10 Best Tragic Plays

Have you ever heard about Aristotelian Drama?
One who presented the first elements of Drama is Aristotle. He can be designated “Father of Drama”. The tragic Hero, purgation, catharsis etc. all of these are pinned under one name that is “Aristotle
The course and meaning of tragedy and its elements have changed over centuries. Some are segregated and mentioned below:

#10 – ‘Night Mother
1There are very few plays that are as tragic, direct and, persuasive as Marsha Norman’s play, ‘Night Mother’. During the course of a single evening, an adult daughter has an intense conversation with her mother, where she explains how she plans to take her own life before dawn.


The daughter’s life has been affected with tragedy and mental illness. However, now that she has made her decision the vision is clear. No matter how her mother argues and begs, the daughter will not change her mind and will commit the act. The course of the play develops slowly. Intriguing aspect is one knows what is going to happen but, the things around it creates the aura of despair, gloom and tragedy.

#9 – Romeo and Juliet
Though, this play is accepted by millions as a love story. But to observe more critically we notice 2that there are two hormone-driven teenagers who kill themselves because of the stubborn hatred of ignorant adults.
The tragedy may be overrated and overdone, but consider the ending of the play: Juliet lies asleep but Romeo believes that she is dead so he prepares to drink poison in order to join her.
The situation remains one of the most devastating examples of dramatic irony in the history of drama.
#8 – Oedipus the King
3It is also known as Oedipus Rex, this tragedy is the most famous work of Sophocles, a Greek playwright who lived over two thousand years ago. The story is about Oedipus the King who discovers after many years that he has murdered his biological father and unknowingly married his biological mother. The circumstances are grotesque, but the real tragedy stems from the bloody reactions of the characters as each participant learns the unbearable truth. The citizens are filled with shock and pity. Jocasta(mother) hangs herself. And Oedipus uses the pins from her dress to gauge out his eyes.
Creon, Jocasta’s brother, takes over the throne. Oedipus will wander around Greece as a wretched example of man’s folly. And to add, supernatural interventions are not exempted from this as well.

#7 – Death of a Salesman
Playwright Arthur Miller doesn’t just kill off his protagonist, Willy Loman, by the end of the play. He also does his best to euthanize the American Dream. The aging salesman once believed that charisma, obedience, and persistence would lead to prosperity. Now that his sanity is wearing thin, and his son’s have failed to live up to his expectations, Loman determines that he is worth more dead than alive.
#6 – Wit:
5There are many humorous, heart warming, dialogues to be found in Margaret Edson’s Wit  yet, despite the play’s many life affirming moments, Wit is filled with clinical studies, chemotherapy, and long stretches of painful, introspective loneliness. It’s the story of Dr. Vivian Bearing, a hard-as-nails English professor. Her callousness is most evident during the play’s flashbacks. While she narrates directly to the audience, Dr. Bearing recalls several encounters with her former students. As the pupils struggle with the material, often embarrassed by their intellectual inadequacy, Dr. Bearing responds by saying intimidating and insulting them. Yet, as Dr. Bearing revisits her past, she realizes she should have offered more “human kindness” to her students. Kindness is something Dr. Bearing will come to desperately crave as the play continues.
If you have already experienced Wit then you know you will never look at John Donne’s poetry the same way.

#5 – Medea
6Character “Medea is a witch” said by many. Jason(husband) knows this, as do Creon and Glauce, but Medea seemed appeased, so when she presents a wedding gift to Glauce of a dress and crown, Glauce accepts them. The theme is familiar from the death of Hercules. When Glauce puts on the robe it burns her flesh. Unlike Hercules, she dies. Creon dies, too, trying to help his daughter. So far the motives and reactions seem understandable, but then Medea does the unspeakable.”
In the gruesome tragedy Medea, the title character, murders her own children. However, before she can be punished, Helio’s sun chariot swoops down and she flies off into the sky.
So in a sense, the playwright creates a double tragedy. The audience witnesses a tragic act, and subsequently witnesses the escape of the perpetrator. The murderer does not get her comeuppance, thereby infuriating the audience all the more.

#4 – The Laramie Project
7 It is based upon a true story that is the most tragic aspect of the play. The Laramie Project is a documentary-styled play that analyzes the death of Matthew Shepard, an openly gay college student who was brutally murdered because of his sexual identity.
The play was created by playwright/director Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project.
The theater group traveled from New York to the town of Laramie, Wyoming – just four weeks after the death of Shepard They interviewed dozens of townspeople, collecting a wide array of different perspectives. The dialogue and monologues which comprise The Laramie Project are taken from, news reports, courtroom transcripts, and journal entries.

#3 – Long Day’s Journey into Night
8Unlike the other dramas mentioned on the list, no character dies during the course of the play. Yet, the family in Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night is in a state of constant mourning, lamenting lost happiness as they reflect upon how their lives could have been.
We can tell within the first few exchanges of Act One, this family has grown accustomed to harsh criticism as default form of communication. Disappointment runs deep, and although the father spends a great deal of time and energy complaining about his sons’ failures, at times the young men are their own harshest critics.
#2 – King Lear
Every line of iambic pentameter in Shakespeare’s tale of an abused old king is so depressing and brutal that theatre producers in the Victorian Age would allow substantial changes to the play’s ending in order to give audiences something slightly more upbeat.
Throughout this classic drama, the audience wants to simultaneously slap and embrace King Lear. You want to smack him because he is too stubborn to acknowledge the ones who truly love him. And you want to hug him because he is so misguided and so easily fooled, he allows the evil characters to take advantage of him then abandon him to the storm.


#1 – Bent
10This play by Martin Sherman may not be as widely read as the other tragedies previously mentioned, but because of its intense, realistic depiction of concentration camps, execution, anti-Semitism, and homophobia it deserves the highest place among the tragic plays in dramatic literature.
Martin Sherman’s play is set in mid 1930s Germany, and centres around Max, a young gay man who is sent to a concentration camp. He pretends to be Jewish believing that he won’t be persecuted as much as the homosexuals in the camp. Max undergoes extreme hardship and witnesses obscene horrors. And yet amid the abject cruelty he is still able to meet someone kind, a fellow prisoner with whom he falls in love. In spite all the barrage of hatred, torture, and indignity, the main characters are still able to mentally transcend their nightmarish surroundings — at least for as long as they are together.

Truly, life of tragedy has evolved over centuries. For Greeks tragedy takes place on a life of a heroic figure who falls because of his own actions. It changed in years to the tragedy of a common man. Moreover, it isn’t about the actions of a character anymore that leads to tragedy but the life that character lives.
These small elements modified brings up a whole new set of plays with a more realistic, tragic effects in real lives.

Adapted from:


–Aman verma


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