[[quoteright:274:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/tragedy_mask_6345.jpeg]]

->''Tragedy!\\
[[DespairEventHorizon When the feeling's gone and you can't go on]]\\
It's tragedy!\\
When the morning cries and you don't know why\\
It's hard to bear!\\
[[DyingAlone With no one to love you]]\\
[[FailureIsTheOnlyOption You're going nowhere!]]''
-->-- '''Music/TheBeeGees''', "Tragedy" ([[CoveredUp or, for younger, British Tropers, "Steps"]])

In a sentence, you could say that Tragedy concerns itself with the [[FallenHero fall]] of a great [[MostWritersAreMale man]] due to [[TragicMistake his own mistakes]] and/or [[FatalFlaw flaws.]]

As a genre, tragedy is OlderThanFeudalism. It has changed quite a bit since its conception in ancient Greece, and nowadays is a dying genre... how tragic! Soon it will be just as dead as {{Irony}}.

As you can guess from the above facetiousness, Tragedy is also as clingy as Irony and as difficult to define and apply. It's not enough to be on [[SlidingScaleOfIdealismVsCynicism the deep cynical end]] and have a [[TwistEnding Twist]] or DownerEnding with plenty of [[TrueArtIsAngsty artsy angst]] along the way, or have the hero's [[TooHappyToLive happy home life destroyed]] with a [[RapeAsDrama girlfriend raped]] and [[CynicismCatalyst a dead little sister]]; it has to be of an epic scope with inexorable and self-inflicted pain brought about for past sins. And despite all that, it also has to give the viewer closure.

This last one is perhaps the hardest to capture correctly. After all is said and done, the audience should not feel impotent rage, [[FanonDisContinuity denial]], confusion or [[DeusAngstMachina having been cheated]]. They should feel that the ending is a natural outcome to the hero's actions, and that in having faced punishment for those actions they [the audience] are purged of anxiety and worry. The world ''does'' make sense, the guilty ''[[KarmaHoudini are]]'' punished.

'''Creator/{{Aristotle}}'s guidelines form the basis of Tragedy, as outlined in ''Literature/{{Poetics}}''; here they are much abbreviated:'''

* Have a hero of great status and prosperity (which is why many tragic main characters are nobles or royalty), who suffers a terrible fall, usually death.
* The fall is brought on by his own FatalFlaw and [[WhatTheHellHero past mistakes]]. His character should be [[StaticCharacter consistent and unchanging]] to make his fall inevitable, such as being {{Pride}}ful or stubborn, or so good and persistent such that fixing his mistakes destroys him.
* The audience has to feel [[EmotionalTorque catharsis]] at his death, an emotional "purging" where the audience should feel relief and cleansing. Whether this catharsis is due to the [[SadistShow schadenfreude]], relief at having it better off than the character, or generally releasing pent-up anxiety is debated to this day.
* While you do not ''need'' TheReveal and reversal of fortune stemming from it, Aristotle considered those tragedies superior to those without it.

To borrow a simplifying example from ''Theatre/EducatingRita'', ''Theatre/{{Macbeth}}'' is generally considered a tragedy in literary terms because throughout the play, Macbeth is warned time and time again by numerous parties that his actions will bring nothing but doom and misery upon himself and his family, but he ignores these warnings and proceeds regardless until it is much too late; Macbeth's fate is inevitable because his own character flaws have made it so. On the other hand, a man who suddenly and unexpectedly gets hit and killed by a falling tree while going about his daily business ''isn't'' usually considered a tragedy in the literary sense (although it will likely be tragic for his family), because the man's fate isn't preordained or a result of his own character flaws; if he'd known that being at that precise spot at that precise moment in advance would have killed him, he'd have chosen to take a different route. In the first example, the main character cannot escape his fate due to the circumstances he exists in and his own flaws, while in the second the main character's fate would have been entirely avoidable and likely avoided had he known about it in advance.

(On the other hand, "tragedy" in Greek times did not need to be soul-crushingly pessimistic and have a DownerEnding; Aristotle thought the best tragic plot had TheReveal in time for him to refrain and therefore not have the downfall. In fact, the opposite of a tragedy originally was not a comedy, but rather an epic. Whereas an epic typically unfolds and "opens up" to a world of unknown horrors and delights for the hero to explore, a tragedy "closes down" on the hero, prohibiting him from anything else he may think to try until at the climax of the story he is forced into one all-important decision on which everything good or bad that may follow ultimately hinges. The story of Oedipus is a tragedy in this sense not because its ending is so horrible, but because every hope Oedipus had for escaping his cruel fate was ultimately thwarted, and because everything ultimately hinges on what he decides to do when the AwfulTruth is finally made known to him. Other tragedies from the time might present a better decision to the hero, and might end well if he chooses wisely. [[HaveAGayOldTime Eventually, however, the meaning of the term shifted]]; such a potentially HappyEnding precludes a work's being a tragedy nowadays.)

To [[SubvertedTrope subvert]] a tragedy is complex. It's not enough to try for ''GrandGuignol'' and stuff it up with {{Satire}} and [[BlackComedy dead babies]], tack on a happy ending, or pull on heartstrings with [[TooGoodForThisSinfulEarth dead babies]]. To subvert tragedy for real, you have to get into the cycle of [[EmotionalTorque catharsis]] and break one of the literary elements of greatness, [[{{Pride}} hubris]], [[FallenHero downfall]] or change. Or, just make it a {{Comedy}}, which is basically the whole thing PlayedForLaughs. Though that's not really a subversion, just an interesting detail about comedy.

Common tragedies are: Greek Tragedy, Shakespearean Tragedy, and the more recent Bourgeois Tragedy. Tragedy is directly opposed to {{Comedy}}.

'''A typical Tragedy includes:'''
[[index]]
* BeingGoodSucks: The protagonist usually is trying to live like a good man, but past mistakes mean they have some heavy atoning to do that they can not dodge.
* DespairEventHorizon: The moment when it's already too late.
* DisproportionateRetribution: According to Aristotle, the protagonist must be punished for an error, but with the punishment spectacularly exceeding the crime.
* DownerEnding: Tragedies never end well for the protagonist.
* DramaticIrony: The audience often knows crucial information that our protagonist does not.
* FallenHero: If they survive.
* FatalFlaw: A key part of many tragic heroes, which leads them to commit their [[/index]]TragicMistake. {{Pride}} has been one of the most common since the Greeks.[[index]]
* {{Foreshadowing}}: You know what they say about trusting too much in prophecies? Well, foreshadowing can be thought of as one...
* TheHeroDies: The protagonists in their plays were usually killed off in the end.
* NiceJobBreakingItHero: Seriously, if the protagonists thought out their actions before attempting their heroism, then the situation wouldn't have gotten worse.
* SelfFulfillingProphecy: Many tragic heroes unwittingly bring about the very events that they were trying to avert.
* StarCrossedLovers: Many tragic romances involve two people who want to be together but are doomed to be kept apart.
* ATragedyOfImpulsiveness: Dammit, if the protagonists had thought things through before they acted, the tragedy could have been avoided.
* TragicDream: Oh, dear. Without that nagging dream driving them, the protagonists wouldn't have driven themselves and/or other characters into the ground.
* TragicHero: Frequently combined with heroic archetypes like [[/index]]KnightInShiningArmor.[[index]]
* TragicMistake: Often called the ''hamartia'', this is that one crucial mistake that sends everything crashing down.
* TragicVillain: A villain who isn't meant to be a villain after all.
* TwistEnding: Surprise! It failed! Or, whatever the protagonists did, or even why they did it, was rendered utterly pointless. Or, it worked; but screwed something ''else'' up in some other, unforeseen way. Anyway, it's ended, whatever it was. Hitting the wall is an option.
* WhatTheHellHero: The hero's tragic flaw often leads him to do rather...unheroic things.
* YouCantFightFate: A fairly common theme.
[[/index]]

Greek tragedy in general is the TropeNamer for DeusExMachina.

'''When adding examples, please remember that just because a work is dark and "tragic", it is not necessarily a tragedy. Tragedies need to be about a character being destroyed by their own character flaws and mistakes.'''
----
!!Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* ''Anime/CodeGeass'' has some Tragedy moments too. The first season's ending ([[spoiler:him abandoning the Black Knights during their invasion and thus causing their defeat]]) due to main character's mistakes and his reliance on his MoralityChain. And the second season's ending ([[spoiler:his own death, as the price to give the world peace but with none knowing for how long]]) due to his mistakes [[spoiler:after losing his MoralityChain twice, at first due to her apparent death and then due to him having to go against her]].
* ''Manga/DeathNote'' can be interpreted as a tragedy if one simplifies the story to its essentials. The protagonist Light Yagami is someone of high social standing, and is a significant individual in that he is greater than most others. However, he has a flaw in that he's too proud. Because of this and the tragic coincidence that leads him to the Death Note, he enjoys some time of greatness. However, in the end he [[spoiler: falls from grace and is killed because of his mistakes and flaws.]]
** Even interpreting it the other way, it can still be viewed as a tragedy. Even with the ultimate villain (Light) finally dying in the end, he still ultimately succeeded in killing almost all the heroes and protagonists and manipulating and using so many people before it happened.
* A lot of the individual [[StoryArc arcs]] of ''VisualNovel/HigurashiNoNakuKoroNi'' fit the definition of a tragedy, with the {{Downer Ending}}s often being due to the actions of one of the main characters, and the FatalFlaw that causes it often being paranoia and lack of trust in their friends.
* ''Anime/NeonGenesisEvangelion'' can be seen as a modern anime tragedy. A cast of ...mostly normal characters are brought to the brink of ruin, but they're all so unable to overcome their personal demons and shadows, that they ultimately pay the price for it. Though the actual scale of the price paid is rather...extreme.
* WeissKreuz is a tragedy, set in a world of hell - implied by Hidaka Ken - where villains are free to get what they want at the expense of the innocent lives, and without getting punished by laws. The heroes, Weiss, are themselves bloody, murderous monsters as well, and are determined to live a life full of guilt in order to provide the innocent better tomorrows.
* GraveOfTheFireFlies is a tragedy written to not only reflect the cruelty of war, but also reflect the author's guilt for not being able to save his own sister from starvation.
* BoysLoveGenre ''LightNovel/AiNoKusabi'' has a tragic ending which is either a BittersweetEnding or a DownerEnding depending on the viewer. Regardless, [[spoiler: Riki and Iason died for their forbidden love at the end.]]
* ''Anime/PuellaMagiMadokaMagica'' fits this to a T. Every main character is brought down as a result of their own flaws. Their mistakes are made with the best of intentions. Any diversion away from their fates would require outside intervention. Also worth noting is [[spoiler: a couple of the characters do realize their mistake in time to do something, but only at the cost of their lives.]]
* The Golden Age Arc of ''{{Berserk}}'' is very much a tragedy. Two of the prevailing themes of the story is how one fateful decision [[YouCantFightFate can turn the tides of destiny with horrible consequences]] and how the love that the three main characters have for one another [[LoveHurts can potentially cause more pain than happiness.]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Comicbooks]]
* Neil Gaiman's ''ComicBook/TheSandman'' was a five-year tragedy, carefully crafted in the Greek tradition of {{Tragedy}}.
* Creator/AlejandroJodorowsky's seminal ''ComicBook/TheMetabarons''.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
* The new ''Franchise/StarWars'' prequel trilogy are a rare modern mainstream example. Though kind of badly written and a rather {{Narm}}ish example concerning Anakin Skywalker's heroic nature, the tragedy is in the way he fulfills Yoda's SelfFulfillingProphecy about his possessive love towards Padmé Amidala and cause his fall to TheDarkSide.
* Creator/AkiraKurosawa's film ''Film/{{Ran}}'', being ''Theatre/KingLear'' [[RecycledINSPACE IN SENGOKU-ERA JAPAN!]], does tragedy to a T.
* In ''RequiemForADream'', all of the main characters succumb to their [[DrugsAreBad addictions]]. [[spoiler: Harry's arm is infected by repeated use of the needle and he has to have it amputated, Tyrone gets thrown in jail for dealing drugs, Marion becomes a crack whore to support her drug habit and Sara gets reduced to a living wreck due to the combined effect of the weight-loss drugs and the electroshock therapy administered to kick the habit.]]
* ''Film/AmericanHistoryX'' seems to avert this until the literal ChekhovsGunman returns.
* ''Film/TheGodfather'' saga is another example of classical mafia tragedy. Michael Corleone's ruthlessness and vengeful ways eventually lead to his alienation from his family and his ultimate ruin.
* ''Film/{{Chronicle}}'' fits the tragic mold almost exactly, as it is the protagonist's [[spoiler:hostility and hubris that leads to his downfall and death.]]
* ''Film/{{Chinatown}}'' While technically Neo-Noir ends tragically [[spoiler:it's all Jake Gittes' fault, for trying to do the right thing.]]
* The central character of ''Film/CitizenKane'' ends up dying alone and unloved thanks to his narcissism.
* ''Film/SympathyForMrVengeance''
* The fifth ''Franchise/{{Hellraiser}}'' movie ''Film/HellraiserInferno'' is one of the few examples crossing over with {{Horror}}. Fundamentally it is the story of a man who receives unimaginable punishment due to his own sins and his abuse of everyone around him.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* Tolkien's ''Literature/TheChildrenOfHurin'' is a textbook example: Half of Túrin's problems come from him being impulsive, letting his anger cloud his judgement, and his unwillingness to swallow his pride and listen to advice. The other half comes from Morgoth himself being out to get him. In the end, all of Túrin's plans fail, he ends up either killing or leading all his friends to his deaths, and finally kills himself, having achieved nothing but destruction.
* Almost anything by Creator/JohnSteinbeck.
* ChinuaAchebe's ''Literature/ThingsFallApart'' was imagined from the very beginning as a classical tragedy. The hero, Okonkwo, is a strong and prosperous man in his Igbo village, with big fields of big yams and a big, well-maintained compound and three wives. He is very proud of his achievements and of his manliness--but his manliness and pride cause him to act rashly, eventually getting him exiled for manslaughter (when his FiringInTheAirALot kills someone), lead his son to abandon him, and ultimately causes his suicide.
* Pretty much any retelling of the KingArthur myth is this [[ForegoneConclusion by default]]. ''Literature/LeMorteDarthur'' and ''Literature/TheOnceAndFutureKing'' are probably the best examples.
* Several of ThomasHardy's novels are borderline examples, but ''The Mayor of Casterbridge'' unquestionably qualifies, to the extent that it's been read as a reworking of Aristotle's principles in nineteenth-century rural England. The novel begins with Michael Henchard selling his wife and child in a drunken rage, after which he [[TheAtoner gives up drinking and manages to turn his life around for a few years]]. Ultimately, though, his [[FatalFlaw pride and quick temper]] cause him to lose everyone he cares about, and he dies alone.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/BreakingBad'' has practically become the [[TropeCodifier modern codifier]]. It started off as more of a BlackComedy. But as the stakes got higher and higher and [[VillainProtagonist Walter]] became more ruthless and [[ProtagonistJourneyToVillain lost more of his humanity by the episode]] due to numerous {{Fatal Flaw}}s, primarily his massive {{Pride}}, it changed into this. Many literary and television critics have even gone so far as to call it ''THE'' modern Shakespearean tragedy.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Theatre]]
* Creator/WilliamShakespeare wrote quite a few: ''Theatre/{{Macbeth}}'', ''Theatre/{{Hamlet}}'', ''Theatre/{{Othello}}'', ''Theatre/KingLear'', and ''Theatre/TitusAndronicus'' (just to name a few). ''Theatre/RomeoAndJuliet'', though commonly labeled as one, isn't actually a tragedy per se, as the ultimate unhappy ending comes as a result of bad luck. It is often classified a tragicomedy or a problem play, because, while it has a tragic conclusion and the title characters' youthful impulsiveness contributes to their demise, it more closely follows the comedic form.
* A textbook classical tragedy would be ''Theatre/OedipusTheKing''. The hero, Oedipus (of the famous [[OedipusComplex complex]], though he does not necessarily possess it), is a heroic[[note]]when used by the Greeks, "heroic" does not describe a character's morality but rather their PowerLevels. Anyone demi-human, transhuman or superhuman was a "hero"--Medusa, for instance.[[/note]] and generally admirable man who ruled Thebes wisely. However, it is struck by a strange drought that no one can explain. Sages say that [[FisherKing since the land and king are one]], the king has done something to poison the land, and [[ProphecyTwist only he]] can [[FigureItOutYourself ferret out that mistake]]. Despite warnings from sages and wise men that Oedipus [[YouDoNotWantToKnow won't like what he discovers]], he learns that the previous king heard a [[SelfFulfillingProphecy prophecy]] that his son would kill him and marry his mother, so the king had his son [[NoOneCouldSurviveThat bound and abandoned in a forest]] and he went into hiding to avoid being killed. However, the son survived and killed him for cutting him off in traffic, and afterward killed the Sphinx [[RiddleOfTheSphinx (of the riddles)]] and was rewarded with the kingship of Thebes, including the widowed queen. [[DramaticPause ...]] [[{{Squick}} Yep.]] His mother-wife commits suicide in shame, and he blinds himself in sorrow.
** ''Theatre/{{Antigone}}'': The children of Oedipus and Jocaste didn't fare much better.
* ''Theatre/TheOresteia'', a dramatic trilogy by {{Aeschylus}}, consisting of ''Theatre/{{Agamemnon}}'', ''[[Theatre/TheLibationBearers Choephoroi]]'' and ''Theatre/{{Eumenides}}'') and ''Theatre/{{Electra}}'' are classic (indeed quite literally) tragedies. The theme of fatal flaws and dramatic irony is applied to heroic men, such as Agamemnon and Orestes, but also to the house of Atreus as a whole. Apparently the Oresteia is also one of the first examples of NightmareFuel as during the premiere of the play the haunting song of the furies caused a pregnant woman to promptly miscarry and die in the process. One could probably write a tragedy about that too.
* Many classical {{revenge}} stories, such as the above-mentioned ''Theatre/{{Hamlet}}'', were tragedies. The avenger usually succeeded in destroying the villain responsible for whatever awful crime set him on his vendetta, [[PyrrhicVictory but he all too often destroyed himself and/or everything he cared about in the process]]. See also the Nietzschean concept of "HeWhoFightsMonsters".
* ''Moira'' is what happens when SoundHorizon decides that classical Greek tragedy would make for one hell of a SymphonicMetal RockOpera.
* ''MissSaigon'', a SettingUpdate of Puccini's ''MadameButterfly''; most of his other works were tragic as well.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Videogames]]
%%* ''VideoGame/MafiaII''
* ''VideoGame/CastlevaniaLordsOfShadow'', the story of a ByronicHero fated to go down to the path of darkness, only trying to save his childhood sweetheart from death and never succeeding - and his offsprings, fated to fight against him himself.
* ''VideoGame/GodOfWar'' has tragic elements, at least in Kratos' backstory.
* Archer's entire backstory in ''VisualNovel/FateStayNight'' is just one big tragedy, having once been the [[spoiler: incredibly idealistic protagonist before his ideals betrayed him.]]
* ''VideoGame/SpecOpsTheLine'' is a classic tragedy, and it stands out due to drawing comparisons between the protagonist and the player as the story unfolds.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Web Originals]]
* ''WebVideo/DoctorHorriblesSingAlongBlog'': Billy's obsession with being accepted, catalysed by the antagonism of [[{{Foil}} Captain Hammer]], leads to [[spoiler:him losing the only person he really ''wanted'' to accept him]].
[[/folder]]

!!Subversions:

[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* ''Anime/PrincessTutu'' is [[{{Postmodernism}} postmodern in nature]], but none of the characters are familiar with postmodernist conventions, instead believing that they're living through a classic tragedy. Much of the story's conflict comes from characters trying to find ways to fulfill their goals without making the same mistakes that normally doom tragic heroes (or, in a few cases, giving up on goals that would lead to an unhappy ending.)
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
* ''Film/HardCoreLogo'' is a variation on the Greek tragic formula, disguised as a BlackComedy and set in the Canadian punk scene rather than among the social elite. Joe Dick's arc fits the tragic hero model best, but really, the band is such a DysfunctionJunction that it's hard to pin the ensuing trainwreck on any single member's single major character flaw.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Theatre]]
* Tom Stoppard's ''RosencrantzAndGuildensternAreDead.'' Despite their flashes of GenreSavvy and occasional (dark) comedy, the ending features a complete lack of awareness on the character's part. The futility of their project is laid bare, they die accomplishing nothing except discover their names (and that's still iffy). The downfall being external (but necessary). The minor status of the ''protagonists'' to "incidental" characters like Theatre/{{Hamlet}}.
* Creator/BertoltBrecht's ''Theatre/MotherCourageAndHerChildren'', as well as ''Measures Taken''. {{Catharsis}} is withheld in order to demand revolutionary action from the audience.
* ''WaitingForGodot'' is a low and existential tragedy.
* Arthur Miller's ''Theatre/DeathOfASalesman''. Willy Loman is a middle-class indebted salesman who delusionally believes that the right attitude and personality can spell success. This leads to disaster in his life and the lives of his children, especially Biff, and Willy Loman is never able to understand the cause of his misfortune and dies unaware. Miller subverts a classical tragedy by making a middle class man the subject of his play and making the protagonist never understand reality because of his blind spot at any point which ultimately [[spoiler: leads to his death]].
[[/folder]]

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