TragedyTragedy is a literary genre most commonly found in stage performances such as the theater and opera. Its origins date back to Greek drama, in fact, the word itself is derived from the Greek vocables tragos and ode, roughly meaning 'song of the goat', a clear link to the Dionysian cults. The greatest exponents of Greek tragedy were Aeschylus (Seven Against Thebes, Prometheus Bound), Sophocles (Antigone, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, Ajax, Electra), and Euripides (Andromache, Hecuba) among others. Since these beginnings, tragedy represented the suffering of its characters in order to elicit a cathartic response from the audience.
The greatest successor of the Greek playwrights (and still unequaled thus far) is the bard himself, William Shakespeare. Even though he was highly skilled at writing comedies such as A Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, and The Taming of the Shrew, Elizabethan theater is truly embodied by Shakespearean tragedy. Proof of this is the instantaneous popularity and continual staging of the universally known Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, King Lear and Othello. His remaining tragedies, however, still command much respect and include Titus Andronicus, Julius Caesar, Timon of Athens, Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus. So gifted at tragedy was Shakespeare that even some of his comedies had a dark, tragic tinge to them, as is the case with The Merchant of Venice and Troilus and Cressida.
Tragedy is largely found in the opera as well. Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini, for instance, tells the story of a young Japanese geisha who commits seppuku for the love (or lack thereof) of an American naval officer. Another example is Ruggero Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, which despite the fact that its protagonist is a clown (though not in the modern sense of the word, but as part of a commedia dell'arte tropue), is in fact a tragic tale of jealousy and murder.