Tragedy is a form of drama based on human sufferings, where the protagonist is unable to achieve his goal due to moral weakness, tragic flaw, or the ability to cope with changed circumstances. In a classical tragedy, this main character used to always be an aristocrat, or of a very high social status. How ever, with the change of social norms and hierarchy, a new type of tragedy developed; domestic tragedy.
Domestic tragedy became more and more popular throughout the 19th century, as it tackled the problems within society on a domestic level. Previously, the famous theorist Aristotle stated that in tragedy the downfall of the protagonist would be more devastating to the audience if the character was noble, and that comedy was to depict middle-class citizens. In 1880s and 1890s a movement of strong feministic thinking emerged throughout Europe. The ‘new woman’ evolved. To the dislike of many men, this new profile of a woman changed the traditional order of society. With this change, playwrights did not want to write story lines that were sentimental and sensational, with unrealistic sets and melodramatic acting. They wanted to be realistic, portray the current world they lived in and portray problems of society at that time.Order now
First of all, the protagonist is a domestic tragedy is an ordinary person, part of the middle-class or even a lower-class individual. Unlike most other types of tragedy, and especially classical, the main character is an anti-hero. This means that the central character lacks conventional heroic attributes. The protagonist thus is imperfect, making the story be more realistic and easier to identify with. Instead of the beautiful and gentle Juliet and the heroic Romeo who fall in love at first sight, Ibsen introduced the troubled couple of Nora and Torvald Helmer and their relationship issues. Everyday people could enjoy domestic tragedy more as classical tragedy, because they could see a reflection of their life in such plays and characters.
Following this, as the name of this type of tragedy already hints, the setting is mainly based at the home of a character or in a familiar surrounding such as the workplace. This enables the audience to focus on the family or the people they are close around, and their behavior, responses and actions less influenced by outside factors. Through this, the playwright achieves to demonstrate a family or a couple, which do not fit into the model for a stereotypical family. In addition to that, the set is very realistic to the corresponding time period. Having a realistic set, facilitated the identification with characters even more. Adding on to this, the costumes and make up corresponded to the fashion at that time, another factor that facilitated the identification with the characters. The costume indicated various social problems, such as poverty and domestic violence.
Furthermore, the text of a domestic drama follows a specific model in order to stay in this genre. The subject of such a drama, has to be the issue of regular, normal people. These subjects can include most matters reaching from human rights to poverty. Generally the structure of a domestic tragedy is linear, with a patriarchal character representing the family. This patriarchal figure demonstrates the natural everyday subjects. Also, confrontations with such a figure are a popular structure in domestic tragedy. The language used is non sophisticated, rather simplistic filled with common slang. Such a use of language firstly enables everyone to be able to understand the character’s lines, as normal tragedies, like Romeo and Juliet which was hard to comprehend by ordinary people. Secondly, such a familiar and traditional use of language again encourages the audience’s interaction and identification. A specific dialect, and common expression, furthermore reinforces this realistic impression on the audience as it is a very personal and reassuring way of communication.
In conclusion, one can see, domestic tragedy is a very different type of tragedy. The conventions focus on establishing a relationship with the characters through the simplified identification for the audience. Through the specific use of the anti-hero, setting, costume and make-up, text and language, the purpose of domestic drama is achieved: the audience’s empathy and relationship with the play, due to the familiarity.