Question : LUSENET : The Work of Edgar Allan Poe : One Thread

Hi, I was wondering what Edgar Allen Poe meant when he said From Tragedy comes art? Thanks, Justin

-- Anonymous, January 21, 2002


Dear Justin,

Well, first of all let me say that after a longish break from this place I am back.

Now, as far as the quotation you refer to is concerned, I am not quite sure where you lifted it from but my guess would be that by saying "From Tragedy comes art" he is probably alluding to the following:

- 1) Poe's life in general was really tumultuous, and tough (if we want to be plain we could say it was pretty shitty!). Among the main hardships endured by Mr Poe I will refer you to the facts that a) his father walked out on the family when Poe was very young (maybe two or three, I'm not sure, I'm working from memory, as always); b that his mother died when he was very young, I believe it was from consumption/tuberculosis or some such disease (the important thing is that she died); c) that Poe's family was split up and he was forced to live with a foster father/adoptive father and to say that they didn't get on would be the understatement of the century; d) that Poe found it really hard to form secure or successful relationships with women (Freudians say that this is to do with the early loss of his mother) and he was pretty miserable about that; e) Poe was more often than not in a poor financial state; f) Poe's marriage to his cousin Virginia ended pretty tragically when she ruptured a blood vessle whilst singing and subsequently died after a long term of illness; etc. etc. etc.

Now maybe Poe's writing was a way for him of transcending his shitty and miserable life by creating a totally different world, and thus disengaging himself from the realities of life. His work is art, ergo... from tragedy (his life) comes art (his work).

That was theory number one.

- 2)If you are familiar with Poe's work, you will know that the tone of much of it is that of tragedy. Lots of tragic stuff happens: (examples: the fate of the doomed speaker of "The Raven" is tragic; events which occur in "The Tell-Tale Heart" like the murder of the old guy and the compulsive confession of the narrator which is going to mean death for him as well in the form of execution, are arguably tragic; "The fall of the House of Usher" ends tragically, etc. etc.). Therefore, the quotation "from tragedy comes art" could also imply that tragedy, AS A THEME OR GENRE OR WHATEVER THE CORRECT TERM IS, makes art. One only has to think back on all the tragic Greek plays, with which Poe would have been acquainted, (Oedipus Rex, and that kind of stuff), to know that this is true. Or if the Greeks aren't your thing (they can come across as dusty to some people), then look to Shakespeare (Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, etc., all those megatragic plays which end in misery). Poe must have known Shakespeare's work.

If you want to like, be really clever, you can even say that in Poe Life imitated Art and Art imitated life (since both areas tend to be filled with tragedy in his case).

Hope this has been of some help,


Pragmatic Poe

-- Anonymous, January 22, 2002

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