tragedy - Theatre History II Professor Brian Rose Tragedy...

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Theatre History II Professor Brian Rose Tragedy: Poor, Misunderstood Tragedy. Oedipus. The mere mention of the name brings up all manner of conversation about psychology ala Freud, about the nature of human existence, and makes one ask; what is that brings man to his knees in defeat – his own actions, or the universe he inhabits? Oedipus Tyrannus ; a man of ‘high morals’ who, without his own knowledge, is dragged through a series of (seemingly coincidental) events which bring him to murder his own father, marry his mother – precisely the fate he had tried so adamantly to avoid . His story has stuck in our collective consciousness for thousands of years because it continually speaks to one of our single greatest fears: unalterable fate. Oedipus continues to terrify us, but is considered by many to be a paragon for a theatrical fossil. More specifically, most scholars believe that Tragedy as a theatrical form is dead. Not so. I assert that Tragedy lives on – but it is no longer as the story of a great King who fell. It is now the story of a common man, who falsely believed he could become a King. Before discussing the current state of Tragedy, it is essential to understand what it was it was, at its origin. Tragedy, or Tragoedia, has roots in the various rituals of god worship practiced by the ancient Greeks, often involving the sacrifice of animals. Goats in particular were the chosen sacrifice, and eventually the rituals received their moniker and became tied to the goat itself, subsequently becoming known as ‘goat-songs’. These rituals, apart from being a cornerstone of spirituality and religious worship, also had a
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very strong communal aspect to them, and were rather enjoyable to the ancient Greeks. At a certain point, there was a decision made to bring these experiences to a bigger audience, and these ceremonies of god-worship began to include the telling of mythological and heroic stories, and the actor was added to the picture in order to answer questions posed by the choral group. (These brothers in arms were known as Hypokrites, which translates directly to “answerer”). Watching these stories being played out before their eyes – often stories of legendary figures whose exploits were well known throughout Greece – was very exciting, and more than explains the massive turnouts for the City Dionysia. For the Greeks it was all highly enjoyable, and a cathartic way of paying proper tribute to the deities that shaped the world around them. The audience members were able to worship and to search their own souls, all while being truly moved by the exploits – or tragic falls - of the ‘characters’ (loosely used term) on the massive stage. Over time, Tragedy as a theatrical form became its own entity, resulting in the
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tragedy - Theatre History II Professor Brian Rose Tragedy...

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