Posted in Literary Genres, Literature

Isn’t That Tragic?

Spoiler Alert!

I never was a huge Shakespeare fan, though I enjoy his plays when I read them. These days I mostly read them along with my students or my kids. Right now it’s Julius Caesar season.

Sometimes I find tallying the dead bodies in Shakespearean tragedies amusing. If you don’t find humor here, you’re missing out. That’s why I love this graphic, which gives a body count for each play. And we’ve got some unique modes of death–to say the least! Characters eat hot coals!? Are stabbed and baked into pies!? There’s some food for thought (pun intended).

On a serious note, I wanted to define “tragedy” and “comedy” in a traditional sense. We’ve all heard of the elements of tragedy, like the fall of the tragic hero and DEATH. Comedy is more confusing, especially when referring to classic literature: it doesn’t mean funny, like “ha-ha.” It is the opposite of tragedy, in which the outcome of the play/story is usually marriage, or at least couples pairing off and metaphorically walking hand-in-hand into the sunset.

The happy ending of a comedy carried over into novels as they began appearing in the eighteenth century. Novels had only one traditional ending: marriage. Of course that’s changed over time.

So, do you prefer a tragedy or a comedy?

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