Drama presents fiction or fact in a form that could be acted before an audience. It is imitation by action and speech. A play has a plot, characters, atmosphere and conflict. Unlike a novel, which is read in private, a play is intended to be performed in public. Traditionally drama is divided into two categories tragedy and comedy. Tragedy deals with the dark side of the life and the other with its light side. In tragedy the characters are involved in circumstances and situations that force them towards an unhappy end. Thus a tragedy usually ends in happiness for the central characters and sometimes in their death.


In ancient Greece both tragedy and comedy originated in the rustic festivals which were held in honour of the nature-god Dionysus. Tragedy dealt with the more somber aspects of life exemplified by the stories and legends chosen from mythology. In ancient Greece, Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripedes composed tragedies. Traditionally a tragedy required an exposition and complication or conflict, a climax or crisis, a denouement or resolution and a catastrophe at the end.


Aristotle thought that tragedy was the noblest form of literature. He laid down certain percepts to be followed by the tragic poet. They form the basis of the classical approach to tragedy. According to this a tragedy should have a plot, characters, structure and spectacle, catastrophe and catharsis. Only lives of famous and powerful men like kings and warriors were fit subjects for tragedy. The sufferings and death of such characters raves about their common plane evoked pitty and terror in the mind of the spectators. Aristotle spoke of the effect of tragedy as the evocation of pity and awe and the achievement of catharsis or cleansing of our emotions. However in the great tragedies of Marlowe and Shakespeare the insistence on great themes and illustrious persons was often violated. In modern times we have several tragedies of low and humble life.


Like comedy, tragedy also aims giving pleasure. The pleasure tragedy provides is of a lofty order. The spectacle of a noble character caught in the cause of circumstances presented with artistrt of language raise higher passions in the spectators. The effect is rather exalted and enabled rather than distressing.


Tragedy can be divided into two types the classical and romantic.

The Classical tragedy: It was based on Greek inventions like the observance of the unity of time, unity of action and unity of place and the employment of the chorus. The classical tragedy dealt with the great legends of mythical age, its chief characters were majestic heroes. An ideal tragic which was maintained in the dialogue and the rendering was marked by a stateliness and nobility of expression.

The Romantic tragedy: it reach its perfection in Shakespeare was not always limited by the observance of the three unities. It also dispensed with the chorus. In the romantic tragedy the plot may stretch over a long period of time there; may be subplots and there is usually mixing up of tragic and comic elements. That Romantic tragedy is generally concerned with matters remote from ordinary life. It is both a idealistic and realistic. It is not written to a set pattern and is never didactic. On the basis of themes there were several types of tragedy is like the horror and revenge tragedy of Kyd and Webster, heroic tragedies of Dryden and the domestic tragedies of George Lillo.

The Elizabethan Romantic tragedy was essentially poetic. However in the 18th century poetry give place to prose. In the 20th century poetic drama has been revived in the plays of W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot and Christopher Fry.

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