Theatre: Melpomene

The Terrible and the Pathetic, Tragedies Old and New

There are two kinds of tragedy: terrible and tearful. When you saw John Barrymore carried up the front stoop of Elsinore and off into the West, you didn't feel like crying. A tragic climax such as that one gives a feeling of mystery and terror much more than of pity. When, on the other hand, you see Camille dying by inches in the postponed embrace of Armand Duval, you do want to weep.

There is no reason to despise the pathetic as opposed to the...

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