Shakespeare – Module 6: Shakespearean Tragedy- Introduction – 1 of 5

Hello Year 7 and Year 8! This session, we are starting a new module on Shakespearean Tragedy.

WHAT: understanding the key features/ conventions of a Shakespearean Tragedy

By the end of this session you will be able to:


✓ list the features/ conventions of a Shakespearean Tragedy

Today you will need:

✎ A pen
☰ A word document, notepad or paper to record your ideas

STARTER- YOU DO: Shakespeare wrote three types of play: Comedies/ Histories/ Tragedies. Look at the posters below to remind yourself of the different plays which he wrote.

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Remember, Shakespeare’s plays were heavily influenced by other sources. Watch the video below to find out more. It is about 4 minutes long:

YOU DO: Answer these questions to show your understanding of the video. Write your answers down, then click to reveal the correct answer.

1. Name two famous writers who influenced Shakespeare.

Chaucer and Spenser

2. Name a real historical character who Shakespeare based one of his plays on.

Julius Caesar

3. Shakespeare often makes biblical references. Which biblical figure is Macbeth linked to?

Judas

4. What kind of animal does Shakespeare often use in his plays?

Birds

Well done. Now we will look more closely at Shakespeare’s Tragedy plays.

YOU DO: What does the word ‘Tragedy’ mean to you? Create a mind map of your ideas.

Like the Comedies, Shakespeare’s Tragedies were plays which followed a set of rules or conventions. Read the information below (taken and adapted from this website https://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/life-and-times/plays-by-genre/tragedy/)

In Shakespeare’s time, the term “tragedy” was most closely associated with a set of dramatic conventions established by the Ancient Greeks.

According to Aristotle (an Ancient Greek philosopher and scientist), a tragedy should focus on a protagonist (main character) of noble birth, such as a prince or a queen.

Though high born, the protagonist of a tragedy has what Aristotle called hamartia, or a tragic flaw. A tragic flaw is a negative character trait, like excessive pride or jealousy, which causes the protagonist to follow a dangerous path in order to get what they want.

Along this path, the protagonist makes mistakes that bring chaos to their community, resulting in the protagonist’s own isolation, suffering, and eventual downfall. Typically in tragedy the protagonist recognizes their mistakes, but only once it’s too late.

Similar to the classic Greek tragedies, Shakespeare’s tragedies almost always feature a noble-born hero who makes a mistake, with disastrous consequences for both the hero and the larger community. 

YOU DO: One of the main themes in a Shakespearean Tragedy is power. Watch the video below to find out more. It is about 4 minutes long:


YOU DO: Answer the questions below to show your understanding of the features of a Shakespearean Tragedy.

1. Where were the conventions of ‘tragedy’ established?

The conventions of tragedy were established in Ancient Greece.

2. Who established the conventions of tragedy?

The conventions were established by Aristotle- A Greek Philosopher and Scientist

3. What is hamartia?

Hamartia is a tragic flaw- a negative character trait such as pride or jealousy.

4. Which of these plays is a tragedy- ‘Macbeth’/ ‘The Tempest’/ ‘Twelfth Night’?

Macbeth

5. What is a protagonist?

A protagonist is a central/ main character.

CHALLENGE: Make a poster to teach your year group about the features of a Shakespearean Tragedy.

Well done! You should now understand the key features/ conventions of a Shakespearean Tragedy. Next session, we will look more closely at the Tragic Hero…