Tragedy In Genesis Essay

Tragedy In Genesis Essay

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Tragedy In Genesis


People tend to view tragedy in cataclysmic and catastrophic terms. Every night on the news we hear murders, assassinations and bombings referred to as Atragedies.@ Tragedy need not be an event which affects the community at large. Rather, any event which teaches an important lesson to a specific person or a group of people can be viewed as a type of tragedy. While the Greek tragedies focused upon the catastrophic nature of tragedy, The Biblical Book of Genesis provides the reader with another tragic paradigm. Genesis describes tragic events which are neither catastrophic nor transforming. In fact, according to the Genesetic paradigm, tragedy need not end in death.

Before entering into a detailed discussion of Genesis, we must attempt to define the term tragedy itself. Walter Kaufmann defines tragedy in an almost scientific kind of way. To him, every tragedy must fit into exactly the same mold in precisely the same fashion. He writes:

tragedy is (1) a form of a literature that (2) presents a symbolic action as performed by actors and (3) moves into the center immense human suffering (4) in such a way that it brings to our minds our own forgotten and repressed sorrows as well as those of our kin and humanity (5) releasing us with some sense (a) that suffering is universal- not a mere accident in our experience, (b) that courage and endurance in suffering or nobility in despair are admirable- not ridiculous- and usually also ( c) that fates worse than our own can be experienced as exhilarating

Kaufmann=s definition precludes seeing the notion of tragedy through a wider lens. His definition is all encompassing and requires many factors in order to be considered a tragedy. To him, very few writings are true tragedies. A tragedy must end in death (Aimmense human suffering@) for it to be included within the canon of tragedy. Seemingly, tragedy could not occur within the mundane as Kaufmann emphasizes that it must be a form of literature and performed by actors. Without suffering, a work of literature cannot be considered tragedy.

Kaufmann=s definition was shaped by the works of Sophocles and Euripides. Although there were three primary tragedy writers in antiquity, Kaufmann does not seem to be able to cope with alternative modes of tragedy as expressed by Aeschylus. Instead of accepting the concept of dual definitions or para...


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...c thing that could have happened to Jacob. Jacob responds to the news by Atearing his clothing, placing a sack across his loins and mourning for his son many days. All of the siblings attempted to comfort their father, but he would not be comforted. He said: I will go to my grave a mourner.@ It would seem that catastrophic tragedy has befallen the house of Jacob. However, the Aaudience@ is aware of certain factors which are not apparent to Jacob. Jacob really believes that his son is dead. At the same time that Jacob feels immense loss, Joseph is blessed with wealth and power in Egypt. As in all other Genesetic plays, positive experiences stem out of negative actions. The brothers had intended Joseph to be sold into slavery and he rises to become the Viceroy of the land. In fact, the Bible states that: AGod was with Joseph and he became a successful person in the house of the Egyptian.@

Act three opens with the meeting of Joseph and his brothers. They are accused of smuggling goods out of the country and are brought in front of the Viceroy. Since several years had passed and Joseph had matured, they did not recognize him. He asked them if they had any other brothers at home.

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