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Succession as a Greek and Shakespearian Tragedy

Analyze the ways in HBO series succession follows a traditional tragedy structure in both the Ancient Greek sense and Shakespearean sense. A tragedy is a play based on human suffering, primarily concerning tragic events that befall the main character. The intention of tragedy, as understood by Aristotle, is to provoke catharsis in its audience. Catharsis is a release of emotions that comes with seeing others undergo painful or unfortunate circumstances. It is the pleasure of intense emotion with the relief of not undergoing the suffering oneself. Both Greek and Shakespearean tragedies tend to focus on the downfall of a protagonist who holds a high position in society. In the case of Succession, the main character, Kendall Roy, is the son of the CEO and founder of the largest multi-media conglomerate in the world. The plot itself is reminiscent of King Lear, as Logan Roy ages and must consider which of his three children is fit to take over his immensely successful business as he ages (though whether or not he is actually willing to give up his position of power is uncertain). Kendall’s dreams of taking over the company are continuously derailed, no matter how hard he tries he is denied this one desire that he believes to be his birthright. Are there other aspects of Shakespearean tragedy that present themselves in the show? For example, there is considerable comic relief throughout the whole show, a feature not present in Greek tragedies. Is it more like one than the other? In what ways does it differ from these archetypes, and what significance do these divergences carry? Many consider it to be a comedy, how does the entwining of genres contribute to the complexity of the show, and the message it sends to its viewers? How does it merge traditional media with the problems and techniques of modernity?

  • Tragedy had elements of comedy from the time of the 16th to the 19th (maybe very early 20th) centuries. Vice verse as it pertains to comedies. – J.D. Jankowski 2 years ago