Home » Books: The Tragedy

It was an unfortunate mistake: you chose a story based purely on its appearance (the cliche about judgments and covers was not enough to dissuade you). It seemed such a harmless thing and, for the first few words, it was. But then the chapters shifted into depressions – with the heroes forced to constant suffering, peripheral characters slaughtered and despair found within each thought. You hated every moment but somehow couldn’t stop your reading. Your need for a happy ending demanded that you finish, hoping that somehow the themes would turn to triumphs and all would be well. It wasn’t. It instead was a Tragedy.

Perhaps the simplest of all story forms to define (for it is without the usual blurs of categories and types), the Tragedy is the expression of human pain and defeat. Began as one of the original genres of literature – along with the Epic, the Comedy and the Lyric – it was considered the most prized. Its meanings and intentions placed it above the others; which were often considered the thrills of the lower-classes. This, however, was meant to produce none of the easy laughters. It was instead to inspire tears.

And, while such a purpose seems too strange to contemplate now, the founder of the Tragedy, Greek philosopher Aristotle, argued it was necessary. Within his book ‘The Poetics’ (which is among the first discussions of literature to ever be produced), he declared that this category would save the theater from the plagues of brasher comedy, offering the methods of the Dithyramb and their practices instead.

And those practices shaped the Tragedy into an exploration of death, cruelty and the inevitable fates. It was defined only by its oppression and was not meant to offer the expected cheer found in other forms. And even today books follow this pattern, capturing the harsher realities and the truths we wish often to forget.

It is often considered absurd that the Tragedy would be so exalted, given its purpose. It is that purpose, however, that makes it so essential.

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