Term Paper: Tragedy and Comedy

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Tragedy and Comedy

The theater can be considered as a reproduction of the fundamental conditions of human existence. The theater can be seen as a set of symbols reconstructing the conditio humana as a basic theater representation contains all the trials and tribulations of life. Acting can be deciphered as the attempt to assume a different identity. In this sense, the theater is a continuous creation and changing of identities. Irrespective of cultural and epochal differences, this has remained a constant as far as theatrical performance. There are three theater genres each reconstructing human experience: comedy, tragedy and drama. Nonetheless, despite notable difference in characters, plot, outcome, tone etc. these three genres have one thing in common, i.e. they reflect human nature. Thesis: This paper analyzes the manner in which human nature is reflected in the case of the three theater genres.

Western theatre was born in the sixth century BC in Athens, Greece with the birth of the tragedy. As far as its themes, the tragedy usually deals with the ordeals of the life of a high rank character such as a king, general or mythological hero who is faced with inescapable fate. The fact that he cannot escape his implacable destiny is generally explained by his human condition which pushes him to make a serious transgression of some sort, very often murder. The plot ends with the death of the main character. Nonetheless, the fate of this character is not restricted to his personal life; due to his high rank, his life and death frequently affect the fate of a state, kingdom or people. Also, he carries the responsibility of his people, as for instance, in the case of Oedipus where Oedipus finds the murderer of the king, the gods will send plague to decimate the people of Thebes.

Any definition or general understanding of tragedy as a whole depends first and foremost on an understanding of Greek tragedy in particular." (Silk: 3) From Ancient to modern scholars one of the few constants in their area of study has been Greek tragedy. Also, in order to understand Greek tragedy, it is important to understand the cultural context that created them in the sense that tragedy developed as a response to what was happening in Athenian society at the time. Similarly to Biblical parables, tragedies were meant to illuminate the right and wrongs path in life. In many cases, tragedies employed humor that was able to illustrate the wrong in life and make the audience relate to the twists of the plot. Also, the tragic ending was a form of purification - the catharsis - which gave rise to pathos, a Greek word for "instructive suffering" (Silk: 167).

Hamlet" is one of the most famous tragedies ever written. Written by William Shakespeare during the first years of the seventeenth century, "Hamlet" closely follows the recipe of the tragedy. The main character is prince Hamlet of Denmark, the son of Queen Gertrude and the late King Hamlet. His inner fight is generated by the disgust towards the actions of his uncle who marries his mother and becomes king "My father's brother; but no more like my father / Than I to Hercules" (I.ii.151-152), and what he perceives as his mother's weakness and betrayal "She married: -- O, most wicked speed, to post / With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!" (I.ii.155-156). Also, Hamlet is consumed with doubt throughout the entire play. He cannot be sure the ghost before him is that of his late father, he is doubtful as to Claudius' intentions and questions whether or not it is his duty to revenge his father's untimely death. Furthermore, Hamlet's actions have far reaching consequences and influence the welfare of his family and ultimately of his country. The play ends with Hamlet's death which only enforces the inescapability of fate.

Athens was also the birthplace of comedy which was created shortly after tragedy. It is a much broader genre than tragedy; it is about ordinary people and has a happy ending. Common themes are conflicts between parents and offspring, slaves and masters etc. And the topic is approached in a light humorous manner. Another source of humor as far as the plot is one character's attempt to deceive or fool another. Nonetheless, the approach of comedy is frequently mocking and ironic, and its capacity to mirror human relations is not to be underestimated. Recognized as an art form during the time of Aristotle, the tragedy became popular in the cities… [END OF PREVIEW]

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