Genre: Tragedy texts

TragedyI am not sure if this is a recent introduction in some schools, but some students are already studying genre in earlier years than Year 12. For example, either in Year 10 or in Year 11 as part of their preliminary studies.

One of the genres which I’ve come across is Tragedy. I find it rather interesting, as I actually studied a particular “sub-genre” of tragedy for my HSC – Revenge Tragedy (which is no longer part of the English Extension 1 syllabus).

So what constitutes a tragedy? Off the top of my head – it is a story which is sad; it is “tragic”, because of the particular circumstances of the story and characters. A tragedy is a story which affects the reader – it is necessary that it causes us emotional anguish at its conclusion?

  • Tragic protagonist – we must relate and empathise with this character, who will suffer
  • Dramatic irony or inevitability of the situation – often, the protagonist is trapped in their tragic situation or inevitably drawn towards its tragic conclusion (perhaps by their fatal flaw?)
  • Climax of tragedy (catharsis?) – the story culminates in a tragedy, usually constituted by death. This may be physical or even psychological, such as a tragic realisation

In thinking this, what texts would constitute tragedies? And what are the sub-genres of tragedy?

There is the classic Greek tragedy, based on Aristotelian concepts of tragedy. There is the revenge tragedy genre. The study of genre is beyond what I have researched so far, but I suggest you start at the Wikipedia explanation:

Tragic Texts


  • Euripides:
    • Medea
  • Shakespeare:
    • Romeo and Juliet
    • Julius Caesar
    • King Lear
    • Hamlet
    • Macbeth
    • Othello
    • Antony and Cleopatra
    • Coriolanus
    • The History of Troilus and Cressida
    • The Life of Timon of Athens
    • Titus Andronicus
  • Arthur Miller:
  • John Webster:
    • The Duchess of Malfi
    • The White Devil
  • Christopher Marlowe:
    • The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus
    • Tamburlaine


  • Thomas Otway’s The Orphan (1680)
  • John Banks’ Virtue Betrayed
  • John Banks’ Anna Bullen (1682)
  • Thomas Southerne’s The Fatal Marriage (1694)
  • Nicholas Rowe’s The Fair Penitent (1703)
  • Nicholas Rowe’s Lady Jane Grey (1715)


  • Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
  • Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
  • Chronicles of a Death Foretold – Gabriel García Márquez
  • 1984 – George Orwell
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde


  • Gladiator (2000)
  • Donnie Darko (2001)
  • American Beauty (1999)
  • Titanic
  • Atonement (2007)


  • The Lady of Shallot by Tennyson: my post.

If you can suggest any other good tragedy texts, please comment and I will add to the list.

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