The Harvest of Tragedy

The Harvest of Tragedy

The Harvest of Tragedy

The Harvest of Tragedy

Excerpt

The object proposed in this book is to examine certain facts, theories and assumptions regarding the nature of the form which we term, loosely, Tragedy. To undertake such a task seems at first sight presumptuous, or otiose, or both. Much has been written on the subject, and much more is to come.1 But it seems arguable that we have now reached a stage at which some fresh inquiry might be fruitful: particularly if the 'fact or experience' which we call Tragedy were to be examined, not as a stable compound, but as a highly complex, composite and active substance and form; with characteristic effects which can best be apprehended, because of their very nature, in religious or mystical terms.

Further, it appears probable that both the values and structures of the components of the form are themselves compound rather than simple: varying greatly in their composition according to the view of life presented by the individual writer of tragedies, himself a figure to be considered in some detail in the setting of his age. And if these terms are indeed compound and complex, it appears necessary to re-state the elemental and elementary problems of the subject; to consider how far philosophy, psychology and religion may now affect the triple thought that underlies them; and to attempt to relate or project the conclusions into some vital relationship with life and death.

§ ii

The student of such a subject as this becomes aware, from the very outset, of the gravest implications in his object of study. Tragedy, from its very nature, concerns itself continually with specific attitudes towards the widest possible range of moral problems. Such attitudes may be implicit or explicit; more often, perhaps, a complicated balance between the two. It may rely on paradox or antithesis for its typical statements, allowing no more than a momentary synthesis to emerge through image or symbol. When 'wrought to its uttermost' the . . .

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