On tragedy

"...i emphasize this because i believe that any realistic notion of tragic drama must start from the fact of catastrophe. tragedies end badly. the tragic personage is broken by forces which can neither be fully understood nor overcome by rational prudence. this again is crucial. where the causes of disaster are temporal, where the conflict can be resolved through technical or social means, we may have serious drama, but not tragedy. more pliant divorce laws could not alter the fate of agamemnon; social psychiatry is no answer to oedipus. but saner economic relations or better plumbing can resolve some of the grave crises in the dramas of ibsen. the distinction should be borne sharply in mind. tragedy is irreparable. it cannot lead to just and material compensation for past suffering. job gets back double the number of she-asses; so he should, for god has enacted upon him a parable of justice. oedipus does not get back his eyes or his sceptre over thebes. tragic drama tells us that the spheres of reason, order, and justice are terribly limited and that no progress in our science or technical resources will enlarge their relevance. outside and within man is l'autre, the 'otherness' of the world. call it what you will: a hidden or malevolent god, blind fate, the solicitations of hell, or the brute fury of our animal blood. it mocks us and destroys us. in certain rare instances, it leads us after destruction to some incomprehensible repose." - g. steiner in the death of tragedy

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