Although the word ‘tragedy’ is often used loosely to describe anysort of disaster or misfortune, it more precisely refers to a work of art that probes with high seriousnessquestions concerning the role of man in the universe.
(Michel 1) It is a branchof drama that treats, in a serious anddignified style, the sorrowful or terrible events encountered or caused by aheroic individual. The word was first used by the Greek of Attica an ancientstate whose capital was in Athens. The word was used to describe a specifickind of play which was done during festivals and sponsored by the localgovernment upon which the community was to pay a small fee for admission. Theperformance however, was more religious than entertaining and was even attendedby the priests. Most of the materials for the plays was derived from the worksof a famous poet, Homer, and other forms of Greek communities. The achievementsof the three greatest Greek dramatists; Aeschylus (525–456 bce), Sophocles (c. 496–406 bce), and Euripides (c.
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480–406 bce) were so powerful that theword they first used for their plays survived and came to describe a literary genre. An extraordinarycharacter is always led to his or her downfall through their own weakness. Asuccessful tragedy evokes pity and fear from its audience. It can be furthercategorised into; revenge, domestic, bourgeois and Shakespearean tragedies.
The purpose of comedy on the other hand is to amuse the audience. Comedy is a literary genre and a type of dramatic work that is amusing and satiricalin its tone, in most cases, having a cheerful ending. The motif of this dramatic work is to triumph over spitefulcircumstance by creating comic effects, resulting in a happy or successfulconclusion.
It contains a story that illustrates peculiarities of ordinarypeople as supplements to the happy ending and the protagonist achieves theirgoal at the end (Backes 44). The source of the humour, context in which an author dialogues, and the delivery methods,including farce, satire,and parody (burlesques) creates a foundation for integrating comedy intomultiple sub-genres (Anthony 43). Tragedy is therefore the complete opposite of comedy, as tragedydeals with sorrowful and tragic events in a story. The Importance of Being Earnest, is a trivialcomedy for Serious People authored by Oscar Wilde. It was first performed on 14 February 1895 at the St James’sTheatre in London. It is a farcical comedy in which theprotagonists maintain a made-up personae, Jack and Algernon, to escapedifficult social obligations. Working within the social conventions of lateVictorian London, the drama’s major theme is the triviality with which ittreats institutions as serious as marriage as it brings out hypocrisy anddeception as the theme and does not keep the audience bored using satiricalscenes. This work was an early experiment in Victorian melodrama being a hybridcomposed of; part satire, part comedy of manners, and part intellectual farce,this play seems to have nothing at stake because the world it presents is soblatantly and ostentatiously artificial.
JackWorthing, the play’s protagonist, is a pillar of thecommunity in Hertfordshire, where he is guardian to Cecily Cardew, the pretty, eighteen-year-old granddaughter of the lateThomas Cardew, who found and adopted Jack when he was a baby (Oscar, A).Jack is a landowner and justice of the peace. He also has the mandate ofcaretaking for his tenants, farmers, and a number of servants and otheremployees. Oscar Wilde builds on the theme of hypocrisy and deception when theprotagonist introduces a nonexistent character known as Ernest who at first isJack’s younger brother who leads a scandalous life in pursuit of pleasure andis always getting into trouble of a sort that requires Jack to rush grimly offto his assistance. The character Ernest is jack’s excuse for disappearing oftenfor days at a time that is convenient for Jack.
No one but Jack knowsthat he himself is Ernest. Ernest is the name Jack goes by in London, which iswhere he really goes on these occasions probably since he has a motivation forhis found love, Gwendolen Fairfax, the cousin of hisbest friend, Algernon Moncrieff. Upon discovering an inscription inside Jack’s cigarette case addressed to”Uncle Jack” from someone who refers to herself as “little Cecily, Algernonsuspects that Jack is leading double lives which would develop the theme ofdeception later on when Jack discloses to hi his true identity as he plans topropose to Algernon’s cousin Gwendolen. This also prompts Algernon to createhis ‘phantom’ character called Bunburyist who de describes as one who leads adouble life. When jack proposes to Gwendolen, she makes it clear to him thatthe name ‘Ernest’ inspires absolute confidence in her and she will only marry aman named Earnest. Lady Bracknell, who is Gwendolen’s mother, interviews herson-in-law to be and realizes that his background is not all pleasing to her asit makes her scandalous so she forbids the match between Jack and her daughter.
Jack, disappointed, ‘kills’ his imaginary brother Earnest and goes back home tomourn. Little does he know of the plot already developed by his friend Algernonfor he had already ‘resurrected’ the phantom brother of Jack and was alreadycourting Cecily by disguising himself as “Ernest”. Jack’s relationship stillprogresses and he intends to christen himself Ernest to retain Gwendolen’sconcept of an “Ernest husband”.
Algernon has adopted the idea and has done thesame and they have both visited Dr. Chasuble who is to do his job later in theafternoon. Gwendolen has eloped and is in Jack’s Manor where she meets Cecilywho serves her and makes her comfortable.
As they interact, their introductionsparks an argument about who is being deceived. The two ladies both claim theengagement to Ernest, who is at this point is either Jack or Algernon. Jack andAlgernon arrive toward the climax of this confrontation, each having separatelymade arrangements with Dr. Chasuble to be christened Ernest later that day.Each of the young ladies points out that the other has been deceived. Jack isforced to admit that he has no brother and that ‘Ernest’ is a complete fiction.
When Jack and Algernon enter from the garden, the two women confront them.Cecily asks Algernon why he pretended to be her guardian’s brother. Algernontells her he did it in order to meet her. Gwendolen asks Jack whether hepretended to have a brother in order to come into London to see her as often aspossible, and she interprets his evasive reply as an affirmation. The women aresomewhat appeased but still concerned over the issue of the name.
However, whenJack and Algernon tell Gwendolen and Cecily that they have both madearrangements to be christened Ernest that afternoon, all is forgiven and thetwo pairs of lovers embrace. After this moment, of hypocrisy discovery, thearrival of Lady Bracknell follows, she bribed her maid to learn the whereaboutsof her daughter Gwendolen and has followed her. Lady Bracknell is however, notaffirming to the match between her daughter and Jack but supports that ofCecily and Algernon.
It is at this point that Jack introduces a blackmail gameplan to curtail his mother-in-law’s to be decision by citing that he would notapprove of the union between Algernon and Cecily if his match with Gwendolen.The unyielding of Lady Bracknell is however, smashed by the arrival of Dr.Chasuble and Cecily’s governess, Miss Prism. There is an interaction from thehistorical acquaintances between Lady Bracknell and Miss Prism and an eventualdisclosure of the legitimate parents of Jack being Lady Bracknell’s sister. Furthermore,Jack had been initially christened “Ernest John.” The play culminates throughby the audience being brought to the reassurance that all these years Jack hasunknowingly been telling the truth: Ernest is indeedhis name, as is Jack, and he does have a deceitful youngerbrother, Algernon. The play ends with Jack having Gwendolen in his arms andalso recognizing “the Importance of Being Earnest.
” Antigone is an adaptation of Sophocles’s classic produced inthe context of the anti-fascist French resistance, is Jean Anouilh’s mostoften-produced work today (Springler 232). Antigone premiered in Paris in 1944, butAnouilh had written his tale of lone rebellion against the state two yearsearlier, inspired by an act of resistance during Paris’s occupation by theNazis. Antigone is the girlwho will rise up alone and die young. Haemon, Antigone’s dashing fiancé, chatswith Ismene, her beautiful sister. Haemon inexplicably proposed to Antigone onthe night of a ball.
Creon is king of Thebes, bound to the duties of rule. Next to thesisters’ sits the Nurse and Queen Eurydice. Eurydice will knit until the timecomes for her to go to her room and die. Finally three Guards play cards,indifferent to the tragedy before them. Anouilh uses this work to create atheme of absolute determination as shall be depicted in the play illustrationherein. Anouilh develops the plot byintroducing the audience to the protagonist’s family set up and a slightbackground of the later to be adamantly determined lady, even unto her death(Anouilh and Freeman). Oedipus, Antigone and Ismene’s father, had two sons,Eteocles and Polynices. Upon Oedipus’ death, it was agreed that each would takethe throne from one year to the next.
After the first year, however, Eteocles,the elder, refused to step down. Polynices, who had served in the army,collaborated six foreign princes marched on to Thebes but were all defeated. Inthe process, the two brothers killed each other in a duel, making Creon king.Creon ordered Eteocles buried in honour and left Polynices to rot on the painof death. One of the dawns, when the house was still asleep, Antigone sneakedin and meets the Nurse puzzled seemed to ask where she had been.
SuddenlyIsmene enters, also asking where Antigone has been. Antigone sends the Nurseaway for coffee. Ismene knows the trait of the new King, full of pride andloathe, declares that they cannot bury Polynices and that she must understandCreon’s intentions. Antigone, full of determination to treat her fallen brotherfairly and equally, refuses and sends Ismene to go back to bed. Suddenly Haemonenters and Antigone asks him to hold her with all his strength.
She tells himthat she will never be able to marry him, since she was determined to follow acourse that would eventually lead to her death. Befuddled, Haemon leaves.Ismene returns, terrified that Antigone will attempt to bury Polynices despitethe daylight but it is too late for Antigone reveals to her that she hasalready done so, committed treason against the Kingdom. Later on in the day theFirst Guard enters the chambers and informs King Creon that someone buriedPolynices’s body with a little dirt last night. He orders the guards to unearththe body and keep the matter clandestine. This forms the beginning of the tragedywork of this literature as its spring is wound, and it will uncoil all byitself. Creon appears, and the First guard explains that Antigone was founddigging Polynices’ grave by hand in broad daylight. Creon seeks privacy andsends the guards out.
Once he is certain no one saw Antigone arrested eattempts to conceal the trouble, he orders her to bed, telling her to say thatshe has been ill. Antigone is still determined and adamantly replies that shewill only go out again tonight. Creon is frustrated by his attempt to restrainAntigone and even informs her that her being the daughter of the befallen KingOedipus still decrees her under the law. She is determined that just like herfather, chip of the old pot, her death must be the “natural climax”to her life. Creon, on the other hand, is restrained to the order of thekingdom. Antigone’s marriage is worth more to Thebes than her death. King Creonknows that his reign makes him loathsome but he has no choice.
Antigonere-joins that he should have said no; she can say no to anything she thinksvile. This adamant and determined nature of Antigone, together with the factthat she is already ruined yet she is still a queen. Since Creon said yes, hecan only sentence her to death as required by the law and their justice system.Creon asks her to pity him then and would have an opportunity to live. Antigoneagain adamantly replies that she is not here to apprehend, but only to say noand to die. Creon makes the last plea, saying that Antigone needs to understandwhat goes on in the wings of her drama will lead her to severe punishment inform of cruel death. As a child, she had known that her brothers made herparents unhappy.
Polynices was a cruel and vicious pleasure-lover. Being toolenient to imprison him, Oedipus let him join the Argive army. As soon asPolynices reached Argos, the cracks on Oedipus’ life began. But Eteocles,Thebes’ martyr, too plotted to overthrow his father making both her brothersgangsters. Even unto their deaths, they fought viciously till they were leftdead in a pool of pulpy blood. At this pointattempting to offer an alternative lifesaving solution to Antigone, Creon urgesher to find Haemon and marry quickly and not waste her life and its happiness.Antigone challenges his submissive happiness.
She is of the tribe that asksquestions and hates man’s hope and supremacy as equality is her motivation thather brothers be given equal and decent burials and so must men and women betreated as equals in a marriage situation. A distressed Ismene rushes in,begging Antigone’s forgiveness and promising to help her but Antigone rejectsher as she does not deserve to die with her. Ismene joins the struggle ofAntigone be swearing that she will bury Polynices herself. Antigone calls onCreon to have her arrested, Creon relents. Creon’s attempt to conceal the truthbore no fruit as the matter was in the public domain and his decision had to beabsolutely legal this is despite the plea by his son Haemon.
Antigone conspireswith the First guard at her detention who agrees to dictate a letter with anapology to her loved one and delivering. Antigone hung herself then deathsfollowed; Haemon stabbed himself and Eurydice cut her throat. The tragedyfulfils itself as all who had to die in the play, died and all bound toAntigone are at peace. Tragedy is clean, restful, andflawless unlike melodrama found in Comedy. In tragedy, everything isinevitable, hopeless, and known. All are bound to their parts as the authors inthe plays used the protagonists to depict and illustrate.