The Substance of Shakespearean Tragedy . Source: Shakespearean Tragedy A.C. Bradley Lecture I - Pages 1-29. Slide 2. Tragedy brings before us a considerable number of persons, but it is pre-eminently the story of one person: the hero
The Substance of Shakespearean Tragedy
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Tragedy brings before us a considerable number of persons, but it is pre-eminently the story of one person: the hero
The story leads up to and includes the death of the hero.
The story depicts the troubled part of the hero’s life which precedes and leads up to his death; it is, in fact, essentially a tale of suffering.
The suffering and calamity are, moreover, exceptional.
The calamity is, also, unexpected, and contrasts with previous happiness or glory.
The exceptional suffering generally extends far and wide beyond the hero so as to make the whole scene a scene of woe.
The is the chief source of the tragic emotions, especially pity, although the proportion and the direction of tragic pity will vary greatly.
Tragedy, with Shakespeare, is always concerned with persons of high “degree.”
The hero experiences a total reversal of fortune, and his fall produces a sense of contrast, of the powerlessness of man, and of omnipotence – perhaps the caprice – of Fortune or Fate, which no tale of private life can possibly rival.
The calamities of tragedy do not simply happen; they proceed mainly from the actions of men, and among them, is the hero, who unfailingly contributes in some measure to the disaster in which he perishes.
The center of tragedy may be said with equal truth to lie in action issuing from character, or in character issuing in action.
Shakespeare occasionally represents abnormal conditions of mind, but these abnormal conditions are never introduced as the origin of deeds of any dramatic moment.
Shakespeare also introduces the supernatural into some of his tragedies, and it does contribute to the action; however, it is never the sole motivating force in character.
It is always placed in the closest relation with the hero, but its influence is never of a compulsive kind.
It does not remove the hero’s capacity for dealing with his problem.
Shakespeare allows ‘chance’ or ‘accident’ an appreciable influence at some point in the action, however, he uses it carefully and sparingly.
The hero, though he purses his fated way, is, at least at some point in the action, and often torn by an inward struggle.
He is a person of high degree or public importance.
His actions or suffering are of an unusual kind.
His nature is exceptional, and generally raises him in some respect much above the average level humanity.
His tragic characters are made of the stuff we find within ourselves, but by an intensification of the life, which they share with others, they are raised above them.
In almost all, there is the tendency to identify the whole being with one interest, object, passion, or habit of mind.
This is the fundamental tragic trait. It is a fatal gift, but carries with it a touch of greatness.
He errs by action or omission. It brings his downfall.
In most cases, the tragic error involves no conscious break of right.
Man’s thought, translated into act, is transformed into the opposite of itself.
Fate is part of the character and part of the action, but not a completely over riding force.
The ultimate power in the tragic world is a moral order. The source of the disruption is evil.
When the evil in a characters masters the good and has its way, it destroys other people through him, but it also destroys him. What remains is alive through the principal of good which animates it.
There is no tragedy in the expulsions of evil; the tragedy is that this involves the waste of good.
Tragedy is the presentation of a world travailing for perfections, but bringing to birth, together with glorious good, and evil which is able to overcome only by self torture and self waste.