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Some critics argue that the Glass Menagerie is a tragedy. How far do you agree with this comment?

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Some critics argue that the Glass Menagerie is a tragedy. How far do you agree with this comment? The Glass Menagerie has, of course, been labelled as many different types of play, for one, a tragedy. At first glance it is clear that audiences today may, indeed, class it as such. However, if, looking at the traditional definition of the classification 'tragedy', one can more easily assess whether or not the Glass Menagerie fits under this title. To do this I will be using the views of Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, who first defined the word 'tragedy' and in his views, a tragedy contained certain, distinctive characteristics. His work was written in between 384 and 222 BC, and his views were taken on by some of the more traditional playwrights, such as William Shakespeare. As I develop through this essay, it will be clear to see how Shakespeare's tragedies indeed fit into Aristotle's definitions. To begin with, in order for a play to be a tragedy, it must involve 'an action that is serious' Aristotle argues. I believe that, in relation to the Glass Menagerie, it is certainly one that William's has used, as the whole situation that the Wingfields find themselves in does appear to be very serious indeed. The world is looming upon World War II, and America has hit the Great Depression. ...read more.


It is an arguable fact that indeed Amanda, once rich and living in the south, is now poverty stricken, but this is similar for all of the families, as the Great Depression was occurring. It is not, therefore, a simple reversal of fortune, as it is occurring everywhere in America at the time. It is also questionable as to whether Tom's fate is reversal of fortune. Before he left his family he has friends, a job, a house, and a family, and upon leaving, lost it all. However, his life was not, in many ways, satisfactory to him in the first place, so I would not consider his outcome to be reversal of fortune either. Aristotle's further analysis that a tragedy should 'involve people of a higher status' does also not really come together in the Glass Menagerie. Aristotle believed that a tragedy should involve Kings and Princes, people who has a lot to loose when their reversal of fortune occurred. In the Glass Menagerie, there is no one with a high social status at all in the play, so I would agree, here that the critics argument does not indeed appear to be correct. It is also stated that a play should be written 'in poetry embellished with every kind of artistic expression' if it is to be a tragedy. This is certainly apparent in many of Shakespeare's plays, which are full of poetic soliloquies and the like, but does this occur in the Glass Menagerie. ...read more.


The last point that Aristotle makes is that there must be a unity of time, place, and action. To begin with, it is clear that time is not united in the play. Aristotle believed a tragedy should take place over one day. This certainly does not occur in the Glass Menagerie, partly because the play takes place over a series of days, but also because it is, as Tom tells us in the opening soliloquy, 'a memory play'. Place, I believe, is united in the play, as it the sequence of events take place in the apartment, and here only. However, it is arguable that place is not really united, as we do not know where the certain characters, mainly Tom, go when they leave the apartment. The last point is that of the unity of action. This, I believe, does occur throughout the play. The whole of Amanda's existence is to find a gentleman caller, through Tom, for her daughter. This is the main point of the play, involving every character, and which, when not accomplished, tears the family apart. Therefore, I would argue that time, place and action of the play are actually fairly united, even though it does not appear this way at first. After examining Aristotle's views I would define the play as tragedy. Although the Glass Menagerie does not consist entirely of his views, the main points are clearly there, as I have discussed, and consequentially agree with the critic's argument. 1 ...read more.

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