It is often said that the conditions for the creation of tragedy in art do not exist in the twentieth century. Modern man has lost a universal acquiescence in the existence of God. We all aspire to be materially prosperous members of a small nuclear family, neglecting or even unaware of our extended family. Modern government and taxation encourages self-interest rather than a sense of community. The lines which Calphurnia, Caesar's wife, speaks on the morning of the fatal Ides of March - 'When beggars die there are no comets seen;/ The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes' - reverberate less persuasively in an era of republicanism. It was not the heavens which blazed forth the death of President Kennedy or the fall of Nikolai Ceauscescu but the television cameras and the newspapers. Can tragedy possibly exist in a world where the innermost sexual secrets of our leaders are frequently made public knowledge or where atomic devastation and environmental pollution threaten the annihilation of our species?
Niven, Alastair, Chinua Achebe and the Possibility of Modern Tragedy, Kunapipi, 12(2), 1990.