Tragedy (2988 words)

Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

Ros King (University of Southampton)
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  • The Literary Encyclopedia. Volume : WORLD HISTORY AND IDEAS: A CROSS-CULTURAL VOLUME.


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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 …

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King, Ros. "Tragedy". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 01 November 2004
[, accessed 20 May 2018.]

Related Groups

  1. Literary Genres and Modes

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