Tragedy and Fear; Why Modern Tragic Drama Fails

Tragedy and Fear; Why Modern Tragic Drama Fails

Tragedy and Fear; Why Modern Tragic Drama Fails

Tragedy and Fear; Why Modern Tragic Drama Fails

Synopsis

This study of the relationship between the world-view in modern serious playwriting and the effectiveness of modern attempts at tragic drama is also an examination of the perennial problem of tragic spirit: is tragedy optimistic or pessimistic? This provocative and stimulating book is the first detailed analysis of whether tragedy hints at hope or acts out dread.

Originally published in 1971.

Excerpt

People are constantly writing about tragedy, it seems, and there is plenty of danger of duplication in new work on the subject. While inevitably I will comment on some of the old issues ceaselessly discussed, rest assured that I am not trying to answer writers already in print so much as to do a fresh and reasonably thorough study on the essential issue which has been curiously neglected—that is, whether tragedy must presuppose some distinct attitude toward life and whether this should be positive or negative. It is this deceptively simple problem that needs attention, not another reinterpretation of the Poetics or our five-hundred‐ and-first look at Oedipus the King or Hamlet as ideal tragedies. I think there are some very large implications in the problem beyond literary‐ aesthetic matters (given the kind of world we must deal with today and the art that is offered to express it), and I hope all readers will interpret and follow these according to their own insights and experience.

The academic reader will be interested in the background of the pessimism-optimism debate and the substantiation of my method for going at such a seemingly subjective project. Hence the introduction (and related material in the appendixes, plus the quick "overviews" of my theorems which open chapters 3 through 9). The general reader might skip the introduction, at least once he has the gist of my purpose. As . . .

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