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. It was the age of Greek philosopher Aristotle who wrote his treatise called, ‘Poetics’ deconstructing the works by the likes of Sophocles etc.
According to Aristotelian view tragedy represents somber and serious reality which is complete in itself. Tragedy is thus includes over the top presentation and powerful language to produce emotional stimulation. Generally, it incorporates powerful episodes of suffering, losses etc. There is a sense of pleasure in suffering and sadness 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 like in ‘Antigone’ or ‘Oedipus’ etc.
The neoclassical theory of tragedy developed in the medieval period through the efforts of theorists like Cornellie etc. With Aristotelian unity of action they added two more, unity of time and place.
The major characteristics of tragedy are:
It is the fulcrum 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 protagonist causes disruption of equilibrium and it in turn leads to a utter destruction of the character. The various incidents in a plot exhibit a casual relationship with each other. Plot is considered 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 requires a logical and ordered sequence. 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 habits of those personalities/people.
The flawed hero is not perfect; he struggles to balance good with his demons. He is 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 sketch.
Thought is the faculty to enunciate something as important and rational, a condition or circumstance. It represents the ideational or intellectual element of a tragic drama. Example: a melancholy is enunciated for a tragedy.
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 selection 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 portrayal of emotions through the instrument of words. They carry with them meanings which stimulate the desired responses in the spectators.
Music is the spice used in a tragedy like the chorus songs. They add fluid narrative style and inform the audiences about the events that do not occur before their eyes of the or on the stage.
The commentary provides an explanation of historical events, present realities and future possibilities. Thus, such embellishment enhance the emotional and cathartic value of a tragedy
It is the setup of scenes on stage. It is important for a conversion of writing into a sensorial experience through stagecraft.
It enhances the dramatic and emotional appeal of the written word. It adds to the relevance of an event. Addition and execution of spectacular effects can elevate the theatrical performance to a sensational one.