Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

Ros King (University of Southampton)
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Theory and Definition of Tragedy

The definition of a literary genre is always problematic. Description of specific examples often slides into prescription of what the genre should be like in a rather circular attempt to measure how well those examples adhere to an ideal. In the case of tragedy, this is because theoretical writing has often stemmed from a need to defend theatre from the charge that it is an inherently immoral activity. Such attacks have been commonplace for as long as theatre has existed, partly because theatre so obviously brings to life in the person of the actor a mere fiction (even a “lie”), or a shadow of reality (see Plato Republic 595c, 598d, 605c-d, 607a, 602 b); partly because this …

2988 words

Citation: King, Ros. "Tragedy". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 01 November 2004 [, accessed 24 September 2023.]

1132 Tragedy 2 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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