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What's the Matter with Tragedy

  • Date Submitted: 06/02/2010 05:20 PM
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What’s the Matter with Tragedy?
Ever since the eruption of tragedies in early Greek writings with Sophocles’ Oedipus the King,   the concept of tragedy was established; all the way up to the Elizabethan times with Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the basics have stayed the same.   Some may   argue that characteristics have either been replaced or taken away, but the truth is the basic aspects have never changed.   All the classic tragedies have been read and researched for the purpose of finding the meaning and the lessons they teach to the audience, by arousing pity and fear.   Although the two tragedies were written in two completely different times, their themes and tragic heroes are similar.  
Repeated throughout both of the plays, the themes of rashness, fate, and trust are closely related in these different tragedies.   To begin with, one of the main themes in both plays, rashness, leads to the downfall of both characters.   Aristotle states that   “misfortune [...] is brought upon [the protagonist] not by vice or depravity but by some error of judgement” (Poetics XIII.2-3).   This explains that most tragedies' disasters are caused by poor judgement.   For example, when Friar Laurence quickly creates the plan to bring Romeo and Juliet back together which ends up with both protagonists dead.   In these stories, quick judgements and hasty movements of the characters mold a theme of thinking twice before an action, not rashly. Furthermore, fate acts upon the climax of the protagonists’ story.   In Romeo and Juliet, after Tybalt kills Mercutio, Romeo yells, “This day's black fate on moe days doth depend” (III, i, 119).   Thus, from what Romeo

Hoyt 2
said, fate is used commonly in both tragedies as one of the main factors that leave a question in the audience’s mind of whether or not the character’s fate will be foretold.   Although similarities are present in the themes of these tragedies, the theme of trust is different in both plays.   For example, in Oedipus the...


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