be lost. Suspense, holding the audience in poised expectancy, is a constant, an essential, element in the theatre. It advances to a richer level of interest in dramatic irony, wherein the expectant audience is also -- like the gods on Olympus -- aware of the forces shaping events still hidden from persons of the drama. This sense of sharing in the movement of destiny is part of the drama's rouse of the human spirit.

Gamos (Greek) : The union of the sexes. Greek comedy usually ends with a feast (see Komos) that culminates in sexual union. Eight of the extant comedies of Aristophanes* end with a gamos. The modern theatre continues this pattern, for, while most tragedies end in the churchyard, most comedies end in the church.

Hamartia : See Hybris.

Hybris (also hubris; Greek) : Originally meaning violence, assault and battery, hybris was applied, in the Greek drama, to the more basic attribute, inordinate pride. Aristotle found tragedy rising when a noble person, through some inner flaw (hamartia), brings about his own destruction. Chief of the flaws to which the great are prone is hybris, pride.

Hamartia, although Aristotle said that the fall of a truly just man would be not tragic but revolting, is not essential to tragedy (see Catharsis). Tragedy may rise from the difference in two codes, or from opposed loyalties in a person truly noble. Much of the Spanish drama presents such persons, caught in a situation where honor conflicts with love. Tragedy may be seen as intrinsic in man, inevitably rooted in the world order, so that the hero by his very nature is doomed: to act as his conscience bids, as his being must, is to summon disaster. Sophocles' Antigone*, for example, presents a situation where to act properly is to die. The martyr, indeed, the noble person that, like Shaw's Joan of Arc, goes willingly or at least wittingly to avoidable death for a principle or ideal, may mark the deepest tragedy.

The notion that crime (or hamartia) produces the tragedy is the root of the idea of poetic justice, or dramatic justice, which degenerated to the retribution applauded in every melodrama as the villain bites the dust. The tragedy is both subtler and deeper when the only "hybris" involved is that caught in noblesse oblige, the pride, better, the selfrespect and fortitude that hold along the proper path even to the crack of doom.

Komos (Greek) : Festival, revel. The song of the religious festival, the komoedia, developed into the comedy. See Gamos.

"Tragedy", in origin, means song of the goat: the sacrifice or scapegoat, through whom the sins of the community are expiate. Oedipus* is a clear example. This is one source of the sense of universality in great drama: what happens to him is happening for all.

Off-Broadway : In the metropolitan New York district, but not part of the commercial theatre, which centers around Broadway, from Times Square ( 42d Street) to Central Park ( 59th Street).

Poetic Justice : See Hybris.

Scéne à faire (French): An obligatory scene. A moment of theatrical

-ix-

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Guide to Great Plays
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Publisher's Note iv
  • Prefatory Notes v
  • Cato of Utica 1
  • Index 861
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