Tragedy as a Literary Genre

Definition – Examples – How to Write

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Hello Lovelies, and welcome back to the blog. Today we’re talking about the third Pillar of Genre. We’re talking today about the Drama genre, and specifically, about Tragedy as a literary genre.

Tragedy Definition

A literary tragedy is a written piece that consists of courageous, noble characters who must confront powerful obstacles, external or from within. These characters are the epitome of bravery. They show the depth of the human spirit in the face of danger, defeat, and even death. 


If you thought Romeo and Juliet was the greatest love story ever told, it’s considered one of Shakespeare’s tragedies. Why? Because, spoiler alert, almost everyone  dies in the end.

And while Shakespeare is a fairly criticized modern example, the Greeks have many famous tragedies, including Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, The Iliad by Homer, and Medea by Euripides. Other examples from around the world include: 

  • A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
  • Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  • Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

How to Write in the Tragedy Genre

So how do we approach writing tragedy as a literary genre? Tragedy is a genre of story in which a hero is brought down by his/her own flaws. In any tragedy, we see the tragic hero or heroine, usually in their prime. The hero is successful, respected, and happy to start, but has some tragic flaw that will ultimately cause their downfall. Usually, the plot of the story follows a gradual descent from greatness to destruction. 

It’s especially important that the hero or heroine ends up isolated from all of their friends and companions. In the end, we can feel deep sadness and pity for the character while also feeling a sense of understanding. The story warns us to guard against the ordinary, and very human flaws that brought down the hero or heroine.

Next Week

Now that we’ve talked about Tragedy, it’s time we talked comedy, and later, the hijinx that are associated with farce, so stick around through June for some very fun posts!

Discussion Questions

  1. What is your favorite drama in film or literature?
  2. Do you have a favorite type of drama subgenre?
  3. What genre is your favorite to read in, and do you write in the same genre or a different one?
  4. What is the most important reason writers should be aware of genre and its conventions?
  5. What questions would you like to see me answer in a blog post or podcast episode?

Leave your answers in the comments section for this post!

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