A few more thoughts on tragedy, in keeping with my teaching this week:
Show me a hero
and I'll write you a tragedy.
-F. Scott Fitzgerald
I am intrigued by the implications of this: is heroism possible without tragedy? Is (as Greek tragedy seems to teach us) heroic greatness purchased with later misery? Is Fitzgerald implying that our idea of heroism is a whitewash, constantly erasing the sadness that every human life contains? Does our cultural desire to make heroes always contain a matching desire to see those heroes punished, diminished, fallen?
This world is a comedy to those that think,
a tragedy to those that feel.
Is the difference between comedy and tragedy not one between disdain and sympathy, but rather between intellect and emotion? Or are these two ways of saying the same thing?
Obviously Walpole isn't just getting at a difference between genres, an act of literary criticism, but rather making a commentary about the world itself. To the empath, life must be a constant parade of suffering, an excruciating cavalcade of expectations disappointed and bonds betrayed. To the intellectual, closed off from feeling, these same disappointments and betrayals become comic failures of expectation, festivals of irony.