Tragedy - branch of drama that treats in a serious and dignified style the sorrowful or terrible events encountered or caused by a heroic individual. By extension the term may be applied to other literary works, such as the novel.
Although the word tragedy is often used loosely to describe any sort of disaster or misfortune, it more precisely refers to a work of art that probes with high seriousness questions concerning the role of man in the universe. The Greeks of Attica, the ancient state whose chief city was Athens, first used the word in the 5th century BCE to describe a specific kind of play, which was presented at festivals in Greece. Sponsored by the local governments, these plays were attended by the entire community, a small admission fee being provided by the state for those who could not afford it themselves. The atmosphere surrounding the performances was more like that of a religious ceremony than entertainment. There were altars to the gods, with priests in attendance, and the subjects of the tragedies were the misfortunes of the heroes of legend, religious myth, and history. Most of the material was derived from the works of Homer and was common knowledge in the Greek communities. So powerful were the achievements of the three greatest Greek dramatists—Aeschylus (525–456 BCE), Sophocles (c. 496–406 BCE), and Euripides (c. 480–406 BCE)—that the word they first used for their plays survived and came to describe a literary genre that, in spite of many transformations and lapses, has proved its viability through 25 centuries