Tragic Pleasure

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Beyond Bounds

Consider one of the most classical and famous tragic plays written by Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, where two star-crossed lovers fought against all odds to protect their love from a family feud. They faced numerous obstacles, struggled immensely, and loved each other so much that they actually sacrificed themselves for this love… Why do we enjoy the story despite all the suffering and negative emotions that Romeo and Juliet feel throughout the tragedy?

Scottish philosopher David Hume was particularly interested in this paradox: why do negative emotions felt by characters in tragedies evoke positive emotions felt by the audience?

Hume believes that the way a well-written tragedy presents events allows the audience to identify emotionally with the characters, whose suffering arouses the possibility of pleasure. Moreover, he believes that the stronger the negative emotions are, the greater the pleasure. This is evident in Romeo and Juliet, especially when Romeo felt…

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