Characteristics of Tragedy
The genre of tragedy is quite well theorized unlike many other genre. The theory of tragedy is as old as 5th Century BC when the Greek philosopher and thinker Aristotle wrote his treatise called, ‘Poetics’ analyzing the tragedies by the likes of Euripides, Sophocles etc.
According to Aristotelian view tragedy as imitates of a serious and powerful action which is self-sufficient and complete. Tragedy is thus includes elements of dramatic presentation and evocative language to produce cathartic effect. Generally, it incorporates powerful episodes of suffering, losses etc. There is a sense of pleasure in pity and fear that the audiences relish and the whole plot is governed by the aim to produce such sensory response.
In literature, a tragedy is a drama that shows the protagonist involved in a significant event and meeting his spectacular downfall. It is dotted with ideas of fate, sacrifice, destiny and duty. The defeat also urges the hero to search for answers regarding relationship between human beings and the Creator. Heroes are often taken from myths and classical literature- flawed but courageous. Downfall or defeat is a function of an error or weakness termed as ‘harmatia’ (fatal flaw) in his character like pride or arrogance. There exists a chorus to provide commentary on the action. Greeks believed that the Fates or Moirai (three goddesses) determine the suffering in one’s life and such fate was inescapable. Examples – tragedies of ‘Antigone’ or ‘Oedipus’ etc.
The neoclassical theory of tragedy developed in 16th and 17th centuries through the efforts if theorists like Cornellie etc. With Aristotelian unity of action they added two more, unity of time and unity of place, to form three unities of drama.
The major characteristics of tragedy are:
It is the central pivot of any tragedy and unites all other elements. Plots can be simple or complex even though complex plots provide room for twists and reversals of fortunes for the hero.
In the plot, the tragic flaw of the protagonist causes intensification a complication and it in turn leads to a catastrophic and tragic end of the character. The various incidents in a plot exhibit a casual relationship with each other. According to Aristotle, the Plot is the soul of any tragedy and should elicit pity and fear in the minds of audiences.
Plot provides the outline like in a painting and help lends meaning to the character.
It necessitates a proper beginning, middle and end. Since it aims to imitate an action it does not have to include all the actions that are experienced by the character.
Character comes in as subsidiary to the plot. It may denote dramatic personalities in the tragedy or the tendencies of those personalities/people.
Since the main character or the flawed hero is not perfect, he is a mixture of good and evil. He somebody the ordinary man aspires to become in terms of courage, morality and strength. It is only such an admirable character who will be able to pity and fear from the audiences.
The characters must represent true human nature and be loyal to the mythical or historical personalities they are modeled on. The writer should avoid unrealistic changes in the characters or their personalities and must stay true to their outline.
Thought is the faculty to enunciate something as appropriate or pertinent, a given situation or condition. It represents the ideational or intellectual element of a tragic drama. Example: a sad thought is enunciated for a tragic and melancholy event.
This also includes the various themes depicted in the tragedy which are expressed through speech. Such speeches are employed to reveal and unravel character/s.
It is the primary mode of imitating the action. It is basically the choice of words or vocabulary used by the dramatist. Since the chosen words are deemed apt to arouse feelings in the audiences it is also affects the process of meaning making.
Thus, diction is the expression of emotions through words. These words carry with them meanings which extract the desired response from the spectators.
Song and music are the condiments used in a tragedy especially the song sung by the chorus. This group of singers narrates the major events do not occur before the eyes of the audiences on the stage.
The commentary provides an explanation and breakdown of past events, present circumstances and future possibilities. Thus, such embellishment intensifies the dramatic and cathartic elements of tragedy
It is the arrangement of scenes in a tragic drama or a translation of writing into a sensorial experience through stagecraft. The scene is set by stage machinist or manager according to the designs of the writer.
It adds a sense of pleasures and emotional appeal to the audience. It enhances the significance of an event. Addition and execution of spectacular effects can elevate the theatrical performance to a sensational one.