Tragedy is one of the oldest and most revered forms of literature in the Western world. The earliest extant tragedies date from Athens in the fifth century BC, and over the centuries tragedy has shown a tremendous capacity to reinvent itself for audiences at different times and in different places, often emerging at critical moments in the evolution of cultural, political and intellectual history. Critics in their numbers have recognised that tragedy is the form to which writers and their audiences turn again and again to explore the most important questions about human suffering in the most urgent and compelling way.
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