Does tragedy please a human being? Well, after seeing the expression on the face of a reader or a viewer of a tragic drama, the question should be why does tragedy please a human being?
Yes, why does a man get satisfaction after seeing the depiction of misery? It is, no doubt, one difficult question to answer. But, the truth is most people rate ‘satisfaction’ or ‘pleasure’ of tragedy much higher than any other category of literary art.
Authors of tragic drama usually opine that tragedy has an impact on emotions, like pity and fear. It increases the rate of purgation of such human emotions.
Now, does that mean there is a tragic purgation or catharsis of pity and fear?
What does tragic catharsis mean?
No accurate or satisfactory interpretation of tragic catharsis can be found either in the dictionary or in the words of literary experts. The phrase appears quite complicated to all. And no literary works, whether it is a novel, a poem or a story, can offer a satisfying elucidation of this phrase.
So many discussions and opinions are there to show how “tragic catharsis” unveils its affinity with pity and fear of the human mind. And this affinity shows the importance of knowing why a tragic drama pleases a human being. It also raises questions about what are the specific passions on which tragedy works.
Many authors, as well as critics of the Renaissance era, translated the phrase “tragic catharsis” as purification. Some others take it as refinement or correction. They all have suggested that it is a means to purify the feelings like pity and fear. And this purification takes place when a reader leaf through a tragic drama or when he sees it in the theatre. In a word, it is a refinement of selfish motives.
Eminent German philologist, Jacob Bernays provided meaningful arguments on it in 1887. He claimed that catharsis is one medical metaphor. And it means purgation. That means he emphasizes the pathological impact on the human soul. He uttered that tragedy excites emotions of fear and pity, which exist in every man’s heart. And this act of excitation offers relief of pleasure.
When a drama is played on the stage, it, no doubt, acts as the outlet of instincts that always demand mental satisfaction. And the important thing is, portraying a character on the stage uncovers a much more harmless pleasure than it appears in reality even when the depiction involves a tragic mood.
Some different opinions also do exist that identifies catharsis not a tool to purify passions. It only helps so that passion itself reduced to a balanced and healthy proportion.
The theory of pathological impacts of tragedy is also visible in Aristotle’s words. According to him, tragedy acts as a vent for emotions of pity and fear. In the beginning, it excites the emotions only to alleviate them in the end. The truth is pity and fear are artificially starved in a tragic drama and throw out that hidden pity and fear which people bring with them from their real lives. And that is why a pleasurable calm surfaces at the end which acts as an emotional cure when the passions are spent.
Tragedy provides aesthetic satisfaction
There is no denying that the emotional effect of tragedy provides aesthetic satisfaction. Also, there is a tragic beauty inherited in a tragic drama. It always appears that most of the times tragic beauty emerge as a trend with the sublime. And this feeling unfolds a great warmth that even surpasses that sublime.
Shakespeare’s tragedies are the best examples that reveal how tragic heroes finally trigger tragic beauty. For a reader, feeling the tragedy of a tragic hero is more than grasping the passion only.It is like enduring the tragic beauty with pleasure.
The end of tragedy shows that the key character is defeated, but remains great and sublime in his fall. Thus the character emerges as a tragic hero. A hero who is crushed by the greatness of his opponent. The greatness that he always opposes. In Macbeth, Shakespeare stirs in readers’ admiration for the human spirit than “awe for the powers of necessity”.
The tragedy is an essential form of art. It gives aesthetic pleasure.
However, people rarely obtain that pleasure from the tragedies of real life. The satisfaction usually comes from tragic drama, though sufferings are the same whether they are portrayed on the stage or took place in life.
Now, a dramatist can successfully portray this double purpose when readers discover that the tragic hero is himself larger than life.