Lyric Tragedy pp 144-161 | Cite as

D. H. Lawrence: Tragedy as Creative Crisis

  • R. P. Draper


Acceptance of death forms no part of Lawrence’s view of tragedy. In a letter written in 1912, after reading Arnold Bennet’s Anna of the Five Towns, he declares: ‘I hate Bennett’s resignation. Tragedy ought really to be a great kick at misery. But Anna of the Five Towns seems like an acceptance — so does all the modern stuff since Flaubert. I hate it. I want to wash again quickly, wash off England, the oldness and grubbiness and despair.’1 And six years later, in the Preface to his play, Touch and Go, he formulates an alternative view of tragedy: ‘Tragedy is the working out of some immediate passional problem within the soul of man.’ It is a struggle in which profound beliefs are involved, and hence ‘a creative activity in which death is a climax in the progression towards new being’. The note is strongly positive: he writes of ‘the intrinsic tragedy of having to pass through death to birth’, and of the possibility of knowing some happiness in the process — ‘the very happiness of creative suffering’. Tragic defeat has no place in this conception. Indeed, by traditional standards it is a view that seems more heroic than tragic. Man is challenged to brace himself for an act of moral courage: ‘The essence of tragedy, which is creative crisis, is that a man should go through with his fate, and not dodge it and go bumping into an accident.’2


Moral Courage Dark Night Passional Problem Downward Path Death Form 
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  1. 2.
    D. H. Lawrence, Phoenix II (London, 1968), pp. 291–3.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    The Complete Poems of D. H. Lawrence, ed. V. de S. Pinto and Warren Roberts (London, 1964, rev. edn 1972) p. 191.Google Scholar

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© R. P. Draper 1985

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  • R. P. Draper

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