A Conversation for What is Tragedy?
Nightowl Started conversation Jan 7, 2003
Well done! A good discussion.
Stalin and Brooks remind us to keep perspective, and we should keep them in mind here. (It is also perspective that gives us humour.) We tend to cherish a sense of the tragedy of human existence, and of the grandeur of the human spirit in the face of this. In our cultural tradition we are born in a fallen state, with a hope of grace, but not in this life. The ancient greeks had a word for humanity, but it defined us as mortal: we are the dying ones, as opposed to the immortals. Our death then,even if we die young, may be ironic but is not necessarily tragic. Hamlet says, "Since no man knows aught of what he leaves, what is it to leave betimes?" Stoppard's Rosencrantz says, "We must be born with an intuition of mortality. Before we know the word for it, before we know that there are words, out we come, bloodied and squalling with the knowledge that for all the points of the compass there's only one direction and time is its only measure." For art's sake, I like the idea of a victim marked by the gods for retribution, or of a sacrificial victim — a scapegoat — and that is where I think the name fits.
Nightowl Posted Jan 7, 2003
Dionysus, as fertility god, was often worshipped in the form of a goat, and at such festivities (sometimes referred to as 'frezied orgies') a goat, representing the god himself, was torn to pieces and consumed raw. This was apparently a turn-on for the women in attendance, who danced with reckless abandon, and scant clothing. Goats, on the other hand (or cloven hoof) might have found this tragic.
Dionysus is often depicted as a naked young man, wearing a crown of grapes and vine leaves (perhaps more of a turn-on to modern women),drunk, and riding in a chariot drawn by goats(probably on auto-pilot: the first "designated drivers"?).
While Macbeth, as tragic hero (we were originally discussing tragedy) complained that, "on [his] head they placed a fruitless crown, and put a barren scepter in [his] hand" —infertile, and no grapes! (how tragic)
Emsley Thomas Posted Jan 7, 2003
boyjunior Posted Jan 7, 2004
Hi. I posted here, because you mentioned Macbeth. (and this post is still related to tragedy) Anyway, I'm supposed to write an essay that discusses Macbeth as a tragedy with the following definition. "Tragedy includes the thesis that the destruction of a noble being is caused by inner forces as well as external forces." I don't need you to answer the question for me, because I'm not completely incompetent, but I'm curious as to where this definition of tragedy came from. If you know that, or where I can find information about that, please reply.
Nightowl Posted Jan 7, 2004
I guess the first thing is that our notion of tragedy comes from Aristotle's "Poetics", even if we don't still hold fast to everything he tells us. One thing he talks about is "Hamartia", which is a tragic error [in judgement or temperment] which we have called 'tragic flaw'. That is, in an otherwise superior human being there is one fatal flaw, one weakness which brings about his downfall. Generally, we identify and are sympathetic with this hero and we agonize over his demise (even Macbeth, in whom we recognize our own capacity for evil although we reject him in the end), and yet we are 'poetically' satisfied that his downfall is deserved, on a cosmic level, because of his tragic flaw. We leave thew theatre reassured that justice has been done. All of this can glibly be summarised: character is fate.
It has been said that Macbeth's tragedy is a tragedy of ambition (ie. his tragic flaw is ambition). I think that where he really went wrong was in his attempts to manipulate fate, to alter the prophesies. He may have been alright in his murder of Duncan, although I heard him say, "If chance will have me king, then chance may crown me, without my stir"; but his murder of Banquo and attempted murder of Fleance put him beyond our conscience, and beyond the patience of the powers that be. He is then marked for destruction: he has angered the gods. In this way, "Brave Macbeth", and "noble Macbeth (well he deserves that name)" is destroyed by internal as well as external forces.
The question you have been asked to answer is appropriate, and wise.
Be happy in your work,
boyjunior Posted Jan 9, 2004
Thanks a bundle, it's really helpfull. I'm just a little confused with the "character is fate" thing. Does that mean that, because of Macbeth's greed or ambition, it was his fate that he killed Duncan and went on his "power trip" (or whatever you want to call it)? I thought that one of the things that made the tragedy all that more tragic was that the the character chose the path that lead to their ultimate destruction. In Macbeth's case, his choice to kill Duncan, then Banquo and so on and so fourth, lead to his death.
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