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Why tragedies are alluring - David E. Rivas

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The story goes something like this: A royal, rich, or righteous individual — who is otherwise a lot like us — makes a mistake that sends his or her life spiraling into ruin. It's the classic story arc for a Greek tragedy, and we love it so much that we continue to use it today. David E. Rivas shares three critical story components, influenced by Aristotle’s “Poetics,” to help illustrate the allure.

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Meet The Creators

  • Educator David E. Rivas
  • Director Hernando Bahamon
  • Artist Andrés Landazábal
  • Animator Silvia Prieto, Gerardo Gonzalez, Ricardo Avila, Jaime Giraldo
  • Composer Manuel Borda
  • Script Editor Laura McClure
  • Narrator Addison Anderson
Additional Resources for you to Explore
Aristotle’s Poetics, is (as far as we can tell) the earliest work on literary theory, and it dedicates a portion to a discussion of tragedy. Written nearly two thousand years ago, it remains influential in our understanding and appreciation of tragedy even today. Roughly one hundred pages in length, The Poetics can be read in a sitting or two. You can read the full text here.

The BBC Radio4’s In Our Time, gathers a panel of experts to discuss this important work, and provides great insights into its reception and influence through the ages.

Perhaps the greatest examples of tragedy from antiquity come from Sophocles in his Oedipus trilogy, Oedipus the King, Oedipus in Colonus and Antigone. The works of Renaissance playwrights, including William Shakespeare, are replete with the tropes identified by Aristotle. The great twentieth century American playwright Arthur Miller, who penned The Crucible and Death of a Salesman, also wrote a piece for the New York Times in 1949 titled “Tragedy and the Common Man.” In it, he provides an interesting modern, American take on the Aristotelian ideas of the tragic hero. Read it and see what you think.

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator David E. Rivas
  • Director Hernando Bahamon
  • Artist Andrés Landazábal
  • Animator Silvia Prieto, Gerardo Gonzalez, Ricardo Avila, Jaime Giraldo
  • Composer Manuel Borda
  • Script Editor Laura McClure
  • Narrator Addison Anderson