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Introduction to Tragedy

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1 Introduction to Tragedy
Defining tragedy, tragic structure and plots...

2 Shakespeare’s plays and styles
Shakespeare wrote a variety of styles of plays, that all fall into 3 distinct categories. He wrote comedies (i.e. A Midsummer Night’s Dream), histories (i.e. Henry V) and tragedies (i.e. Romeo & Juliet). Antony and Cleopatra is a tragedy and more specifically, the play is a Roman tragedy.

3 Tragedy Brainstorm Brainstorm all of the tragedies that you can think of (films, novels, TV shows, etc...)

4 Defining Tragedy Imagine you have been commissioned by the Oxford dictionary to write a definition of the word tragedy.... Attempt to write a definition Think about the definition of the word itself, and what might be characteristic of a play in the tragic genre.

5 Defining Tragedy cont’d
Noun An event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress, such as a serious accident, crime, or natural catastrophe. A play dealing with tragic events and having an unhappy ending, esp. one concerning the downfall of the main character.

6 Shakespeare’s Tragedies
Shakespeare’s tragedies are his most famous and popular plays. They contain his best known characters and his most famous quotations. His tragedies include: - Romeo & Juliet - Julius Caesar - Hamlet - Othello - King Lear - Macbeth - Antony & Cleopatra

7 Plots Shakespeare often took well-known stories (sometimes fictional, sometimes true) and would adapt them into a play for the stage. This is similar to what many film-makers do today when they adapt books or events for the cinema. This meant that the audience was often aware of the basic storyline before they viewed the play.

8 The Roman Tragedies Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra and Corionalus are the 3 plays which make up the ‘Roman Tragedies’. They deal with political power Their heroes are state leaders who have a responsibility to people. Often tragedy results when they fail to meet these responsibilities. However, these plays are not just about politics. They are full of emotions, dramatic power struggles, and brilliant writing.

9 Roman Tragedies cont’d
The Roman tragedies are set mainly in Ancient Rome. Shakespeare based the plots on the stories of real Roman heroes, but he adapted them to make them more exciting. The plays show how hard it is to be a political leader. The heroes have power, but also weaknesses which make them vulnerable to being attacked or overthrown. Torn between LOVE + DUTY In the Roman tragedies, people often have to make difficult choices between their emotions and their responsibilities.

10 Tragic Structure  There is a basic structure which is common of all Shakespearean dramas: Act One introduces the characters and the conflicts which will form the plot. Often only minor characters are on stage at the beginning of Sc1. They talk about what has happened in the lives of major characters and introduce context. Act Two: The conflict increases and the action of the play intensifies. Suspense and tension builds up as both the ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ make preliminary moves against each other. Act Three: The action leads to a complication and the suspense builds. It begins to look as though the ‘bad guys’ might win. The audience gets worried. Act Four: The climax. The action intensifies. Major battles occur in this act. The ‘good guys’ start prevailing. The act closes just short of a final victory! Act Five: The conclusion. The action winds down and the final conflict is resolved. However, there may be a surprise! If the play is a tragedy the main characters die in Act Five, but in spite of this there is hope for the future. If the play is a comedy, the main characters get married and live happily ever after!

11 Tragic Structure cont’d...
Exposition (introduction): Characters are introduced; setting is described; conflict is prepared for and implied. The exciting force (catalyst): Begins the conflict. Conflict or Rising Action: Plot advances by means of a series of crises, until the point is reached where one force declines relative to the other. Technical Climax / Turning Point / Crisis No going back. The point at which the rising action begins to fall. Catastrophe or Falling Action: Counteraction sets in. The fortunes of the protagonist are in decline, and the action falls to a Resolution: The protagonist's death. Dénouement (untangling): The highest-ranking character left alive has the last speech, to indicate the restoration of social stability. Comic or Dramatic Relief: To provide relaxation when tension gets too high, and to intensify following build-up of tension. A comic scene in the middle of a tragedy may not seem like a good idea, but most of Shakespeare’s tragedies have them. They give the audience a break from the harrowing scenes, and can help make characters seem more human.

12 Tragic Characterstics
The tragedies all share similar dramatic and literary characteristics: TRAGIC HEROES All of Shakespeare’s tragedies have a tragic hero, or “protagonist”. He is often a man of high rank, such as a king or prince. The protagonist creates, or is put into, a difficult situation which he must try and resolve. But a combination of bad luck and bad decisions lead to his death. The protagonist is often a relatively sympathetic figure. The tragic hero always has a tragic flaw: a weakness that can be exploited (i.e. ambition, pride, jealousy or greed).

13 Tragic Endings Tragedies give a very bleak view of the world.
At the end of a tragedy, the hero, and usually several other characters, are dead, and the survivors are left to start again without them. Although most tragic heroes are partly to blame for their own fates, death can be a very high price to pay for what may have seemed like a small failing. But in most tragedies, there is also a feeling that some good may have come out of the terrible suffering. They always finish with the restoration of the rightful order.

14 Creating a class tragedy
“Yes and” activity...

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