Aristotle asserts that a tragedy is “ is the story of a tragic hero who is a man of high social class, such as a king, who has a change of fortune, usually from good to bad.” Shakespeare’s tragedies are based on Aristotle’s definition of a tragedy. Aristotle further identifies six elements of a tragic story which include the plot,character,diction,thought,spectacle and song.
Of these elements the most important is the plot (a series of events)and all other elements are built into it. This is very important because the actions that take place within the plot are what make the play a tragedy. In the plot several other important elements must be present to constitute a tragedy especially in Shakespearean plays. Those include:a tragic flaw,supernatural events,conflict,fate and paradox of life.
A tragic flaw is “a personality trait that leads to the downfall of the protagonist.” In Winter’s Tale this character trait of Leontes would be his jealousy which leads to his wrongful and unjust actions. It is this tragic flaw that leads the downfall of the protagonist. This element is applicable to many Shakespeare tragedies and is important to the rising and falling action in the play.
Supernatural events are also important aspects of the plot that are used to create a tragedy. This is a common element to all Shakespearean plays. Supernatural powers determine the fate of characters who engage in unrighteous deeds. Also, the demise of the protagonist is determined by supernatural powers for as seen in Winter’s Tale, God’s and prophecies are what determine subsequent events and the outcome of the play.
Also, conflict is also a very crucial part of the plot which composes a tragedy. What is a good play without conflict? It leads to the climax of the play. Furthermore,the conflict between two characters usually ends with one of them reaching to their doom or suffering some loss which is the essence of a tragedy. Such conflict evident in Winter’s Tale would include: the issues in the relationship between Leontes and Polixenes which causes him to lose his children and wife.
Linked to many of the elements stated is the fate or fortune of the main characters. Though many of the other elements should exist, it is the turnout of events that makes the play a tragedy. The downfall of him/her is due to his fate or fortune and this downfall also affects the fate of others in play.
Lastly,when speaking about a paradox of life, it is necessary to note the previous happiness of the tragic hero and his demise rooted later in the play. The vast difference between these two aspects of the play gives rise to a tragedy as it brings about an irony of events which makes the events unfortunate
F.Scott Fitzgerald wrote a statement which is very famous around the world today. He said “Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy,” asserting any story can become a tragedy just by the existence of hero to transform into a tragic hero through unfortunate events solely based on the elements listed above. Such intricacies are what make a story a tragedy.