes) and we thus feel pity for the hero
when he falls to his death. The audience also fears that
such things can happen to us if we are not careful enough
in real life.
c. Concerned with person of high degree
1. Plot
a.
The Story of a Hero
i)
ii)
Leads up to and includes the death of the hero
A tale of suffering and calamity leading to death
i)
ii)
iii)
A leader or head of state
His fate affects the nation
His fall suggests the powerlessness
of man and the power of fate
b. Suffering
i)
Severe
ii)
Unexpected and contrast to previous glory
2. Action
The tragedy proceeds
from the action of people
6. Good vs. Evil
Villainy is defeated in the end.
4. Conflict
5. The Hero
i)
Exceptional nature
ii)
Desire, passion, will
iii)
Tragic Trait- a marked onesidedness, fatal to the hero
i)
A great waste of potential
i)
Shakespearean
Tragedy
i)
outward- between
persons or groups
i)
Inward - between
the hero and himself
i)
3. Elements of
the Story
The Hero has
i)
i)
i)
THE HERO’S ACTION CAUSES HIS DESTRUCTION
Main source of action
is character
Hero contributes to his
own demise
Abnormal conditions of
the mind
Encounters with the
supernatural
Encounters with chance
and accident
HAMLET AS A TRAGIC HERO
PAGAN WORLD
(ANCIENT- POLYTHEISTIC)
CHRISTIAN WORLD
(MODERN)
-MORALITY
-REVENGE
-FORTINBRAS
SENIOR AND
KING HAMLET
-NORWAY
(NORTH)
HAMLET
-LAERTES,
HORATIO
-PARIS,
WITTENBERG
DENMARK
(HEART OF
MODERN EUROPE)
Hamlet (and his soul?) is at a crossroads of a divided world. He moves back and forth between the two worlds and the heroic types within them.
i.e. King Hamlet, Laertes, Fortenbras, Horatio.