Analysis Of Goethe A Tragedy

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Though Goethe’s play is subtitled A Tragedy we must not assume that we are obliged to understand the play according to Aristotle’s description in the Poetics. Certainly, among European literatures and in the later seventeenth century, tragedies have been generally understood this way, a definition largely interpreted by Neoclassical theorists. Thus, the term immediately evokes a series of categories that are still in common use; (hero, innocent, suffering, fate, tragic flaw, guilt and repentance, reversal, catastrophe). Even where these specific categories may be seen not to apply, neo-Aristotelian theory has left a substratum of assumption about the nature of drama and particularly of tragedy, namely that it deals with individuals confronting profound moral, emotional, and psychological issues and it is this psychological consistency that is necessary to make a drama “believable.” However, it is only with this new psychological focus does love emerge as the great subject for tragedy. Faust contains, without doubt, such a tragedy of passion in the Gretchen sequence. From the vantage point of the later eighteenth century, Neoclassicism had substantially narrowed the meaning of tragedy, for at least in Germany and England through the seventeenth century it had referred to any drama with an unhappy outcome. This recent change in meaning suggests that tragedy stands in the title not as a term to be taken for granted but as one to be questioned and defined by the play. Goethe proposes the genre of his play in the two prologues. At the end of the “Prelude on the Stage” the director calls upon his people to pace out in the ‘narrow’ stage, the whole circle of creation to move from heaven through the world to hell. This is a call for “worl...

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... end, it poses its conflicts in terms of morality, its underlying subtext praising the supremacy of virtue and morality, and punishing carnal sin. In the story, woman suffers, but through her travails she achieves salvation and forgiveness: in Faust, Goethe introduced the sacrificing woman, the “eternal woman,” “la femme eterne” or “ewige webliche, the female ideal that ultimately consumed nineteenth-century German Romantics.
Thus, the Gretchen story is Goethe’s most famous addition to the Faust legend. Here we find the oldest core of the play, the most coherent sequence of scenes, realism, accurate psychology, a delicate grasp of social issues-in short, the culmination of the eighteenth-century love tradition and the great tragic love story of the nineteenth century. The “Gretchen episode” in Goethe’s autobiography enables us to achieve a clearer sense of Goethe’s

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