The Secret Cause: A Discussion of Tragedy

The Secret Cause: A Discussion of Tragedy

The Secret Cause: A Discussion of Tragedy

The Secret Cause: A Discussion of Tragedy

Excerpt

This book on tragedy is an "essay" in an older sense of the word--an "attempt" to discuss what I believe to be the essence of tragedy. From the moment I decided to put my thoughts on paper I realized the precarious and tentative nature of such an enterprise, because tragedy is the most difficult genre to discuss with assurance and clarity. It is impossible to get too close to mystery, to penetrate completely the dark seed of a shriek, to stare too long into the abyss. I have made no attempt to offer a definition of tragedy, nor is it my aim to refute definitions offered by others. Perhaps the most sobering thought that pressed against me throughout the writing of this book was that after 2,500 years of discussing tragedy no one definition or description has emerged as the way to approach this complex genre. Some of the greatest and most subtle minds have confronted tragedy, coming from different directions and from different ages, each deepening our insight but each falling short of an unqualifiedly satisfying definition or analysis. This is as it should be. The value of a work of art cannot be exhausted by analysis and is always limited by definition. The nature of tragedy and its unique appeal is a subject for argument and discussion, and the discussion will continue as long as men and women question the forces, within themselves and outside of themselves, that make life a terrible puzzlement. It goes without saying, although I here say it, that my discussion depends on the insights of those who have come before. What I offer in this book is not original, in the way we usually use the word (for how can a subject touching human nature and discussed over a period of 2,500 years still produce "original" thoughts?), but I do believe that my concentration on the secret cause makes explicit what was felt before. Ultimately, of course, the book is subjective, the product . . .

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