Full Text



Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405168908.2010.x


Chaucer's definition of tragedy as         a certain storie, As olde books maken us memorie, of hym that stood in great prosperitee, And is yfallen out of high degree, Into myserie, and endeth wrecchedly echoes Aristotle's “virtuous man brought from prosperity to adversity,” although Chaucer's definition omits the moral dimension that was crucial to Aristotle. Aristotle, whose theory, modeled on Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex , remained the normative standard for the aesthetic assessment of tragedy from the late Middle Ages through the eighteenth century, favors “an air of design” in what brings about the suffering and fall of the tragic protagonist. The most important part of tragedy for Aristotle is thus, perhaps surprisingly, not the character but the P lot , for in this way the dialectic between fate and the character's doomed, if dignified, responses can be dramatized. Structured by a beginning, middle, and end, and complicated by a reversal or peripeteia , the plot aims to effect in the audience – to allay Plato's fears of immoral provocation – a vicarious emotional discharge, a catharsis of pity and fear. Aristotle's moral and aesthetic stipulation that tragedy be “serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude” assigns tragedy the affirmative existential and political function of asserting the unexpendable value of the individual in society. Although contestatory and revisionary, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

Log In

You are not currently logged-in to Blackwell Reference Online

If your institution has a subscription, you can log in here:


     Forgotten your password?

Find out how to subscribe.

Your library does not have access to this title. Please contact your librarian to arrange access.

[ access key 0 : accessibility information including access key list ] [ access key 1 : home page ] [ access key 2 : skip navigation ] [ access key 6 : help ] [ access key 9 : contact us ] [ access key 0 : accessibility statement ]

Blackwell Publishing Home Page

Blackwell Reference Online ® is a Blackwell Publishing Inc. registered trademark
Technology partner: Semantico Ltd.

Blackwell Publishing and its licensors hold the copyright in all material held in Blackwell Reference Online. No material may be resold or published elsewhere without Blackwell Publishing's written consent, save as authorised by a licence with Blackwell Publishing or to the extent required by the applicable law.

Back to Top