Note on Tragedy

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  • Things to remember



As Aristotle defines tragedy as an imitation of an action that is serious having complete form in a dramatic form. It imitates serious actions and subject pattern matter that happen in everyday life. Its language arouses pity and fear in the audience. It birth is the imitation of a human. Human beings are the most imitative creatures in the world. Imitation is helpful for them in two ways. First, they learn by imitation and second they get pleasure in imitation.

Unity- The word unit means the relatedness of things which are seemingly on related. Aristotle uses thing word to signify the relatedness of time, place, and action. It also means tightness amidst the things presented in a certain form an order unity of plot, a unity of action, a unity of time, place and action.

Plot- The plot is a sequence of interrelated events arranged to form a logical pattern and achieve an intended effect. Aristotle wrote in poetics that mythos is the most important element of storytelling. Aristotle has many parts that composed poetry and stories. However according to Aristotle plot is the most important part. The plot makes the story complete. It is a chain of action. It refers to that state and situation in which events are causally connected. In a good plot, every succeeding action is the result of preceding action. A plot is the heart of the tragedy, no plot no tragedy.

Discovery- The kind of action in a play by which fable allures the soul is revolutions and discoveries. The revolution is a mutation by which actions turn into contrary conditions which still has to happen in a probable or even a necessary way. The discovery is simply a change from ignorance to knowledge of something central to the plot, but Aristotle regards the beauty of discovery as a heightened if it is combined with revolution. It refers to that level of knowledge and understanding which a tragic hero acquires when he realizes his fatal mistake. At the moment of discovery, a tragic character comes to know about his mistake which brought about his tragic doom.

Suffering- Suffering is a technical term for Aristotle: an action that involves distortion and pain such as death, wounding, and physical agony. There are many deaths and wounding in the Iliad. One of the striking features of Homer’s technique is how even minor figures are brought into focus at their death in a way designed to create a sense of the significance and pathos of their death. The word suffering means mental torture, pain, and agony which start after the moment of discovery. It does not indicate physical suffering. It refers to the mental agony and anguish which happens to the tragic hero.

Pity and fear- The audience becomes aware of the fact that catastrophe in a tragedy that is to death of the hero arouses pity and fear. The words pity and fear cannot be reducing to one level of meaning. It was Aristotle who for the first time use the term catharsis to mean the emotional cleansing- the release of the pent up overwhelming emotions of pity and fear. The scene of the suffering arouses a sense of pity. The people in the audience feel that similar fate may not overtake them. The main emphasis is on identification and a pathetic scene of the hero may arouse pity and fear but it is the objective center of the subjective state of the audience.

Spectacle- It refers to specially prepared or arranged display of a more or less public nature, forming, and impressive or interesting show or entertainment for those viewing it. Or a person or thing exhibited to or set before the public gaze as an object either of curiosity or contempt or of marvel or admiration. The words spectacle conjures images of extravagant display and performance or more negatively, images of violence and atrocity. The definition of spectacle encompasses curiosity or contempt and marvel or admiration. While the effective response to spectacle may vary from spectator to spectator, much of the spectacle’s appeal drives from its visual power and ability to whole the gaze of the viewer.

Hamartia- Hamartia is a term developed by Aristotle in his work Poetics. The term can simply be seen as a character’s flaw or error. The word Hamartia is rooted in the notion of missing the mark and covers a broad spectrum that includes accident and mistake, as well as wrongdoing, error or sin. It means a grave mistake of a tragic protagonist. It also means a tragic flaw it consists of error of a different kind. Insert Hamartia means that flaw in a tragic character, which leads to the tragic downfall of a protagonist.

Catharsis- Catharsis means ‘purification’, cleansing or clarification. It is derived from the word meaning to purify, purge and pure or clean. The term in drama refers to a certain emotional climax that evokes overwhelming feelings of great sorrow, pity, laughter or any other extreme change in emotions resulting in restoration, renewal, and revitalization in members of the audience. It means purification of pity and fear. It means bringing out pity and fear. Tragedy takes out our hidden fear and pity. Our pent up emotions are brought out. This process of bringing out repressed pity and fear is called catharsis.

Therefore, the most important elements of tragedy are suffering. Aristotle says that a tragedy most includes great suffering especially the suffering. Similarly, the characters most have an error of judgment. It leads towards the tragic downfall of main characters. The tragedy is out of the imagination of common people. Finally, Aristotle says that a good tragedy must have catharsis and Hamartia. Catharsis is the perfect satisfaction of watching a drama. Hamartia means the tragic fall of a hero. It is the serious weakness of the tragic hero. These are the most importance part of the good tragedy. Similarly, as Aristotle says that the best tragedy should have basic elements. A tragedy that most have unity of plot and action. Here it means that tragedy must have a single plot and all the minor action must be related to the same major actions. He says that a good tragedy should not be related to the same major actions. He says that a good tragedy should not have multiple plots. Multiple plots weaken the effects. All the minor action should enforce the same plot. All the action in the tragedy must represent one action, a complete whole with its several incidents so closely only then tragedy can be turn out to the best one.


Lohani, S. (2012). Western Intellectual Tradition. Kathmandu: M.K Publication..

  • Imitation also means a representation of the darker or optimistic side of life and nature.
  • A plot is a chain of action in which state and situation of events are collected
  • The word spectacle points to the musically, emotionally and aesthetically charged atmosphere in a theatre.
  • Hamartia means that flaw in a tragic character which leads to the tragic downfall of a protagonist.
  • The process of bringing out pent up pity and fear is called catharsis.
  • Reversal and discovery provoked the effect of pity and fear in the audience.



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