We see and hear about tragedy every day and we read about it in stories and plays. Tragedy comes in many different shapes and forms, but generally follows the basic format of Aristotle's Poetics of the 4th century B.C. Throughout time tragedy had elements that are essential, regardless of the time or place. A frequent term used in tragedy is tragic flaw. It is often a trait that is mainly responsible for the protagonist's downfall. We've witnessed a modern tragedy and read about classic Greek tragedies, and Shakespearean tragedies, and all the protagonists in tragedies have a tragic flaw that creates a predicament for the protagonist.
Dramatists have many different styles, but many are drawn to the concepts of tragedy that Aristotle's Poetics laid out. Certain elements are essential to this form of drama in any time and any place. In the literary sense, according to Aristotle, a "tragedy presents courageous individuals who confront powerful forces within or outside themselves with dignity that reveals the breadth and depth of the human spirit in the face of failure, defeat, and even death" (Meyer 985). The protagonists must be outstanding and complex human beings who have power and stature. This makes their fall all the more startling and vivid. The protagonist suffers terribly and the conclusion is catastrophic. The suffering the protagonist undergoes is redemptive in bringing out the capacity for accepting moral responsibility. These are simply the guidelines of a tragedy that Aristotle set forth for this kind of drama and they primarily make up the theory of what a tragedy should be.
Tragedy today, in the 21st century, follows the same form as Aristotle's Poetics, but has been interpreted for our time period. The United States started the 21st century with a grim beginning. The devastating tragedy of September 11th left all of us wondering why this happened.