Book

Why Does Tragedy Give Pleasure?

A. D. Nuttall

Published in print March 2001 | ISBN: 9780198187660
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191674747 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198187660.001.0001
Why Does Tragedy Give Pleasure?

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Why does tragedy give pleasure? Why do people who are neither wicked nor depraved enjoy watching plays about suffering or death? Is it because we see horrific matter controlled by majestic art? Or because tragedy actually reaches out to the dark side of human nature? This wide-ranging, lively and engaging book offers a new answer to this perennial question. The ‘classical’ answer to the question is rooted in Aristotle and rests on the unreality of the tragic presentation: no one really dies; we are free to enjoy watching potentially horrible events controlled and disposed in majestic sequence by art. In the nineteenth century, Nietzsche dared to suggest that Greek tragedy is involved with darkness and unreason and Freud asserted that we are all, at the unconscious level, quite wicked enough to rejoice in death. But the problem persists: how can the conscious mind assent to such enjoyment? Strenuous bodily exercise is pleasurable. Could we, when we respond to a tragedy, be exercising our emotions, preparing for real grief and fear? King Lear actually destroys an expected majestic sequence. Might the pleasure of tragedy have more to do with possible truth than with ‘splendid evasion’?

Keywords: tragedy; pleasure; art; human nature; Aristotle; Nietzsche; Greek tragedy; unreason; Freud

Book.  120 pages. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights)

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Aristotle and After in Why Does Tragedy Give Pleasure?

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Enter Freud in Why Does Tragedy Give Pleasure?

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The Game of Death in Why Does Tragedy Give Pleasure?

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King Lear in Why Does Tragedy Give Pleasure?

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