The “drame bourgeois” as lesson in minor virtue (compassion).

In the unfortunate person we often feel sorry for ourselves.” Gottlob Benjamin Pfeil, On the Domestic Tragedy, 1755

Bourgeois tragedy (General characteristics)

1. Affect without purging feeling (Aristotle’s catharsis).

2. The affect that matters is compassion

3. Affect of compassion is achieved through identification

4. All social ranks may appear as long as they appear as private individuals

5. Focus on domestic life

Diderot’s Drame domestique

1. “Feeling” is the standard of truth and “tableau” is the form that truth assumes.

2. Family/domestic sphere is a privileged setting for the mise-en-scène of “natural” feeling

3. The seeming tension between nature and bourgeois society as source and setting for feeling is reconciled in a tableau that serves sentimentality

4. The “tableau” is conceptualized against the coup de theatre (the unforeseen dramatic event)

5. The drame bourgeois is an “emotional portrait”, depicting both the inner state of the tableau character and depicting the exterior life around which his inner state fluctuates: it is a memento and a moral lesson.

Lessing’s Tragic Mean

1. Each genre is determined by its mode of improvement, i.e. its proper effect and affect. E.g. in tragedy they are: compassion (affect) and tears (effect).

2. Affect is both a sign and means of improvement

3. Tragic catharsis for Lessing consists in the transformation (Verwandlung) of passions into virtuous capacities.

4. Poetic catharsis is read by Lessing in relation to Aristotle’s Ethics as process of finding a mean between extremes, which he names with respect to tragedy as “teary compassion”

5. Lessing does not aim to cleanse compassion plain and simple, but to remove only that amount tending toward an extreme, whether of excess (“anguish”) or deficiency (“(mere) emotion”).