Define modern tragedy and describe Ibsen's play A Doll's House as a modern tragedy.Can you detail how this effects theme, characters, plot, etc.

Expert Answers
Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The simplest definition of a modern tragedy is that unlike Aristotelian, or classic tragedy, the tragedy depicts life’s downfalls and shows how one tragedy can lead to yet more tragedy.  Aristotle, instead, defined tragedy as an action that is so serious and complete and of such great magnitude that it provokes fear and pity among the observers.  Another major difference between modern tragedy and classic tragedy is that modern tragedy deals with the everyday person, while according to Aristotle, classic tragedy deals with an exalted individual such as a king or queen.


Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House, certainly fits the definition of a modern tragedy.  The tragic heroine, Nora is an everyday woman.  She is special in that she is very attractive and has lots of admirers, but she is still, for her time period, quite a typical woman in a typical house, in a typical financial situation, with a typical husband, and raising typical children.  Her tragic downfall began taking place when she decided to commit fraud to rescue her husband, a decision that anyone in a similar situation can make.  The plot of the tragedy spirals from there and Nora becomes subjected to blackmail, must confide in her husband and learns that he is not the genuinely caring, selfless person she believed him to be, all of which are events that can happen to anyone.