Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Drama Nuisance-- Dante Alighieri and Chaucer on "Tragedy"

In his Letter to Can Grande Della Scala, Dante distinguishes comedy from tragedy:

“[Comedy] differs, then, from tragedy in its content, in that tragedy begins admirably and tranquilly, whereas its end or exit is foul and terrible. . . whereas comedy introduces some harsh complication, but brings its matter to a prosperous end.”

These definitions are best expressed in the salutation, “I wish you a tragic beginning and a comic end.”

In “The Monk’s Tale” chapter of The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer describes tragedy in similar terms.

“Tragedie is to seyn a certeyn storie,/ as olde books maken us memorie,/ Of hum that stood in greet prosperitee,/ And is yfallen out of heigh degree/Into myserie, and endeth wrecchedly.”

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