Tragedy: Modern Essays in Criticism discussion

Tragedy within the dramatic text is a literary feeling of the feeling. There is much that has been written by different scholars on what really constitutes tragedy. Aristotle, Nietzsche, and Hegel establishes a school of thought of what actually makes the very tragic nature of the world, although not actually unrelated to the tragic art, is not a dictation of the emergence of tragic art form. It is specific moment in the history that actually favors the emergence and subsequently clear that our age does not actually rise to it. Tragic theatre is always considered the highest form of the art. Its power to ensure that the life of woman and man are dignified in the wake of horrors of the human existence is likely to be one of the reasons it has received such accolade. Ovid Aristotle, Nietzsche, and Hegel have praised its necessity, superiority, and wisdom (Ann, p. 32). Aristotle defined tragedy as,

“imitation of an action that is serious and also, as having magnitude, complete in itself; in language with pleasurable accessories, each kind brought in separately in the parts of the work; in a dramatic, not in a narrative form; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its catharsis of such emotions” (Byater, p. 42).


Tragedy is therefore an imitation of an actual action that is often considered to be of high importance and complete and at the same time of amplitude. Indeed, Aristotle sees tragedy as very serious action or drama that is an imitation of the real life. He states that the artists is not just copying the shifting appearances within the world but rather a representation or imitation of the reality itself and therefore gives meaning and form to the reality.

The philosophies of these scholars simply show that tragedy is based on a lie and this is seen s a positive side of the tragedy. Tragedy is an attractive since it appears tormenting and bloody, there is an increased human need to hear about fire, murder, plague, massacre, rape, and earthquakes. This is a very serious peculiarity of the dual nature of individuals in seeking out the dark sides of the self. Conceivably this negative indulgence is somehow acceptable given that the real protagonist will eventually emerge dignified from its very presence. That we can end up heroines and heroes, and that we can look at the tragic things and learn from them is great. The Art of Tragedy in contrast to the fact of the tragic occurrence emerges with increased force with some ages as compared to the others (Clifford Leech, p. 12). One is likely to think of the contemporary age whenever the tragic events are actually rife and with the capacity of technology to show the global occurrence, the art form is likely to dominate the globe.

Aristotle is from the school of thought that tragedy must in the end involve a hero  and he goes ahead to state that the character at the end of such tragic events must actually be a man who should be eminently just and god. Moreover, his misfortune should not be brought about by depravity or vice but rather by some frailty or error. He should not make the hero entirely a good individual who does not do any wrong but rather as that hero who commits a great wrong or an injury  or simply a great wrong that leads to a misfortune (Else, p. 74). In this case, Aristotle does not actually make any contradiction by saying that the hero has to actually be virtuous but not in any case entirely good.

Examining the works of the four theorists across the time, this paper highlight some of the agreement or similarities that they have in terms of what strategy is in this context. The art of tragedy is concerned with several issues that the theorists are in agreement with, these include: the fact that tragedy occurs against the very backdrop of the incomprehension. This simply means that the world cannot actually be understood in its very entirety since evil and mystery stalks it. The tragic characters through the sufferings have become enlightened about the very human value and there is also a valorization of the existence. Moreover, the story involved is actually dealing with the serious issues such as politics, moral world view, and familial. It is representational that actually entails some action. Tragedy ends with the return or the construction of the new value related order (Maxwell, p. 48). Incase one is attracted to the analysis of tragedy, Nietzsche goes ahead to explain that (Maxwell, p. 48);

If we look about us today, with eyes refreshed and fortified by the spectacle of the Greeks, we shall see how the insatiable zest for knowledge, prefigured in Socrates, has been transformed into tragic resignation and the need for art; while, to be sure, on a lower level the same zest appears as hostile to all art and especially to the truly tragic, Dionysiac art, as I have tried to show paradigmatically in the subversion of Aeschylean art by Socratism.


Each of the theorists poses a view of tragedy that then could be applied to the film or a play. Aristotle focuses on the tragic hero who has offended the laws of the cosmos, while Hegel Argues that tragedy lies within a collision of two goods. This collision results in the destruction of both heroes but from that there is a synthesis, a change in the characters affected by the tragedy. Nietzsche see tragedy reflected in the essential nature of man in a collision between the Dionysian/ irrational side versus the Apollonian/ rational side. These forces can be represented by individuals or within the consciousness of one person. Miller argues the tragedy is within the grasp of the common man who fights for personal dignity in a society that attempts to strip him (Lawrence and Richard, p. 72).

In the discussion in this paper, it is significant to move between the two critical theoretical positions on the tragedy. At this point, it is significant to indicate that there is actually no turning back. It is therefore significant to have the two possibilities with references to the terrorists discussed. On one hand, Nietzsche is from the school of thought that tragedy is actually a healing mechanism and consequently replaces solace and meaning to what religion often offers. The healing comes about through n illusion and this is contrary to what Aristotle believed in. Aristotle was the school of thought that tragedy can never provide any solace and if any exists then it is temporary (Ann, p. 29).




Ann, M. McCulloch. A Tragic vision: The Novels of Patrick White. New York: University of Queensland Press, 1983.

Byater, Imgram. With a preface by Gilbert Murray. Aristotle on the Art of Poetry. New York: Oxford University Press, 1920.Clifford Leech Tragedy: The Critical Idiom. London: Methuen, 1970.

Lawrence, Michel and Richard, B. Sewall. Tragedy: Modern Essays in Criticism. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1963.

Maxwell, John. ‘The Presumptions of Tragedy’, in Michel and Sewall Tragedy: Modern Essays in Criticism. New Jersey: Prentice Hal, 1963.

Else, Gerald E. “‘Imitation’ in the Fifth Century.” Classical Philosophy 53 (1958): 73-90 and 245.







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