Tragedy

Tragedy (from the Greek: τραγῳδία, tragōidia[a]) is a form of drama based on human suffering that invokes an accompanying catharsis or pleasure in audiences.[2][3] While many cultures have developed forms that provoke this paradoxical response, the term tragedy often refers to a specific tradition of drama that has played a unique and important role historically in the self-definition of Western civilisation.[2][4] That tradition has been multiple and discontinuous, yet the term has often been used to invoke a powerful effect of cultural identity and historical continuity—"the Greeks and the Elizabethans, in one cultural form; Hellenes and Christians, in a common activity," as Raymond Williams puts it.[5]

From its origins in the theatre of ancient Greece 2500 years ago, from which there survives only a fraction of the work of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, as well as a large number of fragments from other poets; through its singular articulations in the works of Shakespeare, Lope de Vega, Jean Racine, and Friedrich Schiller to the more recent naturalistic tragedy of Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg; Samuel Beckett's modernist meditations on death, loss and suffering; Müller's postmodernist reworkings of the tragic canon, tragedy has remained an important site of cultural experimentation, negotiation, struggle, and change.[6][7] A long line of philosophers—which includes Plato, Aristotle, Saint Augustine, Voltaire, Hume, Diderot, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Freud, Benjamin,[8] Camus, Lacan, and Deleuze[9]—have analysed, speculated upon, and criticised the genre.[10][11][12]

In the wake of Aristotle's Poetics (335 BCE), tragedy has been used to make genre distinctions, whether at the scale of poetry in general (where the tragic divides against epic and lyric) or at the scale of the drama (where tragedy is opposed to comedy). In the modern era, tragedy has also been defined against drama, melodrama, the tragicomic, and epic theatre.[12][13][14] Drama, in the narrow sense, cuts across the traditional division between comedy and tragedy in an anti- or a-generic deterritorialisation from the mid-19th century onwards. Both Bertolt Brecht and Augusto Boal define their epic theatre projects (non-Aristotelian drama and Theatre of the Oppressed, respectively) against models of tragedy. Taxidou, however, reads epic theatre as an incorporation of tragic functions and its treatments of mourning and speculation.[7]

Origin

Aristotle's Tragic Plot Structure

The word "tragedy" appears to have been used to describe different phenomena at different times. It derives from Classical Greek τραγῳδία, contracted from trag(o)-aoidiā = "goat song", which comes from tragos = "he-goat" and aeidein = "to sing" (cf. "ode"). Scholars suspect this may be traced to a time when a goat was either the prize[15] in a competition of choral dancing or was that around which a chorus danced prior to the animal's ritual sacrifice.[16] In another view on the etymology, Athenaeus of Naucratis (2nd–3rd century CE) says that the original form of the word was trygodia from trygos (grape harvest) and ode (song), because those events were first introduced during grape harvest.[17]

Writing in 335 BCE (long after the Golden Age of 5th-century Athenian tragedy), Aristotle provides the earliest-surviving explanation for the origin of the dramatic art form in his Poetics, in which he argues that tragedy developed from the improvisations of the leader of choral dithyrambs (hymns sung and danced in praise of Dionysos, the god of wine and fertility):[16]

Anyway, arising from an improvisatory beginning (both tragedy and comedy—tragedy from the leaders of the dithyramb, and comedy from the leaders of the phallic processions which even now continue as a custom in many of our cities), [tragedy] grew little by little, as [the poets] developed whatever [new part] of it had appeared; and, passing through many changes, tragedy came to a halt, since it had attained its own nature.

— Poetics IV, 1449a 10–15[18]

In the same work, Aristotle attempts to provide a scholastic definition of what tragedy is:

Tragedy is, then, an enactment of a deed that is important and complete, and of [a certain] magnitude, by means of language enriched [with ornaments], each used separately in the different parts [of the play]: it is enacted, not [merely] recited, and through pity and fear it effects relief (catharsis) to such [and similar] emotions.

— Poetics, VI 1449b 2–3[19]

There is some dissent to the dithyrambic origins of tragedy, mostly based on the differences between the shapes of their choruses and styles of dancing.[citation needed] A common descent from pre-Hellenic fertility and burial rites has been suggested.[citation needed] Friedrich Nietzsche discussed the origins of Greek tragedy in his early book The Birth of Tragedy (1872). Here, he suggests the name originates in the use of a chorus of goat-like satyrs in the original dithyrambs from which the tragic genre developed.

Scott Scullion writes:

There is abundant evidence for tragoidia understood as "song for the prize goat". The best-known evidence is Horace, Ars poetica 220-24 ("he who with a tragic song competed for a mere goat"); the earliest is the Parian Marble, a chronicle inscribed about 264/63 BCE, which records, under a date between 538 and 528 BCE: "Thespis is the poet ... first produced ... and as prize was established the billy goat" (FrGHist 239A, epoch 43); the clearest is Eustathius 1769.45: "They called those competing tragedians, clearly because of the song over the billy goat"...[20]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Tragedie
العربية: تراجيديا
asturianu: Traxedia
azərbaycanca: Faciə
تۆرکجه: تراژدی
Bân-lâm-gú: Pi-kio̍k
башҡортса: Трагедия (жанр)
беларуская: Трагедыя
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Трагедыя
български: Трагедия
Boarisch: Tragedie
bosanski: Tragedija
brezhoneg: Trajedienn
català: Tragèdia
čeština: Tragédie
dansk: Tragedie
Deutsch: Tragödie
Ελληνικά: Τραγωδία
español: Tragedia
Esperanto: Tragedio
euskara: Tragedia
فارسی: تراژدی
français: Tragédie
Frysk: Trageedzje
galego: Traxedia
贛語: 悲劇
한국어: 비극
hrvatski: Tragedija
Bahasa Indonesia: Tragedi
íslenska: Harmleikur
italiano: Tragedia
עברית: טרגדיה
ქართული: ტრაგედია
қазақша: Трагедия
Кыргызча: Трагедия
Latina: Tragoedia
latviešu: Traģēdija
lietuvių: Tragedija
magyar: Tragédia
македонски: Трагедија
Nederlands: Tragedie (toneel)
日本語: 悲劇
norsk: Tragedie
norsk nynorsk: Tragedie
occitan: Tragèdia
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Tragediya
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਤਰਾਸਦੀ
Patois: Chrajidi
polski: Tragedia
português: Tragédia
română: Tragedie
русиньскый: Трагедия
русский: Трагедия
Scots: Tragedy
Seeltersk: Tragödie
sicilianu: Traggèdia
Simple English: Tragedy
سنڌي: الميو
slovenčina: Tragédia
slovenščina: Tragedija
српски / srpski: Трагедија
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Tragedija
suomi: Tragedia
svenska: Tragedi
Tagalog: Trahedya
тоҷикӣ: Фоҷиа
Türkçe: Trajedi
українська: Трагедія
اردو: المیہ
Tiếng Việt: Bi kịch
Winaray: Trahedya
ייִדיש: טראגעדיע
粵語: 悲劇
中文: 悲劇