Tragedy is a play dealing with sad events, having an unhappy ending specially dealing with the
tragic flaw of a hero of great importance. It is based on the sufferings of human beings resulting in the
emotions of pity and fear. It also depicts a serious subject matter of suffering and leading towards great
disasters. Tragedy often ends with the death of the hero or high stature character or natural catastrophe.
There are many types of tragedies but I will mainly focus on five main types.
1- Revenge tragedy
2- Social tragedy
4- Heroic tragedy
5- Domestic tragedy
It is a types of tragedy mainly focused on the theme of revenge for an imaginary or a real cause.
It was famous in Jacobean era as well as Elizabethan era. Its great example is Hamlet by Shakespeare.
There are two important playwrights of revenge tragedy.
Lucius Seneca was a famous playwright of revenge tragedy of the 1 st century. He has written many plays
with this theme as Hercules Furens, Troades, Medea, Agamemnon and Octavia. Seneca’s Thystes is a
tale of revenge and horror with cannibalism, and is identified the most famous revenge tragedy of its time.
In the struggle of power between two brothers Arteus and Thystes there is a clear theme of revenge.
William Shakespeare was a playwright and English poet in the 16 th century. His plays like Hamlet and
Titus Andronicus depicts the theme of revenge and anger. His elements of revenge comedy were similar
to Seneca’s tragedies.
Titus Andronicus is about the madness of the Titus who wanted to take revenge on the sons of Tamora
for their wrong doings with Lavinia. This race of revenge makes him kill everybody on the way to satisfy
his anger. The main theme of the play was the revenge between Tamora and her sons but there were many
people whom he seeks avenge. This is a prominent theme of revenge tragedy.
Hamlet is a well written tragedy by Shakespeare based on the tragic conflict of Hamlet and Claudius and
the conflict is based on revenge. In this tragedy two of the fathers were brutally killed, the first one is king
hamlet who was supposed to avenged by the prince hamlet. The other murder was of Polonius whose
revenge was to taken by his son Laertes. They both went to take revenge of their fathers and used
different methods to achieve their goals. So we can say that Hamlet is an important revenge tragedy.
It is a type of modern tragedy in which the conflict between the society and protagonist. He
becomes the victim of society and its ill treatments. This tragedy is extreme social in its structure as its
giving deep analysis of society and its behavior with the individuals.
Arthur Miller is a great writer of social issues. Death of Salesman is a social tragedy depicting the
family issues with protagonist and society. He is misfit in the society because the society is being unjust
with him and causing him tragic end.
Willy Lo man was working in a company for many years and gave his all struggles to introduce the
company to many other cities. He often says to his colleagues that he is a vital person for this company.
Willy lo man has big dreams as having a big house and a car to travel but his dreams were not
accomplished with his little pay. He is misfit in the capitalistic society where instead of being ideal he
needs to be practical and hardworking. In the age of sixty-three he still works and gets very low pay that
he was unable to pay his instalments and has to borrow money from his neighbors.
His failure on being successful and his sons on being settle in the society made me irritated and
frustrating. Willy lo man thinks himself as a vital person for the firm but he was not aware the fact that a
man is only needed till when he makes profit for the company. When he is incapable of earning the profit
he is no longer desired.
To Conclude it can be said that “Death of salesman” is a social tragedy in which there is conflict between
the society and its individuals.
A Doll’s House is a social tragedy by Henrik Ibsen. He converted drama from entertainment to social
problems. He broke the romantic tradition to realism and real portrayals of individuals and focused on
psychological traumas. He points out the weak position of the women in the society. In Dolls house Nora
was accused of borrowing money from his husband’s friend with his consent. Nora was unable to pretend
that everything is well in her house. She was disturbed by the fact that she was kept by her husband as a
doll in the house without any rights or sentiments. She left her husband to divorce him in the era where
divorce was stigmatized. Nora’s decision was taken as a taboo of divorcing a husband but later on this
approach changed. So it is evident that A doll’s house is a social tragedy touching social issues to its
depth and trying to observe the evils of the society.
Tragicomedy is a literary device used in works of literature, it contains both comedy and tragedy
elements. Most often the characters in these plays are exaggerated and there sometimes comes the happy
ending after many serious events.
Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare is a tragicomedy, though it has comic elements but yet a lot tragic
characters are there as well as tragic incidents. One of the tragic incident is Antonio’s loss of life. The
play ends with a happy union of characters and Antonio is also saved from tragic end. Due to the comic as
well tragic incidents of the play it is considered as tragicomedy.
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Becket is also considered as a tragicomedy because of its atmosphere
which is dark and gloomy. The characters were all suffering from the tragedy that they have nothing to do
with their lives. They want someone to come into their lives to make it better. The disappointment of
nobody to come makes them tragic and upset. To pass their time they indulge themselves into aimless
activities. This absurdity of life of the characters make it tragicomedy.
This tragedy is of the domestic life of married people. The problems and issues dealt in this type
are related to day to day life. It belongs to the tragedy type in which there are common man presented as
hero instead of the Aristotle’s hero of great stature. This tragedy presents common man as tragic hero
suffering violence at domestic level. It has many examples like Othello by Shakespeare is considered as a
domestic tragedy due to its settings and atmosphere. The theme of jealousy is also depicted as domestic
tragedy of Othello’s life. Othello himself was not jealous person but he was made by Iago. Othello was
not given any post on favor he got everything on his abilities. He by telling his travel tales wins the heart
of Desdemona. The end of the play is tragic as Othello kills his wife in domestic aggression and by the
tricks of Iago his subordinate.
Heroic tragedy is mostly depicted as having bombastic language as well as rich scenery to depict
great heroic qualities. It often chooses between the love and patriotic duties. The Conquest of Granada
by John Dryden was considered as a heroic tragedy in its era. It depicts heroic tragedy as a new dimension
that appreciated heroic figures and actions in meters and rhymes that pay more attention to the dignity of
their actions. Dryden tried to match the meter and rhymes of the ancient Latin heroic verses. The tragedy
concerned with the Battle of Granada fought among Moors and Spanish heroes which results in heroic fall
of Granada. So the setting, background, embellishment of language all comes under the heroic tragedy
and is a great genre of restoration period.
To conclude we can say that there are various types of tragedies and the above mentioned are
more famous and important in English literature. By going through these types of tragedy one can get the
clear idea of tragedy and its types.