by Terrell
(Columbia, MO)

Hello, Glen, I love your site and resources. My question is, does a tragedy always have to end with the death of the main character and/or protagonist? Can tragedy befall someone close or important to them due to protagonist's actions?

Answer: Thanks, Terrell.

The Dramatica definition of a tragedy is that, at the end of the story...

1) The goal is not achieved in the end (rather the consequence has occurred instead), and
2) The main character is in a worse place (in a more wretched state, either physically or emotionally)

Within that definition, the main character doesn't have to die, though that would be one way to end up in a more wretched state. But sometimes, it's just as tragic for the main character to make the wrong choice at the crisis and end up emotionally worse off or living a more wretched life. (E.g. In A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche ends up being carted off to an insane asylum, which is a fate as bad as death.)

There are also plenty of configurations in which someone close to the main character can die.

For instance, if the goal of the story is to save, protect, or rescue a minor character, and this effort fails, because the main character makes the wrong choice at the crisis, that would also be a tragedy for the main character.

Or... if the goal is achieved but at the cost of the life of someone close to the main character, so that he ends up in a worse state, that might be a comi-tragedy. (E.g. In Romeo and Juliet, the feud between the families is ended, but the cost is Juliet and Romeo's lives.)

Or you could have a story in which the story goal is not achieved, but that turns out to be good for the main character -- a tragi-comedy. For example, what if the minor character dies, but it turns out the main character is actually better off as a result? (Perhaps that minor character was not as benevolent as they seemed.)

So you have lots of choices. You just have to decide what type of story you are telling, based on those two points above.

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Plot Invite.