Literary Term Tragedy

Literary Term Tragedy

Tragedy is a serious play with a sad ending. These stories typically evoke a sense of pity, fear, and catharsis (emotional release) in the audience or readers. 

According to Aristotle, “Tragedy, then is the representation of an action that is worth serious attention, complete in itself, and of some amplitude. In language, enriched by a variety of artistic devices appropriate to the several parts of the play, presented in the form of action not narration by means of pity and fear, bringing about the purgation of such emotions.”

Some luminous examples of Tragedies: “Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex’’, “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare’’, “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller, “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald are most popular tragedies.

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Tragedy in literature often involves sad or unfortunate events happening to the main characters. Here are some features:

  • Protagonist’s Downfall: The main character faces a downfall or suffers greatly due to a flaw or mistake. This could be a moral weakness or a poor decision.
  • Conflict and Struggle: Tragedies show intense conflicts, either within the characters themselves or with other characters or circumstances. This struggle drives the story forward.
  • Catharsis: Tragedies often aim to evoke strong emotions in readers, like sadness or pity, but also bring a sense of release or purging of these emotions by the end.
  • Fatal Ending: Many tragedies end sadly, with the protagonist’s death or a tragic outcome. This leaves a strong impact on the audience.
  • Themes of Fate or Destiny: Tragedies often explore themes of destiny or fate, where characters’ actions seem preordained, leading to their downfall.
  • Lessons or Insights: Tragedies can offer deep lessons or insights into human nature, society, or morality. This makes readers reflect on life and its complexities.

Six elements of a tragedy”: 

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  1. Plot- Plot is the arrangement of events/incidents. The plot should have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
  2. Character- The characters in a tragedy should be true-to-life, consistent, and appropriate for the story.
  3. Diction- Diction is the use of language in the play. The diction should be poetic, vivid, and appropriate for the characters and the situation.
  4. Thought- Thought is the ideas and themes expressed in the play. Thought explores universal truths and moral lessons.
  5. Spectacle- The spectacle in tragedy refers to the visual elements, including scenery, costumes, and special effects. Spectacles enhance the dramatic impact of the performance.
  6. Song or Music- A song in tragedy carries the melody of resilience amidst despair.

Six Elements of a Tragic Hero: 

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  1. Hamartia: Hamartia refers to the tragic flaw or error leading to a character’s downfall. It’s often a trait of the hero’s own making, such as excessive pride or hubris.
  2. Hubris: This is excessive pride or arrogance that leads the hero to ignore warnings or advice, resulting in their downfall.
  3. Peripeteia: This is a reversal of fortune, a sudden turn of events that moves the protagonist from a position of safety to endanger.
  4. Anagnorisis: Often referred to as the moment of realization, anagnorisis is when the hero recognizes the truth of their situation, their flaw, or the reality of their fate.
  5. Catharsis: This is the emotional purification or purging that the audience experiences through the suffering and downfall of the tragic hero. It’s a key element in the tragedy that elicits pity and fear in the audience.
  6. Nemesis: The unavoidable and inevitable fate that befalls the tragic hero, often due to his actions and flaws.
Riya Akter
Riya Akter
Hey, This is Riya Akter Setu, B.A (Hons) & M.A in English from National University.


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