The Ancient Greeks can be commended for many notable deeds throughout history, including the shaping of storytelling as a creative medium. In fact, the Ancient Greeks, with particular commendations given to Aristotle, were able to break the art of storytelling down to two simple, yet competing, ideas, comedy and tragedy.
While I refer to the two forms of storytelling as competitors, I mean that in a very loose sense. The two forms certainly coexisted then, much as they do today. However, very little overlap existed between the two forms, as most often the playwright would clearly discern one over the other during the creative process, and set about molding their play into one of the two options during the creative process. Before delving further into the discussion of Greek Tragedy, it is first important to look at the words of Aristotle himself.
“For Tragedy is an imitation, not of men, but of an action and
of life, and life consists in action, and its end is a mode of action,
not a quality. Now character determines men’s qualities,
but it is by their actions that they are happy or the reverse.”
-(Aristotle. Poetics and Rhetoric. 6.16-19)
To distill the words of Aristotle, tragedy is based on the actions of man, not of man himself. Indeed, we as physical beings are nothing without the actions that define us. In addition to this, while we may be born with a certain set of characteristics or interests that we perceive as being what define us, in all actuality, it is the choices we make and, perhaps, the underlying ethical and moral beliefs that we hold that truly shape us as individuals.
While there is much more to discuss in relation to Greek Tragedy as an art form, I find it appropriate to end this particular post on that note, in order to allow rumination on one of the most profound ideals presented in the Western Canon.
Aristotle, and Eugene Garver. Poetics and Rhetoric. Barnes & Noble Classics, 2005.