Tragedy in Literature: Lesson Plans & Techniques
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 8 min read


  1. What is tragedy in literature?
  2. How to introduce tragedy in literature
  3. Lesson plan for teaching tragedy
  4. Technique one to teach tragedy
  5. Technique two to teach tragedy
  6. Technique three to teach tragedy
  7. Lesson plan and technique review
  8. Additional resources and readings

When it comes to teaching literature, one often meets a hurdle while introducing the concept of tragedy. It's a complex and layered theme that brings depth to many beloved classic and contemporary works. But don't worry! With the right literature lesson plans, teaching tragedy can become an engaging and insightful experience for both you and your students.

What is tragedy in literature?

Let's dive straight into the heart of the matter. In simple terms, tragedy is a genre of literature that presents characters who face significant suffering or misfortune, often leading to a sad or disastrous ending. What makes it unique, though, is that these tragic events often stem from the characters' own flaws, choices, or actions. It's not just about bad things happening; it's about human nature leading to those events. Understanding this becomes the cornerstone of teaching tragedy in our literature lesson plans.

Here are a few key elements that make up a tragedy in literature:

  1. Tragic Hero: The central character, often of noble birth, who experiences downfall due to their own mistakes or flaws. Think of characters like Hamlet or Othello.
  2. Downfall: A series of unfortunate events that lead to the tragic hero's demise. This isn't always physical death; sometimes it's a fall from grace or loss of status and reputation.
  3. Catharsis: The emotional release or purging that the audience experiences at the end of a tragedy. It's the moment of realisation, where the audience feels pity or fear, thus gaining a deeper understanding of life and human nature.

Remember, tragedy isn't about depressing stories. It's about teaching us valuable life lessons through the powerful medium of storytelling. So, as you build your literature lesson plans for teaching tragedy, keep these elements in mind and focus on the human aspect of these stories.

How to introduce tragedy in literature

Teaching tragedy in literature is not about making your students feel sad—it's about helping them understand the depth and complexity of human emotions and actions. Here's a step-by-step guide that you can incorporate into your literature lesson plans to introduce the concept of tragedy effectively.

  1. Start with definitions: Begin your lesson by defining tragedy. Use simple language and relatable examples to break down the concept. You could use characters from popular culture who face tragic circumstances as a result of their own actions.
  2. Discuss examples: Next, present examples of tragedies from literature. Classic works like 'Romeo and Juliet' or 'Macbeth' offer rich instances of tragic plots. Discuss the key elements of tragedy in these works and how they contribute to the overall story.
  3. Encourage participation: Get your students involved in the discussion. Ask them to share their thoughts on the story, the characters, and the outcome. This will not only make the lesson more interactive but also help them understand the concept better.
  4. Assign reading: Choose a tragedy for your students to read as homework. This could be a short story, a play, or a novel depending on the age group and reading level of your students. Encourage them to identify the tragic elements in the story as they read.
  5. Review and discuss: In the following lesson, review the story and discuss the tragic elements identified by the students. This will reinforce their understanding of the concept and help them apply it to other works of literature.

Remember, the goal is to help your students understand and appreciate the role of tragedy in literature, not to make them experts overnight. Patience, practice, and participation are the keys to successful learning.

Lesson plan for teaching tragedy

Developing literature lesson plans for teaching tragedy requires a thoughtful approach. Here is a basic lesson plan format you might find useful.

  1. Objective: Start by clearly defining what you want your students to learn. In this case, the objective could be to understand the concept of tragedy in literature and identify its key elements in a given text.
  2. Introduction: Begin the lesson by revisiting the definition of tragedy in literature. Discuss the significance of tragedy in shaping characters and driving plotlines in stories.
  3. Discussion: Introduce a piece of tragic literature, such as Sophocles' 'Oedipus Rex' or Arthur Miller's 'Death of a Salesman'. Discuss the overall plot, main characters, and key events. Explain how these elements contribute to the tragic outcome of the story.
  4. Interactive Activity: Plan an interactive activity to ensure the students are engaged and understanding the concept. This could be a group discussion, a quiz, or a creative writing task where students draft a tragic ending for a story.
  5. Conclusion: Wrap up the lesson by summarizing the main points discussed. Encourage students to share their thoughts and reflections on the concept of tragedy.
  6. Homework: For homework, assign another piece of tragic literature. Ask students to identify and write about the tragic elements in the story as they read.
  7. Evaluation: In the following class, review the homework, discuss the tragic elements identified by the students, and evaluate their understanding of the concept.

Remember, teaching tragedy in literature is about making students understand that these stories are not just about sorrow and despair, but also about human resilience, courage, and the indomitable human spirit.

Technique One to Teach Tragedy

One effective technique for teaching tragedy in literature is the Comparison Method. As the name suggests, this technique involves comparing tragic literature with other genres, and it's a great way to help students understand the unique characteristics of tragic stories.

Start by selecting a tragic piece of literature and a non-tragic one—let's say Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet' and J.K. Rowling's 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone'. Both stories involve young characters and pivotal life events, but their outcomes and the emotions they evoke are vastly different.

Guide your students through both pieces, focusing on elements like plot, character development, conflict, and resolution. By comparing and contrasting these elements, students will see first-hand how tragedy differs from other genres. They'll understand that while tragedy often involves characters dealing with immense struggles, it also illuminates the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

Remember, the aim of this technique is not to prefer one genre over another, but to help students appreciate the variety in literature. It's about showing them how even though 'Romeo and Juliet' ends in a heart-wrenching tragedy, it's still a captivating and meaningful story that has endured for centuries.

So next time you're crafting literature lesson plans for teaching tragedy, consider using the Comparison Method. It's a practical and engaging way to help your students grasp the essence of tragic literature.

Technique Two to Teach Tragedy

Another compelling method to bring tragedy to life in your literature lesson plans is the Historical Context Technique. This technique dives into the historical and cultural backdrop of the tragic work, providing students a rich context to fully grasp the depth and impact of the tragedy.

Take Sophocles' 'Oedipus Rex' for example—an ancient Greek tragedy. Instead of focusing merely on the narrative, delve into the historical era in which the play was written. Discuss the cultural beliefs, societal norms and values of ancient Greece. By doing so, you bring to light the relevance and significance of 'Oedipus Rex' as a tragedy in its time.

Explain how Greek tragedies often reflected societal challenges and moral dilemmas of the time. Discuss how 'Oedipus Rex' explores themes of fate, free will, and moral responsibility, topics deeply ingrained in the ancient Greek psyche.

Understanding the historical context not only enriches the students' comprehension of the tragedy but also cultivates empathy and critical thinking. It enables them to see beyond the text, fostering an appreciation for how literature mirrors life and society.

Remember, when you're developing literature lesson plans: teaching tragedy goes beyond the narrative. It's also about connecting the text to the larger world, making it a timeless learning experience.

Technique Three to Teach Tragedy

For our third technique in teaching tragedy, we're going to explore the world of storytelling. Storytelling is a powerful tool in any literature lesson plan, especially when teaching tragedy. This method is all about the Personal Connection Technique.

Everyone loves a good story, and students are no exception. When teaching works of tragedy such as 'Romeo and Juliet' or 'Macbeth', it can be beneficial to relate the stories to real-life situations. This helps students understand the emotional weight and consequences of the characters' tragic decisions.

For instance, you could start by sharing a story about star-crossed lovers from real life or modern media, linking it back to 'Romeo and Juliet'. This helps students to see that the themes of forbidden love, family rivalry, and tragic consequence aren't just confined to the pages of a Shakespearean play—they're issues people deal with in reality.

You could also bring in stories of ambition gone wrong or the destructive power of guilt when discussing 'Macbeth'. Have students reflect on times when they've experienced similar emotions. By connecting literature to personal experiences, you're not only teaching tragedy, but also helping students grasp the universal human experiences that make tragedies so poignant and timeless.

Ultimately, when creating literature lesson plans: teaching tragedy is about more than just recounting stories of woe—it's about revealing the shared human experience and teaching empathy and understanding.

Lesson Plan and Technique Review

So, we've covered a lot of ground in our exploration of literature lesson plans: teaching tragedy. Let's take a moment to review what we've learned.

First, we defined what tragedy is in literature: it's a form of drama where the protagonist suffers a major downfall, often due to their own actions or flaws. We learned how to introduce this concept by starting with familiar stories and gradually introducing more complex themes.

Then, we discussed our lesson plan for teaching tragedy. We highlighted the importance of guiding students to identify the elements of tragedy in various works, and suggested activities like group discussions, close reading exercises, and essay writing to deepen their understanding.

We've also shared three effective techniques for teaching tragedy:

  1. The Character Analysis Technique, where students delve into the motivations and flaws of tragic heroes.
  2. The Comparative Analysis Technique, which involves comparing and contrasting different tragic works to highlight common themes and unique interpretations.
  3. And finally, the Personal Connection Technique, where students connect themes of tragedy to their own lives and experiences, fostering empathy and understanding.

Remember, the goal isn't just to teach students about tragedy—it's to help them see the human condition reflected in these stories, and to spark thoughtful discussions about themes that are still relevant today.

As you continue to develop your literature lesson plans, teaching tragedy will become second nature. And remember, there's no one-size-fits-all approach. Feel free to adapt these techniques as needed to best fit your students' needs and learning styles.

Additional Resources and Readings

Now that we've explored how to create literature lesson plans focused on teaching tragedy, you're well on your way to engaging your students in compelling, thought-provoking discussions. But the learning doesn't stop here—there's a wealth of additional resources and readings available to further deepen your understanding and enrich your lessons.

If you're looking for more texts to include in your literature lesson plans, consider works such as 'Romeo and Juliet' by William Shakespeare or 'Things Fall Apart' by Chinua Achebe. These classics offer rich examples of tragedy that can spark insightful discussions among your students.

For additional resources, consider turning to professional organizations such as the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) or the International Literacy Association (ILA). Both offer a variety of resources, from lesson plans to research articles, to support your teaching practice.

Another valuable resource is the Teaching Channel, a website that features videos of effective teaching strategies in action. This could prove particularly useful when looking for new ways to teach tragedy in literature.

Lastly, don't forget the power of peer collaboration. Reach out to fellow educators—both within your school and online—to share ideas, resources, and best practices. After all, we're all in this together, working to inspire a love of literature in our students.

Remember, teaching tragedy in literature isn't about finding the 'right' answers. It's about fostering a space for students to engage with complex themes, develop their critical thinking skills, and connect literature to their own lives. With these resources and readings, you're well-equipped to do just that. Happy teaching!

If you're interested in further exploring the theme of tragedy in literature and storytelling, you might find Reshelshah's workshop, 'Documentary Treatment: The Last Act,' to be a fascinating resource. In this workshop, you'll learn about the significance of the final act in storytelling and how to effectively convey tragedy in a documentary format. Enhance your understanding of tragedy in literature and expand your storytelling techniques by joining this workshop.