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The decline of tragedy: modern tragedy and the failure to commit to action

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  1. Introduction
  2. The decline of tragedy
  3. Modern tragedy and the failure to commit to action
  4. Analysis
  5. Conclusion

In The World as Will and Representation, Arthur Schopenhauer introduces tragedy as the most important form of literary art. Tragic heroes fight against forces of great opposition but eventually have to surrender to their fates. Tragedy is a reflection on reality as the audience reaches a moment of belated recognition in which they are able to empathize with the tragic hero because they see some of the same flaws in themselves. The tragic hero's plight demonstrates a recognized lack of free will manifested in both tragedy and reality. However, in modern tragedy the free will nullifies itself as the tragic hero fails to take action because of a commitment to rationality. This is a key feature of modernity. Modern tragedy is a type of literature that places more emphasis on the choices not made; it does not possess the fatalistic nature of classical tragedy in which the tragic hero must face the inevitable.

Tragedy has not progressed through the ages, but rather it has declined through the inaction of the tragic hero. The foundation of the related concepts of tragedy and modernity was formed by the analysis of the free will found in Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Representation and his Prize Essay on the Freedom of the Will. Since Schopenhauer introduced his theory concerning tragedy and the free will many philosophers, most notably Nietzsche, have expounded his hypothesis and have related it to modernity.

[...] The Birth of Tragedy . 2008. New York: NuVision Publications, 2004. Schopenhauer, Arthur. Prize Essay on the Freedom of the Will. 1999. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Schopenhauer, Arthur. The World as Will and Representation. 1996. New York: Dover Publications, 1966. Silk, M.S. Nietzsche on Tragedy. 1983. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983. Vandenabeele , Bart. "Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and the Aesthetically Sublime." University of Illinois Press 37.1(2003): 90-106. Von Szeliski, John. "Pessimism and Modern Tragedy." The Johns Hopkins University Press 16.1(1964): 40-4. [...]

[...] Tragedy and reality mirror each other as modern tragedy displays a failed attempt at a bureaucratic mastery over life. Nietzsche on Tragedy extends the relationship between Nietzsche's categories of Apollonian and Dionysian and Schopenhauer's definition of the will. Silk places more emphasis on the artistic form of a tragedy. He defines the Apollonian form not just as a state of being, but uses it to describe an artistic phenomenon. However, as an artistic phenomenon it is not rational. In this case art functions as a form of expression for a myth; a myth that the free will is a tool of rationality. [...]

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