Guten Morgen, Leute! So, recently, I’ve been kinda contemplating tragedy. I’ll blame it on my English classes and all of the Shakespeare that we’ve been discussing. Tragedy is something that I think that is often misunderstood and misrepresented. I’m guilty of misjudging tragedy for a very long time myself but… I thought that I’d do a little discussion of tragedy today.
Back in Elizabethan times, there were two genres: comedy and tragedy. Comedy just meant that there was a happy ending. Tragedy meant that it ended in death or well… in grief. Nowadays, of course, we don’t just categorize things as tragedies and comedies but we have many other genres as well.
People often look at tragedy and view it as a miserable genre in which everything goes bad and is well… a real downer. And yes, by definition, tragedy is not happy. However, tragedy would not be successful—would not draw crowds—if it didn’t have more than just misery. Tragedy, I believe, shows the truest depths of human emotion. Tragedy can’t just be sad. It has to have a sort of fulfillment to it otherwise well… what was the point, right? Here, I’ll give you some examples… (spoilers to follow!)
In LES MISÉRABLES, while the tragic element is undeniable, it isn’t just a hopeless, sad mess. We see the happiness that Jean Valjean has in being able to see Cosette again when he dies. We get to see Valjean feeling fulfillment in his life. Every character but Javert in LES MIZ dies in a way that is fulfilling to them. For the students, they die fighting for the freedom that pulled them all together. Éponine dies in the arms of the person she loves. Valjean dies being with family and being at peace.
With A TALE OF TWO CITIES, Sydney Carton’s death is definitely tragic but, like with the deaths in LES MIZ, Sydney dies a fulfilling death, knowing that he saved Charles’ life and that he did this one last thing for Lucie. This is made evident in his last words: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest I go to, than I have ever known.” In Sydney’s last moments, he’s happier than he’s ever been in his life. And while it still pulls tears from the audience, we understand that he’s done what he knew he had to do, and it makes for a very satisfying ending.
Since I brought up Shakespeare at the beginning of this post, let’s revisit him, shall we? In ROMEO AND JULIET, we all know that the two protagonists die. Where’s the satisfaction in that? Well… that their families reconciled and were able to get past their differences which led Romeo and Juliet to all of the strife they had to face in life.
So, this has just been a few of my thoughts on tragedy. What do you think about tragedy? And, what’s your favorite tragedy/tragic character? Vielen Dank und tschüss!