With modernity's reluctance to believe in transcendent values tragedy becomes impossible. Is this a fair account of tragedy? If so, explain why; if not, what values have replaced those traditionally associated with the tragic perspective?.
Tragedy as a genre is made of strict conventions carried forward from its Greek conception. These conventions are derived from tragedy's basic ideology which is time specific and applies only until a little after the Renaissance. Tragedy is seen to be the struggle of man through a wilderness of unseen forces, which cause him suffering, and by which he gains a greater knowledge of himself and his world. Serious drama created without this ideology is not tragedy, as Steiner puts forward in The Death of Tragedy where he highlights the absence of the fear of injustice and unnecessary suffering in some cultures outside of the Western tradition. Therefore it is reasonable to suppose that if/when the basic idea of mans unnecessary suffering is lost of the culture of a time then tragedy cannot survive. It is then more valuable to read tragedy in its historical and cultural context. Read in this way we can see that tragedy is often born out of social instability and carry within them social and political comment. Many of these situations and issues raised in the play are no longer relevant to us, but some of them may be in adapted forms. This is evidence not of transcendent values but of the evolution of contemporary western society from Western tradition.
Shakespeare's The Tragedy of King Lear is a political play. It came at a time of social instability, the changing over of government and reign of a new king- James I. It reflects and is a product of the main anxieties of the period; a divided and unstable kingdom and the growth of individualism over feudalism, and the illegitimacy of the bastard child and the state of the family. These conflicts are the main subjects of the play and all contribute to create a world in which old King Lear is helpless.