Tragedy is a form of art based on human suffering that gives its audience pleasure. Tragedy is often associated with drama. Many philosophers have analyzed tragedy and commented on or criticized it. Aristotle was a philosopher that put a primary focus on tragedy. According to Aristotle, “the structure of the best tragedy should be not simple but complex and one that represents incidents arousing fear and pity for that is peculiar to this form of art.” He believed that our concern should be with form rather than purpose. In a tragedy, a person experiences a reversal of fortune. Aristotle’s favorite example of tragedy was “Oedipus.” Tragedy is made up of plot, character, diction, thought, song, and spectacle. Plot is the main element that drives the play. Aristotle brought out that reversals and recognition are two important elements of plot. Reversal is “a key action designed to produce one result actually leads to its opposite,” and recognition is “the change from ignorance to understanding.” The ultimate climax is reached when the two of these collide. In “Poetics,” Aristotle defines tragedy as “an imitation of an action that is admirable, complete (composed of an introduction, a middle part and an ending) and possesses magnitude; in language made pleasurable, each of its species separated in different parts; performed by actors, not through narration; effecting through pity and fear the purification of such emotions.”
The end result of a tragedy is catharsis, which is an emotional cleansing or healing through the experience of the emotions that are in response to the suffering of the characters in the drama. Aristotle said that “tragedy is the representation of an action which is serious complete in itself, and of a certain limited length; it is expressed in speech beautified in different ways in different parts of the play; it is acted not merely recited; and by exciting pity and fear it produced relief from such emotions.”
Shakespeare is known for writing some of the most well known tragedies over written. His tragedies also come alive through dramatic plays. Whenever I think of tragedy, I can’t help but think of Shakespeare and of course, “Romeo and Juliet.” I’m sure this is also because I am currently reading the play for another Literature class I am in. I have also been able to relate what I have learned about Aristotle’s analysis of tragedy to my other class and am able to recognize the different aspects of tragedy that Aristotle was talking about. I chose this particular clip from youtube because I thought it was easy for people to watch it and relate it back to “Romeo and Juliet” although it’s not the typical “Romeo and Juliet” storyline, it’s more of a reflection of the feelings that Juliet was experiencing, and the tragedy that was going on in her life. This is an example of Pathos, the way the imagery and music is used in the clip to appeal to the emotions of the watcher.
Aristotle. "Poetics." The Norton Anthology of Literary Theory and Criticism. Leitch Vincent. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2001. Print.