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Journal:   JOURNAL OF DERAMATIC ARTS AND MUSIC   Spring-Summer 2019 , Volume 9 , Number 18 ; Page(s) 101 To 115.

A Study Of Tragedy In Tchaikovsky’ S Romeo And Juliet, Overture-Fantasia Based On Freytag’ S Pyramid

Author(s):  Nourani Mohsen*
* University of Art, Tehran, Iran
This article attempts to investigate the element of tragedy and the pertinent structure in Romeo and Juliet, Overture-Fantasia by Tchaikovsky, the famous Russian composer of the romantic era, and to apply thereon the model proposed by Gustav Freytag, the German dramatist and critic. The Pyramid proposed by Freytag for the analysis of the narrative structure of tragic story plots includes five sequential parts: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and, finally, dé nouement, resolution or catastrophe. This study shows that with prior contemplation and thorough appreciation of the foundations and the tragic structure of Shakespeare’ s Romeo and Juliet, Tchaikovsky has designed his music in a five-part sonata form – introduction and prelude, exposition, development, recapitulation, coda or epilogue – that may be corresponded to the five-act structure of Shakespeare’ s drama as well as the five-part model proposed by Freytag. At the outset, the composer begins his work by choosing Friar Laurence – the monk from the Shakespearean play – as a central persona of the story, showing that Tchaikovsky was well aware of the characters of this drama. He discerned the fact that Friar Laurence begins this tragedy, and for that reason, he also started his music in a tragic setting with a vocal piece. Moving on, in the second part, he presents the feud theme as the primary theme, where the main focus of the drama is dispute and feud between the two families Capulet and Montague, and the love theme as the secondary theme, where there is amity and love between Romeo and Juliet. In the third part, the development, he expands these two themes and then brings the music to the point of climax within this thematic challenge. This part of music coincides with the climax section in Freytag’ s pyramid, a corresponding counterpart of which can also discern in the Shakespearean narrative. In concord with tragic stories, the main character of the story exhibits the fatal flaw (hamartia), and this flaw leads the main characters of the story to calamity and decline in the fourth part. In the fifth part, because of this disaster, a sense of fear and pity matures in the audience that results in catharsis – the audience self-identify and attain mental and internal purge. As for the history of the making of this work of music, Tchaikovsky was first presented, in 1869, an initial outline by Balakirev, who was a countryman of Tchaikovsky’ s. He examined and amended the proposed outline three times during the next decade, and the main original edition performed and spectated today is the last revision from 1880. This article also examines how loyal the composer is to the dramatic work, through a meticulous and analytical examination of the musical repertory using Freytag’ s Pyramid. It demonstrates that Tchaikovsky has been remarkably successful in the conceptualization of tragedy in this piece of music. The article also aims to render a better explanation of the composer’ s exact expression of all narrative parts in a well-defined structure to help the audience achieve a better appreciation of this work.
Keyword(s): Tchaikovsky,Tragedy,Romeo and Juliet,Freytag’s pyramid,Catharsis,Hamartia
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APA: Copy

NOURANI, M. (2019). A Study of Tragedy in Tchaikovsky’ s Romeo and Juliet, Overture-Fantasia Based on Freytag’ s Pyramid. JOURNAL OF DERAMATIC ARTS AND MUSIC, 9(18 ), 101-115.

Vancouver: Copy

NOURANI MOHSEN. A Study of Tragedy in Tchaikovsky’ s Romeo and Juliet, Overture-Fantasia Based on Freytag’ s Pyramid. JOURNAL OF DERAMATIC ARTS AND MUSIC. 2019 [cited 2022August09];9(18 ):101-115. Available from:

IEEE: Copy

NOURANI, M., 2019. A Study of Tragedy in Tchaikovsky’ s Romeo and Juliet, Overture-Fantasia Based on Freytag’ s Pyramid. JOURNAL OF DERAMATIC ARTS AND MUSIC, [online] 9(18 ), pp.101-115. Available:

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