The Supernatural in Tragedy

The Supernatural in Tragedy

The Supernatural in Tragedy

The Supernatural in Tragedy

Excerpt

It is a commonplace of literary history that what may be called, in the widest sense of the term, supernatural manifestations are very apt to occur in connection with tragedy. Such manifestations appeal to an interest deeply rooted in human nature, however much it may be ignored during certain periods, or in our own professed attitude. A certain respect for such matters, even a certain covert belief, lingers in the most skeptical; and the enduring character of the interest which we feel in the unseen is shown by the abundance of the literature which ministers to it, and by the real importance which it may sometimes assume. Hamlet without the ghost is as unthinkable as Hamlet without the Prince himself. In the case of tragedy, the body of material which attests this preoccupation with the powers beyond man is assuredly extensive; yet it has not, so far as I am aware, ever been studied as a whole, in order to ascertain how far such an interest is necessary or advisable for the expression of the tragic impulse in dramatic form. A survey of so wide a field can only be tentative; but an examination of the various epochs in which the connection of the supernatural with tragedy is most clearly marked can hardly fail to reveal some general tendencies, and to provide a basis for more detailed investigation of special aspects in the future. The whole subject is so much of a piece that such aspects can only be profitably studied in their relation . . .

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