Poetics by Aristotle

Define Tragedy and Its Elements

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Tragedy is a genre of drama that was developed in Greece around the 6th century BCE. As Aristotle defines it, tragedy is a serious drama in which people have a complete change of fortune from good to bad. This article takes a closer look at what exactly tragedy is and does with Aristotle’s definition as its framework, starting with some general features before moving on to special features and concluding with looking at what Aristotle means by tragedy being “an imitation of an action that is serious.”

Aristotle’s definition of tragedy was that it represented the story of a noble and virtuous person who experiences a reversal or change for the worse. The reversal or change is usually brought about by some error on the part of the protagonist, but sometimes it is due to an act of god.

Tragedy is a form of drama that was first defined by Aristotle in his work “Poetics.” Aristotle used the term to differentiate between drama and comedy. He considered tragedy a more serious type of drama than comedy, because it deals with depth and seriousness in life, whereas comedy deals with trivialities.

Tragedy is one of the oldest forms of storytelling, often thought to have originated in ancient Greece. Tragedies typically explore the characters’ psychology and are told in a narrative format, often with captivating plots.

Aristotle’s definition of tragedy is an imitation of a serious and complete action where there is a change in fortune brought about by the protagonist’s downfall. It also has to have certain elements – plot, character, thought, diction dialogue, spectacle, and Music.

Read more about: Explain the Concept of Tragedy by Aristotle

Elements of Tragedy

Aristotle’s Elements of Tragedy is one of the most important and influential works on the nature of tragedy. In it, Aristotle outlines the six key elements that make up a tragedy: plot, character, diction, thought, spectacle, and song. These elements are essential to understanding the tragic form and how it can be used to create a powerful and moving experience for the audience.


Aristotle’s definition of tragedy is a play with a serious subject matter that ends in disaster. The main character, or protagonist, must be of high moral character and must experience a fall from grace. The play should also evoke pity and fear in the audience.

One example of a tragedy according to Aristotle is Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. In the play, Macbeth starts out as a good man but his ambition leads him to commit murder. This ultimately leads to his downfall and death. The audience feels both pity and fear for Macbeth as he goes from being a good man to a murderer.

Aristotle’s idea of the perfect tragedy is one in which the protagonist, usually of high birth, experiences a fall from grace. The story should be set in a time period different from the present day, and the audience should be able to empathize with the protagonist’s plight.

One of the best examples of Aristotle’s idea of tragedy is William Shakespeare’s play “Macbeth”. In this play, Macbeth is a brave and honorable general who is driven by ambition and a desire for power. His actions lead to his downfall, and ultimately his death. The audience is able to empathize with Macbeth, even as he commits terrible acts, because they understand his motivations.


Aristotle’s idea of tragedy is based on the concept of character. For Aristotle, a tragic hero is a person of high status who falls from grace as a result of their own flaws. This fall from grace is what makes the character tragic, and it is also what makes their story compelling.

One of the most famous examples of a tragic hero is Oedipus from Sophocles’ play Oedipus Rex. Oedipus is born into royalty but fate intervenes and leads him to kill his father and marry his mother. This horrific act sets off a chain of events that leads to Oedipus’ downfall. While Oedipus is ultimately responsible for his own downfall, it is his tragic flaw of hubris that leads him to make the choices that lead to his ruin.

Aristotle’s idea of tragedy can be seen in many other works, both ancient and modern. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is another well-known example of a tragedy. In this story, Romeo and Juliet fall in love despite being members of rival families. Their relationship leads to tragedy when Romeo kills Juliet’s cousin in a fight and Juliet takes her own life in grief.


Aristotle’s idea of tragedy is a bit different from what we think of tragedy today. For Aristotle, a tragedy was not simply a story about someone who suffers or dies. Rather, it was a story that brings about a sense of catharsis in the audience. Catharsis is a release of emotions, and Aristotle thought that tragedies could provide this release in a way that other stories could not.

One of the most famous examples of Aristotle’s idea of tragedy is the play Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. In this play, Oedipus is informed that he has killed his father and married his mother. This news causes him to blind himself and leave his kingdom. The audience experiences a catharsis as they watch Oedipus suffer for his tragic actions.

Aristotle’s idea of tragedy is still influential today, even though we don’t always think of tragedies in the same way that he did. Many modern stories that are considered tragedies, such as Romeo and Juliet or Death of a Salesman, focus on the suffering of the main character.


Aristotle’s idea of tragedy is based on the notion of anagnorisis, or recognition. This is the moment when the protagonist realizes his or her situation and makes a choice that leads to his or her downfall. For example, in Sophocles’ play Oedipus Rex, Oedipus realizes that he has killed his father and married his mother. This knowledge leads him to blind himself and leave Thebes.

Anagnorisis is a key component of Aristotle’s idea of tragedy because it allows for catharsis, or the purging of emotions. In order to achieve catharsis, Aristotle believed that tragedy must evoke pity and fear in the audience. These emotions must then be released in order for the audience to achieve a sense of cleansing and purification.

Aristotle’s idea of tragedy has been influential for centuries and continues to be one of the most important concepts in literary criticism.


Aristotle’s ideas about tragedy were based on his observations of the ancient Greek tragedians. He believed that tragedy should be an imitation of reality, and that it should be based on the principle of catharsis. Catharsis is the idea that tragedy can purify the emotions and provide a release from them. Aristotle believed that tragedy should provoke pity and fear in its audience, and that these emotions should be experienced in a way that is purifying and cleansing.

Aristotle’s idea of catharsis has been influential in many different ways. For example, many modern theorists have used it to explain the appeal of horror movies. Horror movies often contain scenes of violence and gore that can be quite disturbing. However, they also typically have a happy ending, which provides a sense of relief and satisfaction. This cathartic effect is one of the things that makes horror movies so popular.


For Aristotle, tragedy was the highest form of music. It was a way to express the emotions and ideas of the human soul. Tragedy was also a way to teach people about life and how to live it. Aristotle believed that tragedy should not be used to entertain people or make them laugh. Instead, it should be used to make them think about life and its difficult choices.

Causes of Tragedy

  • Aristotle’s idea of tragedy is a bit different from the modern day understanding of the word. For Aristotle, tragedy was not simply a genre of literature or theater. It was a specific form with its own set of rules and conventions.
  • Aristotle believed that tragedy should evoke feelings of pity and fear in the audience. These emotions should then lead to a sense of catharsis, or purification. In other words, after watching a tragedy, the audience should feel cleansed of these negative emotions.
  • Aristotle also believed that tragedy should imitate real life as closely as possible. This is why many of his examples come from Greek mythology. He felt that these stories were more relatable to the average person than contemporary stories about kings and queens.
  • Ultimately, Aristotle believed that tragedy was a way to help people understand the human condition and to purge themselves of negative emotions. While his ideas may seem a bit dated, they still hold value today.


Aristotle’s definition of tragedy is a complex and nuanced one, but at its core, tragedy is the story of a protagonist who suffers a downfall as the result of a tragic flaw. This fall is usually the result of hubris, or overweening pride, and it leads to the protagonist’s ruin. In order to be truly tragic, Aristotle says, the story must be about someone who is essentially good and who experiences a fall from grace that is not their fault. The audience must also feel pity and fear for the protagonist, and must be left with a sense of catharsis, or purification, at the end.

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