Published on February 12, 2008
Understandings for Tragedy: Understandings for Tragedy Before we talk about tragedy, a couple of ideas…: Before we talk about tragedy, a couple of ideas… Theme: In works of literature, characterization and plot reveal ideas and philosophies about the human condition. Genre and Mode: Works of literature often share conventions of characterization, setting, style, and plot through and against which they develop themes. Knowledge of these conventions can enrich interpretation. Essential Questions:: Essential Questions: What causes disaster? (Human perception, failure, flaw, or error ; destiny or accident) How do the behaviors and actions of tragic heroes distinguish them from ordinary people? How do tragic heroes become aware of and respond to their errors, flaws, and destiny? The genre of tragedy: The genre of tragedy The genre of tragedy reflects the complexity and range of human responses to personal (and often, societal) disaster. Tragic characters aspire to great heights and fall to great depths through a mixture of bad luck, mistakes, and character flaws. Tragic characters confront or become aware of the conflict between their aspirations and reality. Here’s a website that explains the terms:: Here’s a website that explains the terms: http://ise.uvic.ca/Library/SLTnoframes/ drama/terms.html#fn6 This site is the source of the definitions that follow There are of course other sites Greek TragedyTerms to know: Greek Tragedy Terms to know Anagnorisis* Bathos and pathos* Catharsis* Chorus* Empathy and sympathy* Hamartia* Hubris* Nuntius* Slide7: Anagnorisis Often the protagonists in tragedy undergo a process of recognition, in which they see their own nature, and destiny, more clearly than before. Hamlet has a moment just before the final duel when he realizes that "There is special providence in the fall of a sparrow . . . The readiness [for death] is all" (5.2.231,34). Slide8: Bathos and pathos They sound related, but their effect is almost opposite. Bathos--"depth"--is often unintended by the author. Straining for an elevated or heightened effect, the writer overshoots the mark and produces an effect that is perceived as ridiculous. Pathos--"pity"--a term often used because the English word tends to imply mere tear- jerking for effect. Slide9: Catharsis Exactly what Aristotle meant by "purgation" or "catharsis" has been the subject of much discussion, but in essence he was concerned to explain the release of powerful, healing emotions that make tragedy so moving. Slide10: The chorus In Greek tragedy the chorus was a group of actors, usually concerned citizens, who were the main commentators on the characters and events; they expressed traditional moral, religious, and social attitudes, and were a kind of voice for the audience on stage. Some individual characters in Shakespeare can be seen as fulfilling the role of the chorus-- Horatio, in Hamlet is one, Kent, in Lear, perhaps another (though Kent does become involved directly in the action). Slide11: Empathy and sympathy Empathy--"feeling-into"--is a projection of oneself into another character; an identification in which one seems to participate in the actions and feelings of the other. Sympathy--"feeling-with"--is a little more detached, a fellow-feeling for the other; as when two strings are tuned to the same note, one will vibrate in sympathy if the other is sounded. The word has become somewhat reduced in meaning in recent years to something more like mere pity. Slide12: Hamartia The protagonist most often contributes to his or her own downfall by a mismatch betwen character and circumstances, or hamartia. Interestingly enough, the translation of hamartia as "flaw" may in fact itself be flawed. There is some evidence that suggests that it rather means any quality in excess--perhaps even a virtue--that brings about the fall of the protagonist. The term "complexion" refers to quality of personality, as in the mixture of humours. Slide13: Hubris Frequently an Oedipus, an Antigone, a Macbeth, a Lear, or a Cleopatra is brought to doom by excessive pride--hubris--a belief that he or she is somehow above the fates, or in control of destiny. Slide14: Nuntius The nuntius, or messenger, was an actor who narrated action that occurred offstage--a dramatic convention made necessary by the requirements of the "unities" of time and place, and the tradition that no violent action took place on the stage itself.