In Friday’s lesson we started off by looking at an extract from one of John Milton’s poems called "Il Penseroso", as a class we focused on two particular lines;
“Sometimes let gorgeous tragedy, in sceptred pall come sweeping by”
This lead to an in-depth discussion about whether or not tragedy actually could be ‘gorgeous’, and if so how? Well the class as a whole pretty much came to the conclusion that tragedy can only be beautiful or gorgeous when it is scripted, setup or basically anything except real and factual. The discussion then veered towards why we are attracted to tragedy and the fact that we only ‘enjoy’ tragedies when they aren’t real. For example someone in the audience of a play might absolutely adore how poetic the story is and how well they connect with the characters etc, but that all depends on how well it is written and the quality of the author; this evolved into our next topic. Tragedy comes from real life, real life is ugly and fictional or even well written factual tragedy is gorgeous. We spoke about this statement at length in class, the main point that kept popping up were that someone will warm to something more if they can connect with it; hence well told stories in the news have their subject matter awarded the title ‘tragedy’ whilst generic journalists get ‘natural disaster’ or ‘terrible accident’.
The apparent reason or cause for this way in which ‘tragedy’ is viewed, stems from the need for catharsis at the time of Aristotle; catharsis is the purging of emotions or relieving of emotional tensions through art... which is in this case tragedy.
After all that brainstorming and coming up with individual opinions we read Act 1, Scenes 1 & 2 of Othello. As a class we then spoke about Othello and whether or not he’s a victim of racial discourse due to his accent, place of origin and his skin colour. The outcome of this discussion was that whilst we all agree Othello is a pretty solid character and in fact the opposite to his stereotype, that even if he was neither of these his actions as a Venetian general speak louder than any man’s racial slurs.
If you weren’t in you should catch up on what parts of the play you’ve missed, also here is the full version of John Milton's poem: