Showing posts with label tragedy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tragedy. Show all posts

Friday, 8 August 2014

Tragedy: Selected Quotations

National Theatre: Othello


Tragedy is like strong acid -- it dissolves away all but the very gold of truth.
D. H. Lawrence

'the story depicts also the troubled part of the hero's life which precedes and leads up to his death; and an instantaneous death occurring by 'accident' in the midst of prosperity would not suffice for it. It is, in fact, essentially a tale of suffering and calamity conducting to death.' A.C. Bradley, Shakespearean Tragedy

Pathos truly is the mode for the pessimist. But tragedy requires a nicer balance between what is possible and what is impossible. And it is curious, although edifying, that the plays we revere, century after century, are the tragedies. In them, and in them alone, lies the belief-optimistic, if you will, in the perfectibility of man.
Arthur Miller, Tragedy and the Common Man

Tragedies are always discussed as if they took place in a void, but actually each tragedy is conditioned by its setting, local and global. The events of 11 September 2001 are not exception.
Tariq Ali, The Clash of Fundamentalisms

Farce may often border on tragedy; indeed, farce is nearer tragedy in its essence than comedy is.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 20 August 1833.

The tragedy of modern man is not that he knows less and less about the meaning of his own life, but that it bothers him less and less.
Václav Havel, Letters to Olga (1988)
'The suffering and calamity are, moreover, exceptional. They befall a conspicuous person. They are themselves of some striking kind. They are also, as a rule, unexpected, and contrasted with previous happiness or glory. A tale, for example, of a man slowly worn to death by disease, poverty, little cares, sordid vices, petty persecutions, however piteous or dreadful it might be, would not be tragic in the Shakespearean sense.'
A.C. Bradley, Shakespearean Tragedy

It often happens that the real tragedies of life occur in such an inartistic manner that they hurt us by their crude violence, their absolute incoherence, their absurd want of meaning, their entire lack of style.
Oscar Wilde

Tragedy speaks not of secular dilemmas which may be resolved by rational innovation, but of the unalterable bias toward inhumanity and destruction in the drift of the world.
George Steiner

A comedy is just a tragedy interrupted, I once said. Do you finish with the kiss or when she opens her eyes to tell him she loves him and sees blonde hairs on his collar? 
Alan Ayckbourn, A Crash Course in Playwriting (1993)

When any calamity has been suffered, the first thing to be remembered is how much has been escaped.
Samuel Johnson

That there should one Man die ignorant who had capacity for Knowledge, this I call a tragedy.
Thomas Carlyle

Such exceptional suffering and calamity, then, affecting the hero, and—we must now add—generally extending far and wide beyond him, so as to make the whole scene a scene of woe, are an essential ingredient in tragedy and a chief source of the tragic emotions, and especially of pity. But the proportions of this ingredient, and the direction taken by tragic pity, will naturally vary greatly.
A.C. Bradley, Shakespearean Tragedy

A tragedy can never suffer by delay: a comedy may, because the allusions or the manners represented in it maybe temporary.
Horace Walpole, Letter To Robert Jephson




The true end of tragedy is to purify the passions.
Aristotle

The calamities of tragedy do not simply happen, nor are they sent; they proceed mainly from actions, and those the actions of men.We see a number of human beings placed in certain circumstances; and we see, arising from the co-operation of their characters in these circumstances, certain actions. These actions beget others, and these others beget others again, until this series of inter-connected deeds leads by an apparently inevitable sequence to a catastrophe. 
A.C. Bradley, Shakespearean Tragedy

Love is blind, as they say, and because love is blind, it often leads to tragedy: to conflicts in which one love is pitted against another love, and something has to give, with suffering guaranteed in any resolution.
Daniel Dennett, Breaking the Spell (2006)

In this world there are two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it. The last is much the worst.
Oscar Wilde

A total reverse of fortune, coming unawares upon a man who 'stood in high degree,' happy and apparently secure,—such was the tragic fact to the mediaeval mind. It appealed strongly to common human sympathy and pity; it startled also another feeling, that of fear. It frightened men and awed them. It made them feel that man is blind and helpless, the plaything of an inscrutable power, called by the name of Fortune or some other name,—a power which appears to smile on him for a little, and then on a sudden strikes him down in his pride.
A.C. Bradley, Shakespearean Tragedy

A tragic situation exists precisely when virtue does not triumph but when it is still felt that man is nobler than the forces which destroy him.
George Orwell

The closer a man approaches tragedy the more intense is his concentration of emotion upon the fixed point of his commitment, which is to say the closer he approaches what in life we call fanaticism.
Arthur Miller

The real tragedy of England as I see it, is the tragedy of ugliness. The country is so lovely: the man-made England is so vile.
D.H. Lawrence, Nottingham and the Mining Countryside, 1936.

You get tragedy where the tree, instead of bending, breaks.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

We participate in tragedy. At comedy we only look.
Aldous Huxley

The tragedy of love is indifference.
W. Somerset Maugham, The Trembling of a Leaf
The centre of the tragedy, therefore, may be said with equal truth to lie in action issuing from character, or in character issuing in action.
A.C. Bradley, Shakespearean Tragedy

Tragedy delights by affording a shadow of the pleasure which exists in pain.
Percy Bysshe Shelley

The bad end unhappily, the good unluckily. That is what tragedy means.
Tom Stoppard

There are two tragedies in life. One is not to get your heart's desire. The other is to get it.
George Bernard Shaw

Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.
Charlie Chaplin
If we are to include the outer and the inner struggle in a conception more definite than that of conflict in general, we must employ some such phrase as 'spiritual force.' This will mean whatever forces act in the human spirit, whether good or evil, whether personal passion or impersonal principle; doubts, desires, scruples, ideas—whatever can animate, shake, possess, and drive a man's soul. [19]In a Shakespearean tragedy some such forces are shown in conflict.
A.C. Bradley, Shakespearean Tragedy

The little word is has its tragedies: it marries and identifies different things with the greatest innocence; and yet no two are ever identical, and if therein lies the charm of wedding them and calling them one, therein too lies the danger.
George Santayana

It is restful, tragedy, because one knows that there is no more lousy hope left. You know you're caught, caught at last like a rat with all the world on its back. And the only thing left to do is shout -- not moan, or complain, but yell out at the top of your voice whatever it was you had to say. What you've never said before. What perhaps you don't even know till now.
Jean Anouilh



The closer a man approaches tragedy the more intense is his concentration of emotion upon the fixed point of his commitment, which is to say the closer he approaches what in life we call fanaticism.
Arthur Miller, Collected Plays (1958)

Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically.
D. H. Lawrence

Tragedy springs from outrage; it protests at the conditions of life. It carries in it the possibilities of disorder, for all tragic poets have something of the rebelliousness of Antigone. Goethe, on the contrary, loathed disorder. He once said that he preferred injustice, signifying by that cruel assertion not his support for reactionary political ideals, but his conviction that injustice is temporary and reparable whereas disorder destroys the very possibilities of human progress. Again, this is an anti-tragic view; in tragedy it is the individual instance of injustice that informs the general pretence of order. One Hamlet is enough to convict a state of rottenness.
George Steiner

The great tragedy of Science the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact. 
Thomas Henry Huxley, Presidential Address at the British Association (1870)


Kozintsev - Shakespeare - Hamlet

Comedy is tragedy that happens to other people.
Angela Carter, Wise Children (1991)

Laughter is the climax in the tragedy of seeing, hearing and smelling self-consciously. Wyndham Lewis, Inferior Religions  (1917)

It is time, I think, that we who are without kings, took up this bright thread of our history and followed it to the only place it can possibly lead in our time-the heart and spirit of the average man.
Arthur Miller, Tragedy and the Common Man
Laughter is wine for the soul – laughter soft, or loud and deep, tinged through with seriousness. Comedy and tragedy step through life together, arm in arm, all along, out along, down along lea. A laugh is a great natural stimulator, a pushful entry into life; and once we can laugh, we can live. It is the hilarious declaration made by man that life is worth living.
Seán O'casey, The Green Crow (1956)

None but a poet can write a tragedy. For tragedy is nothing less than pain transmuted into exaltation by the alchemy of poetry.
Edith Hamilton

Envy is a horrible thing. It is unlike all other kinds of suffering in that there is no disguising it, no elevating it into tragedy. It is more than merely painful, it is disgusting.
George Orwell, Burmese Days (1934)

Tragedy obviously does not lie in a conflict of Right and Wrong, but in a collision between two different kinds of Right
Peter Shaffer, Equus (1973)

Here is tragedy and here is America. For the curse of the country, as well of all democracies, is precisely the fact that it treats its best men as enemies. The aim of our society, if it may be said to have an aim, is to iron them out. The ideal American, in the public sense, is a respectable vacuum.
H. L. Mencken, More Tips for Novelists, Chicago Tribune (2 May 1926)

What would be left of our tragedies if an insect were to present us his?
Emil Cioran

Marston is a writer of great merit, who rose to tragedy from the ground of comedy, and whose forte was not sympathy, either with the stronger or softer emotions, but an impatient scorn and bitter indignation against the vices and follies of men, which vented itself either in comic irony or in lofty invective. He was properly a satirist.
William Hazlitt, Lectures on the Dramatic Literature of the Age of Elizabeth (1820)

This world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel.
Horace Walpole

And everywhere we see them perishing, devouring one another and destroying themselves, often with dreadful pain, as though they came into being for no other end. Tragedy is the typical form of this mystery, because that greatness of soul which it exhibits oppressed, conflicting and destroyed, is the highest existence in our view. It forces the mystery upon us, and it makes us realise so vividly the worth of that which is wasted that we cannot possibly seek comfort in the reflection that all is vanity.
A.C. Bradley, Shakespearean Tragedy

We are all such accidents. We do not make up history and culture. We simply appear, not by our own choice. We make what we can of our condition with the means available. We must accept the mixture as we find it — the impurity of it, the tragedy of it, the hope of it.
Saul Bellow, Great Jewish Short Stories

Greek tragedy met her death in a different way from all the older sister arts: she died tragically by her own hand, after irresolvable conflicts, while the others died happy and peaceful at an advanced age. If a painless death, leaving behind beautiful progeny, is the sign of a happy natural state, then the endings of the other arts show us the example of just such a happy natural state: they sink slowly, and with their dying eyes they behold their fairer offspring, who lift up their heads in bold impatience. The death of Greek tragedy, on the other hand, left a great void whose effects were felt profoundly, far and wide; as once Greek sailors in Tiberius' time heard the distressing cry 'the god Pan is dead' issuing from a lonely island, now, throughout the Hellenic world, this cry resounded like an agonized lament: 'Tragedy is dead! Poetry itself died with it! Away, away with you, puny, stunted imitators! Away with you to Hades, and eat your fill of the old masters' crumbs!'
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy (1872)

Ophelia - Shakespeare's Hamlet

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Intro Shakespearean Tragedy




The publication of a new edition of Bradley’s Shakespearean Tragedy (1904) presents a timely opportunity to explore a classic expression of the theory and practice of tragic drama. This is also an opportunity for new readers to encounter a distinctive appreciation of Shakespeare’s work in the context of more recent literary and cultural theories. In the process, the obstacles to a clear understanding of what Bradley thought are explored, and we seek to explain why many critics were often hostile to his writings on Shakespeare. We then proceed to an interrogation of Bradley’s philosophy of tragedy in the context the wider project of the development of English Studies as an educational discipline since the end of the nineteenth century. This frame of analysis will also be informed by recent post-colonial theories which will be positioned within the context of literary study understood as a distinctive project of enlightened humane education. [...] One of the predicaments for Bradley, writing at the beginning of the twentieth century is how to accommodate a true representation of Shakespearean tragedy that responds to the ideology of the nineteenth century. He is writing in the context of the British imperial project and mass industrialisation, but ten years before the cataclysmic events of the First World War (1914-18). In this regard, the virtual absence of any historical particularities is a noteworthy silence in the text. One criticism might be that the romantic timelessness of Shakespeare seeks to naturalize a world order that is already showing signs of political if not ideological crisis.