A short note on Domestic tragedy: Definition, Features and Examples

Domestic tragedy is a play about middle or lower-middle-class life that concentrates on the more personal and domestic element of tragedy, as opposed to tragedy in the grand manner which involves kings, princes, and enterprises of great pitch and moment. The primary feature of the domestic tragedy as indicated already belongs to the ordinary work of life. This type of drama presents domestic problems and conflicts which result ultimately in human suffering and death.

The development of domestic tragedy has its beginning in the great Elizabethan period and found continued in the Restoration age.

There are a number of examples in Tudor and Jacobean drama. For instance: the anonymous Arden of Faversham (1592); the anonymous A Warning for Fair Women (1599); Thomas Heywood’s A Woman Killed with Kindness (1603); the anonymous A Yorkshire Tragedy (1608);  Middleton and Rowley’s The Changeling (1623). Thomas Otway’s famous domestic tragedies include The Orphan or the Unhappy Marriage (1680) and Venice Preserved, or a Plot Discovered (1682).

There was some domestic tragedy in the 18th c. like Lillo’s The London Merchant(1731). Hebbel’s Maria Magdalena (1844) is also taken to be in this genre. The term might also be judiciously applied to some of the work of Henry  Ibsen, Strindberg, Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, and Arthur Miller. Famous examples include Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman(1949), Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night (1956) Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour (1934).

Also read: An introduction to Restoration Theatre