Shakespearean Tragedy and Its Elements.

Emma | 07 - 21 - 2022
Shakespearean tragedy

Shakespeare’s tragedies have a remarkable way of capturing the audience. The audience is riveted by his depictions of human emotions, which arouse strong feelings in them. William Shakespeare was a prolific writer during the English Renaissance, also known as the Early Modern Period, and belonged to the Jacobean and Elizabethan ages of British theater.

Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets, 2 narrative poems, 38 plays, and a wide range of other compositions. Among all of his works, his tragedies are incredibly well-liked and continue to draw attention from audiences even in the twenty-first century. The structure of a Shakespearean tragedy consists of five parts: exposition, rising action, falling action, denouement, and climax. Below are the key elements that distinguish Shakespeare’s tragedy from other English classics.

Tragic Hero A charismatic and intellectual protagonist of high standing eventually meets a tragic end because of a flaw in his character. 
Hamartia It is a negative trait a tragic hero has.
Tragic waste This is where good is destroyed along with evil.
External conflict & Internal conflict External conflicts give rise to internal conflicts: confusion, critical dilemmas, and moral ambiguity.
Supernatural elements. Witches, bad omens, and prophecies.
Catharsis An emotional release to relieve unconscious conflicts. 
Absence of Poetic Justice Poetic justice is a case where good is relieved and evil is punished. In Shakespeare’s tragedy, both good and evil are dead in the end.


How many plays did William Shakespeare write?
  • A. 12
  • B. 28
  • C. 38
  • D. 45

The seven elements mentioned above are the key essence of a Shakespearean tragedy. Shakespearean tragedies always have a high-status protagonist, such as a king, duke, prince, or member of the armed forces. Despite being well educated and honorable, the protagonist will have a negative trait—may be excessively ambitious or greedy—that ultimately leads to their demise. For example, in Shakespeare’s Othello, the protagonist Othello, an honorable military general, turns into a cruel husband because of his inferiority complex and lack of trust in his spouse. He kills himself as well as his loyal and loving wife, Desdemona. The character Desdemona is innocent, caring, and selfless. The death of Desdemona is a tragic waste, which leads to the absence of poetic justice. In Julius Caesar and Macbeth, it was the protagonist’s ambitiousness that led to their downfall. 

Why is Romeo and Juliet a tragedy?

In Romeo and Juliet, a long-standing feud between two wealthy families turns violent. Love is portrayed in Romeo and Juliet as a violent, exuberant, and overwhelming force that triumphs over all other ideals and feelings. 

What is Shakespeare’s saddest tragedy?

Hamlet is considered Shakespeare’s saddest tragedy because It depicts the problems of Danish royals in dealing with fundamental concepts like loss, betrayal, and family. Through the character of Hamlet, a Danish prince, Shakespeare masterfully illustrates what it means to be alienated and to experience existential sorrow.

All these components that give Shakespeare’s tragedy immortality. Hope this blog on Shakespearean Tragedy fascinated you. Take part in our quiz on Shakespearean tragedy and its elements and to test your skills?

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