AD's English Literature : General Notes on Tragedy, Classical Tragedy and Romantic Tragedy

General Notes on Tragedy, Classical Tragedy and Romantic Tragedy

In the Greek language, the word ‘tragedy’ means ‘Goat Song’ and the word came to be used for plays because of the practice of awarding goats to winners in a dramatic contest. The plays were generally serous in tone. For the Greeks, tragedy simply meant “A play with a sorrow ending,” usually, at least one death, “The action and the thoughts are create seriously and with a respect for human personality.”

The central character in tragedy, according to Aristotle is a person of admirable character and important position who is reined by single flaw of characters. Tragic flow or Hamartia, such as the ambition of Macbeth. The atmosphere of tragedy is sombre and serious. The tragedy arouses in us the emotion of pity and fear, but only to purge us of these and similar emotion and it has a spiritually gracing effect. And important feature of true tragedy in that we are left with a sense of greatness of man as well as of the suffering involved in human life.
In English literature there are comic interludes to heighten the effect by contrast. The tragedy gives pleasure and that of a high order. The spectacle of a noble character caught in the audience to a level for above the petty interest and troubles of its own everyday life. It feels exalted and ennobled rather than distressed.


Classical drama are either tragic or purely comic, but not a mixture of the two, and there should be not sub-plot or episodes uncompensated with the main theme. In other words, actions or events the play should be confined to ones species and one single plot to ensure verisimilitude. The incidents must all be logically connected. The Unity of place is a natural corollary of the Unity of time. If the play must limit itself to event that covers only a few hours, it must be confined to one place, the scene must be such as might be conceivable with the short time allowed to the action of the plot.
The chorus is other note worthy element in the classical Greek tragedy. It consisted of a group of actors; whose businesses off the stage.It also made moral comments from time to time in the action of the play to deepen the desired effect. It was sometimes an integral part of the plot, sometimes the lonely related to it. In fact, the action in the play. In English literature, a classical type of tragedy is to be found in  Milton's Samson Agonistes.               


The romantic tragedy is built on a plan different from that of classical tragedy. It is not circumscribed by the there Unities. Its action extends for years and the scene of action change from place to place as offer as the plot required. The action of Julius Ceaser takes place in Roman Sardis and then Philippi.
The romantic tragedy is debarred from mixing the tragic and the comic and also from introduced a sub-plot. Marlowe's  Dr. Faustus  has a no. of comic scenes. In the romantic tragedy scenes of violence, horror, murders and battle may be represented on the stage. In  King Lear the horrible scene of the blinding of ‘Gloucester’ takes place on the stage.
The romantic tragedy does not employ the chorus. The purpose of chorus is served through some minor characters, the soliloquies and retrospective narration, put into the mouth of some major characters. Moreover, the romantic tragedy is not completed to be did active.
In short, the romantic tragedy is written not to a set pattern, but in what ever from the writer finds best suited to his dramatic purpose. The name Shakespeare is inseparably associated with this type of tragedy, though it had been popularized earlier in England by Marlowe.
Although Shakespeare broke away from the classical tradition in several ways, the hero in his tragedy is a man of important station in life and his tragedy accurst from some tragic flaw in his character.  

Ardhendu De


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