Guide to Literary Terms

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Tragedy - a serious play in which the chief figures, by some peculiarity of character, pass through a series of misfortunes leading to the final catastrophe. In contemporary theater, tragedy often has the evils of society as the cause of this downfall, especially in Theater of the Absurd. In literature, tragedy refers to any composition with a somber theme carried to a disastrous conclusion. Sometimes, the word is used to refer to an actual calamity, disaster, or fatal event.

The term is from the Greek tragoidia formed by combining tragos, meaning “he-goat,” and oide, meaning “song.” (A tragoidos was a tragic poet and singer; probably called “a goat singer” because he wore goatskins or because a he-goat was the prize in a...

(The entire section is 247 words.)