Defining Dramatic Tragedy: A Discussion of Macbeth, A View from the Bridge, and Rosmersholm

There has been a long-standing debate over the true definition of tragedy in dramatic literature. There is, of course, Aristotle’s definition of tragedy spelled out in the Poetics. Today, many critics still hold fast to Aristotle’s definition as the true definition of tragedy. However, as Arthur Miller said in his essay, ‘The Tragedy of the Common Man,’ “It is now many centuries since Aristotle lived… Things do change, and even a genius is limited by his time and the nature of his society: (Miller 164-165). So just as “Euclid’s geometry…has been amended numerous times by men with new insights,” Aristotle’s definition of tragedy can be amended for the times (164). Rosmersholm, by Henrik Ibsen, A View from the Bridge, by Arthur Miller, and Macbeth, by William Shakespeare, are three plays written in three different centuries, the nineteenth, twentieth, and seventeenth, respectively, and long after Aristotle defined tragedy in the Poetics. Looking at each play and keeping Aristotle’s thoughts in mind, all three can be placed in the genre of tragedy.

Aristotle’s definition of tragedy in the Poetics is quite long and detailed. In summary, it states that a tragedy is an imitation of action and life that must evoke pity and fear in the audience. There are six main elements present in every tragedy. They are, in order of importance, plot, character, thought, diction, spectacle, and song. Also in every tragedy there is a tragic hero, an essential character whom the action surrounds. Often this tragic hero goes through a point of recognition where he, or she, changes from a state of ignorance to a state of knowledge which sparks a reversal, or shift in the action of the play.

The plot of the tragedy is the “soul of the tragedy” (Aristotle 42). Plot is the most important element of tragedy because tragedy is an imitation of actions, not individuals. The plot must surround one action of life, and it must be limited to a length that can be wholly grasped by the memory of the audience. F.B. Leavis agrees with Aristotle’s definition in his essay entitled “Tragedy and the “Medium,” where he states that “the tragic… establishes … a kind of profound impersonality in which experience matters, not because it is more… but because it is what it is.” In other words, the experience, or action, of the plot is the most important element of a true tragedy.

The experience that a playwright chooses to write about may change with the times. For example, the plots of Macbeth, A View from the Bridge, and Rosmersholm reflect the important actions or experiences of life at the times that they were written. In Macbeth, the plot surrounds the killing of the king. In the unstable times of the Middle Ages, in which Macbeth takes place, the life of the king and his court and the stability of the crown were most important. Shakespeare couldn’t put the life of the common peasant man on stage because the lives of peasants were insignificant. So the plot of Macbeth follows the action of the royal court. Macbeth, a general in the king’s army and the Thane of Glamis, murders the king to fulfill his desire for power. This quest for power ends in destruction for Macbeth and order is finally restored to the kingdom. In Miller’s A View from the Bridge, the plot surrounds a common man, Eddie Carbone. This is acceptable because the action takes place in New York City in the twentieth century when the lives of ordinary men are the most significant and where royal courts don’t exist. The experience related in this tragedy is the downfall of a man who allows jealousy and desire for unforbidden love to destroy him. In Rosmersholm, the plot also comes out of the experience of ordinary people. Romer is a man who allows his love for a woman to blind him while she destroys his ailing wife. This desire for a woman also destroys him in the end, because he can’t live with the knowledge that his love and desire for another woman ended another human life.

All three plots reflect important aspects of the times that they were written. However, all three also show that the experience of the plot is the most significant element of tragedy. Each plot shows how the quest for desire can lead to the downfall of a man. The man in not necessarily as essential to the tragedy as the experience that he goes through. Another man could easily have gone through the same experience, and the tragedy would be the same.

Diction, which Aristotle placed fourth in order of importance, is the “expression of the meaning in words; and its essence is the same both in verse and prose” (Aristotle 43). The use of language is important in relaying the actions. According to Leavis, “the attainment in literature of this level… would seem to involve the poetic use of language, or of processes that amount to that.” Leavis seems to be disagreeing with Aristotle when it comes to the use of language. Leavis believes that the language must be poetic. Does that mean that it needs to be written in verse in order for the drama to be considered tragedy? The plays being discussed here would demonstrate that this is definitely not the case.

After my first reading of Rosmersholm, I didn’t consider it a tragedy at all. However in my first reading of Macbeth, there was no doubt in my mind that it was a tragedy. Rosmersholm is written in prose while Macbeth is written in verse. Traditional Greek tragedy, from which Aristotle formed his definition of tragedy, is written in verse, therefore it is easier to see Macbeth as a tragedy because it conforms to the poetic tradition of tragedy.

My first experience with A View from the Bridge was a Broadway production of the tragedy. I believe thought that I would have still considered it a tragedy upon a first reading, even if I had not seen it staged. This drama is a special case however. Miller wrote A View from the Bridge in verse before changing it to prose. Does this make a difference? Upon first examination of a piece of drama, maybe. However, if one is to consider whether or not a work is a tragedy or not, a first reading, or examination is not enough. One must get beyond the language to see the meaning that lies behind it. In doing this, a reader may see the poetry of the language, whether it is verse or prose. This examination of the drama may be the ‘process’ that Leavis was referring to.

Aristotle placed character second in order of importance for the six elements of tragedy, because the action, or plot, of the tragedy surrounds a central character. This central character is called the tragic hero. Aristotle states that “there may be [tragedy] without character” because in his opinion “most of our modern poets fail in the rendering of character” (42). Those modern poets were the poets of Greek tragedy whom Aristotle studied in forming his definition of tragedy. In Greek tragedy, the tragedy probably could have been performed without a central character, because the use of the chorus was so prevalent. As tragedy has changed some over the centuries, the use of the chorus is now less common. The importance of character has increased in the absence of a chorus.

The tragic hero is “a man who is not eminently good and just, yet whose misfortune is brought about not by a vice or depravity, but by some error of frailty” most commonly known as the tragic flaw (Aristotle 46). Rosmer in Rosmersholm, Eddie in A View from the Bridge, and Macbeth in Macbeth, is the tragic hero central to his tragedy. Each man has a similar tragic flaw in that none can see beyond his personal desire.

Rosmer is an ordinary man. He was formerly a parish clergyman. His wife has recently committed suicide by jumping into the mill-race after a long illness. He is in love with Rebekka, a woman who came to live at Rosmersholm to help take care of Rosmer’s ailing wife. Rosmer found that he had many things in common with Rebekka and fell in love with her. He is a good man though and attempted to stay loyal to his wife in appearance by hiding his affair with Rebekka. He fits the mold for a tragic hero by being a man who is not totally good, but at the same time not totally evil. There are many qualities in Rosmer that the audience can identify with. His flaw is that he could not see beyond his love and desire for Rebekka that Rebekka was pushing Beate towards despair.

Eddie Carbone is also an ordinary man. He is an illiterate longshoreman working on the docks in Brooklyn, New York. He is a very good, hardworking man. He has sacrificed his time and energy to raise his niece, Catherine. Eddie is a very likeable character. This is why it is so shocking when the audience discovers his tragic flaw. Like many other tragedies, Eddie is caught up in an incestuous desire. He is in love with his niece who he has been so close to for many years. He seems to enjoy her company more than his wife’s, and he doesn’t want to let her go. When she attempts to gain some independence by taking a job that Eddie doesn’t see as fit for a young lady, and by dating Rudolpho, Beatrice’s illegal alien cousin, Eddie’s true feelings come through to the audience. Like Rosmer, Eddie cannot see beyond his love and desire for Catherine that his love is forbidden by natural law and that he will destroy his family by loving this woman.

Eddie and Rosmer are ordinary men and tragic heroes. According to Aristotle’s theory, an ordinary man cannot be the hero. However, I believe that this is one of the aspects of the definition that has to be amended in the name of progress and change. This amendment is acceptable, because in looking at Macbeth’s tragic flaw, the audience cans see that it is very similar to the preceding characters’ flaws and acceptable in Aristotle’s view at the same time.

Shakespeare’s tragic hero fits Aristotle’s definition more closely. This goes back to the point though that in Shakespeare’s day, just as in Aristotle’s, drama was written about men who are “highly renowned and prosperous” (46). Macbeth is one of these men. When the audience meets Macbeth, he has just own an important battle for the King. He is highly renowned as a general in the King’s army and has been prosperous in battle. Macbeth seems to be quite content with his place in life until he meets the three wayward sisters. He is a fairly young man in love with his beautiful wife. He is the Thane of Glamis and becomes the Thane of Cawdor after winning the battle. Most importantly he is loyal to the King. The three wayward sisters present Macbeth with tempting prophesies. Macbeth’s tragic flaw is that he loses his will to fight the temptation for the power that will come when those prophecies are fulfilled.

The use of the tragic hero, and the three remaining elements, thought, spectacle, and song, are present in tragedy to help evoke pity and fear in the audience. The playwright attempts to place a normal scene before the audience so that when the downfall of the tragic hero occurs, the audience is shocked into fear and feels pity for the fallen man. The playwright does this by giving us a likeable, somewhat good central character, as discussed above. He also uses thought, spectacle, and song to evoke pity and fear, according to Aristotle. The use of current thought and language will add to the normality of the scene that the playwright is creating. If Arthur Miller had kept A View from the Bridge in verse, it probably wouldn’t have been as tragic. The use of prose is important in this play because it is preferred over verse by the twentieth century audience. Also, Miller added to the thought and language of the play by giving the characters an appropriate Brooklyn accent.

The playwright creates spectacle by creating characters for the tragic incident that are close to one another. In Greek tragedy the characters were usually related to one another, such as a mother and her son. This tradition of spectacle has been kept alive. In A View from the Bridge, the tragic incident occurs within the family between an uncle and his niece. In Rosmersholm, the incident occurs between two lovers, Rosmer and Rebekka. In Macbeth, the incident occurs between a man and his King.

The use of song is the last of the elements that is used by the playwright to evoke pity and fear. According to Aristotle, song “holds the chief place among the embellishments” in tragedy (43). Along with the change from verse to prose and the decreased use of the chorus, the use of song has lost popularity in tragedy.

The transformation of tragedy has not changed the importance of the evocation of pity and fear in the audience. According to Northrope Frye in his essay entitled “Tragic Modes,’ “in low mimetic tragedy, pity and fear are neither purged nor absorbed into pleasures, but are committed externally, as sensations” (160). In all three of the tragedies presented here the audience is not shocked and horrified by the action of the tragedy along as they were in Greek times. The increased importance of character use in tragedy has led to an increase in the personal relationship that the audience forms with that main character. The use of common language, or prose, also helps the audience feel closer to him. This closer relationship increases the sensation of shock when the hero falls.

The audience can identify with the hero and feels pity and fear within themselves, because they see the tragedy happening to a man just like themselves on stage rather than to a man who deserves the fate being handed to him. As stated above, the tragedy could happen to any character, and the audience will often mentally place themselves in that role.

In order to have a genre named tragedy, a definition of tragedy must exist to define the genre. Aristotle’s definition seems to be a good basis for defining tragedy, but I don’t believe that it is an absolute. A concrete definition is not really possible for an art that is continually changing. Therefore, every drama needs to be examined individually in being considered for the tragic genre. The change in language use and the importance of character are two of the most obvious changes in the tragedy. When looking at the tragedies written today, one must look beyond the prose and into the character and his experience to see the poetry and meaning of the tragic experience.

Written by Donna Hilbrandt.

Draper, R.P., editor. Tragedy: Developments in Criticism. London: Macmillan, 1980.

  • Aristotle. “Extracts from the ‘Poetics” 41-50.
  • Frye, Northrope. “Tragic Modes” 157-164.
  • Miller, Arthur. “The Tragedy of the Common Man.” 164 – 168.

Leavis, F.B. “Tragedy and the ‘Medium.” The Common Pursuit. London: Penguin, 1993.

Works Referred To

Ibsen, Henrik. Rosmersholm. The Master Builder and other plays. Una Ellis-Fermor, translator. London: Penguin, 1958.

Miller, Arthur. A View from the Bridge. A View from the Bridge / All My Sons. London: Penguin, 1961.

Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. John F. Andrews, editor. London: Everyman, 1993.

Debunking the Pyramids of Antarctica Myth

Sometimes, the best way to debunk a story is to read it. Case in point: The story about the discovery of ancient pyramids in Antarctica. Recently, this tale of intrepid explorers discovering a series of man-made structures on a continent that has been too harsh to support sustainable human life for millions of years went viral over the Internet.

The story was picked up by many news outlets and blogs throughout the world, and has made its way as a meme on Facebook and other social media sites. By all accounts, this story would sound like the greatest archeological discovery of a lifetime.

However, nearly everything about this article, including the pictures and descriptions of the “explorers” hint that this was merely a hoax. Even the news outlets that ran with the story are suspect. Whatever the case may be, the story is its own undoing.

The only “real” proof of the pyramids comes from a series of photographs supposedly taken during the expedition. Several show mountains with seemingly smooth edges partially covered in snow. Others show a conical shaped mound of snow near the coast. Finally, there appears to be an icy pyramid on a frozen plain.

The photos are not exactly compelling. The giant “pyramids” with clean edges are clearly mountains. In fact, these mountains look like any mountain range existing in extremely cold climates. The smooth edges and sides are more likely the result of two things: natural erosion and the proximity of the photographer from the mountain when the shot was taken.

The icy cone near the coast is impressive and seems like it was made by humans. Then again, it’s near the coast and that portion of its structure appears to be the result of wind, sea, or both (Update: The photo in question was actually cropped from an original photo. It wasn’t the subject of the original photo. See caption for the actual person who took it)

The “snow pyramid” on the plain (also near the coast) is the least compelling. It suspiciously looks like it was photo-shopped (then again, looks can be deceiving). Also, it appears small in scale and closely resembles a pile of plowed snow (remember, there are bases with runways that need to be cleared down there).

There are several clues to the article’s authenticity. Part of the problem is its length. For a story about a new, earth-shattering, history-changing discovery, it is relatively short (at least the one presented by In Serbia News was minuscule). Recently, an article about the discovery of new species in the “lost world” of Australia garnered a very lengthy write-up.

The story is not new, either. It appears that variations of the story have been circulating on the web for nearly a decade. While there are some slight variations, the story hasn’t changed much, either. Most sites have added opinions, rather than updates. In fact, the “new” version of the article has the same lead from its original publication. The original writer –whoever that might be — claimed in the lead that the search was ongoing and that eight researchers are involved. No names are given to the explorers.

This leads to another flaw in the pyramid story. The websites and blogs that chose to print it didn’t bother to validate the story. It appears nobody involved in the expedition were contacted. Any sense of sourcing done in the article was to mention an obscure website known for printing pseudo-scientific-themed articles (no link available). It’s obvious that many sites merely searched the web, found the story and placed it on their sites. This is not exactly investigative journalism at its finest (that is if you dare to give it that distinction).

Most of the news outlets are found on the Internet. Many of them have posted questionable stories in the past. One such website reporting on this matter is Before It’s News.com. This site was once the darling of citizen journalism. Its platform allowed for anyone to post a newsworthy article.

Over the years, Before It’s News has been taken over by conspiracy theorists, cranks, and ideologists who have written articles about such ground-breaking stuff as secret lunar bases, alien infiltration, and shadowy government activities.

When this story was “reported” on their site in late 2012, it took on a whole new dimension. The result was, shall we say, unique. On top of eight unnamed explorers from America and Europe discovering the pyramids, there were hints of hidden Nazi bases and remnants of the lost continent of Atlantis.

The other sites are not better, either. Many will put a political stance to it, while others will run with pseudo-scientific slants. Many center around the theme of the lost continent of Atlantis. It’s not surprising to see some sites adding the line “the government doesn’t want you to know this…”

Interestingly enough, this story’s origin may not have anything to do with Nazis, Atlantis or government cover-ups. Instead, it’s Hollywood. To be precise, a movie that pitted two iconic space monsters against one another.

According to a trailer of Alien vs. Predator (which is based on the movie, as well as the Dark Horse Comic series), a group of explorers uncovers an ancient pyramid in Antarctica. To make a long story short, the aliens and predator battle one another inside it while the humans try to stay out of harm’s way.

Is it a coincidence? The answer is most likely no. The story is just a myth kept alive by the nature of sensationalistic websites on the Internet. Yet, its flaws are so glaring that nearly anyone reading it can spot them. There are websites that have debunked it; however, as long as there are those that use it as affirmation for their beliefs in “alternative news” of the paranormal, conspiracies, or other bizarre matters, this story will not meet the cold and frozen death that it deserves.

It appears the pyramids are not a mystery, after all. For years, climbers heading to Antarctica’s largest peak, Vinsen Massif, have passed by one of these supposed pyramids. Even a National Geographic photographer snapped a few pictures of it from the peak of Vinsen Massif.

There are other photos and videos on the Internet showing climbers ascending this peak, while the pyramid can be seen in the background. And, by all appearance, no one is really paying much attention to it. There’s a reason.

The “pyramid” may well be a natural formation known as nunatak. These are mountain peaks that jut up above massive glaciers. They are found throughout Antarctica and Greenland. It is believed that these formations were formed by years of erosion caused by the shifting glaciers.

Below is a video that examines the photos and explains what these “pyramids” are. Warning: the grammar can be confusing, but the creator(s) behind the video are spot on in their analysis.

Just when the Antarctica Pyramid was starting to fade into obscurity, another article on the matter has gone viral. This time, a name – as well as coordinates – was given. Vicente Fuentes, a Spanish paranormal investigator who writes for Ufotopia.com, posted an image of a supposed pyramid and a Spanish language documentary on the topic in mid-March 2016. Nearly every paranormal blog and internet fringe publication — such as Before-Its-News.com — published duplicate articles.

Fuentes (who was described as a “vivid researcher”) made the claim that Google Earth captured evidence of a pyramid in Antarctica. And, for good measure, he placed the satellite image side-by-side with another satellite image of a pyramid in Egypt. Also, he gave the coordinates that anyone could plug in for Google Earth (79°58’39.25″S 81°57’32.21″W)

Many true believers have touted this as being the best evidence to date. They claimed that it was impossible for mountain ridges and peaks to be nearly perfect in symmetry.

However, a closer look reveals that the Antarctic pyramid — possibly a mountain peak known as Schatz Ridge (a better view is the lead photo used for this article) – is not as perfect as many pyramid believers suggests. There appears to be a canyon on one side. Also, as mentioned, this particular ridge is located near a popular mountain routinely used by mountain climbers (who probably didn’t give it much thought about it being anything more than a glacier horn or nunatak).

Additionally, the photo from Fuentes appears to be cropped. The side-by-side image of a real pyramid may trick some viewers into believing they’re seeing two similar structures – when in fact, one is a huge mountain that’s mostly buried under ice (and clearly connected to a half-buried ridge with two other peaks) and the other is a man-made structure that’s less than a thousand feet high.

And what’s the story with Fuentes? He claims to have a degree in Industrial Engineering (with emphasis in chemicals) and mathematics who has an interest in things “that nobody dares to talk about.” He has written numerous articles on the paranormal including one about a “portal” he claimed to have uncovered in Antarctica (which sounds like the centuries-old debunked Symmes Hole).

Back in November 2016, CBS news ran a story about the Internet stories pertaining to the Antarctic Pyramid. In the report (available on the Internet), a professor of Earth system science at UC Irvine had been contacted by the Internet science news outlet, Live Science.

Eric Rignot wrote in an e-mail that an unnamed pyramid-shaped peak within the Ellsworth Mountain ranges was the result of nature.

“This is just a mountain that looks like a pyramid.” He wrote.

He further stated: “Pyramid shapes are not impossible – many peaks partially look like pyramids, but they only have one to two faces like that, rarely four.”

Still, the article added something that opens up another interesting – and possibly more plausible – find in the region. In an area within the range known as Heritage Range, fossils from the Cambrian period have been found. Most of them are trilobites that lived more than 500 million years ago and were confirmed by a 1972 USGS (United States Geological Society) report on the region.

Recently, a pro-Antarctic Pyramid Theory documentary entitled, “The Pyramid of Antarctica Conspiracy” surfaced on YouTube. The video was made sometime around 2017 and pushed the concept that pyramids were discovered in Antarctica. However, upon further scrutiny, the video seemed to retread old information from the original article on the topic with a few details from actual studies.

It stated that an international group of scientists (again, the names of the scientists were not given). discovered the pyramids This time, the documentary claimed that this discovery came in 2016 and that they “found evidence of a lost civilization.”

The narrator of the documentary also stated “they found three four-sided pyramids protruding through the tundra.” This was a bizarre statement, considering that the original accounts placed the pyramids jutting out from deep glaciers instead of existing in a region often characterized as dry, barren land with little or no vegetation (Antarctic tundra are not the same type found in the northern hemisphere). The documentary also touched upon the Google Earth findings and the image from it that has become the hallmark of this conspiracy theory.

The seven-minute video data mined actual scientific research of the continent with conspiratorial sources to bolster its claim that the pyramid exists. And, of course, it made the argument that Antarctica was the lost city/state of Atlantis.

Possibly the most striking of all is not so much that more information was added to this theory. It’s that the claims from the original article are still alive and well, despite its glaring flaws.

A Dance to the Death: The Dancing Plague of 1518

1518 was not a particularly interesting or groundbreaking year historically. Most things were going on as normal, and not many events of note took place. Therefore, the dancing plague of this year tends to take center stage as one of the more prominent and strange events.

Quite a different culture existed 500 years ago when our story takes place. It was defined by thatched roofs, dirt floors, lead cups, generalized poverty, the black plague, and scientific mystery. If you were wealthy, pewter dishes were used (which leached lead when anything acidic was served on them.) Often, small houses lodged the family and all the field hands and workers. A small 3-bedroom home could be the resting spot for 45-50 at night. Baths were a luxury taken perhaps once a year, people married young (around 19 on average), and luxuries like indoor toilets and running water were known only to royalty.

These were times of simplicity, hard work, rudimentary science, and much mystery. Perhaps 1% of the population was literate, so stories were either passed down by actual witnesses through oral tradition, or else someone had to be present who could write the events down for posterity. Witnesses would commonly meet someone literate, later, who would subsequently write the details down. The accuracy of these records is often questionable. Luckily for historians, this story takes place in the city where the Gutenberg printing press was developed 80 years earlier. This had attracted scholars, scientists, and those who wished to document history.

Like many things that date back a few hundred years, the details are somewhat hazy. There are many theories as to what may have happened here, but a consensus of opinion has formed on this event, outlined here.

  • The dance plague of 1518 occurred in the Alsation city of Strasbourg, Roman Empire, along the Rhine River, in what is now France.
  • It started with Mrs. Troffea, who danced “fervently” in the streets in July 1518 for about a week straight, all day and all night.
  • In the following month up to 400 others joined her, dancing day and night, as if in a trance.
  • “Physician notes, cathedral sermons, local and regional chronicles, and even notes issued by the Strasbourg city council” documented these events.
  • Dancers appeared to be “unconscious and unable to control themselves.”
  • Local physicians blamed “hot blood” for all the dancing. It was thought that heated weather caused the blood to heat up, eliciting crazy responses in people.
  • It was thought that this “disease” would eventually wear itself out, but for this to happen, “dancers must be kept dancing” until they wore themselves out. Musicians were hired by the city to keep the party going.
  • Unfortunately, this decision greatly increased the dancing illness, which grew exponentially. Apparently music was an invitation for others to join in.
  • A mere calamity became a scene of nightmares.
  • After many weeks of dancing, up to 15 people per day died due to dehydration and absolute exhaustion.
  • By the end of the summer, dozens had died of heart attacks, strokes, and exhaustion due to non-stop dancing.
  • Modern scientists aren’t sure what happened, but there are multiple theories.

Science 500 years ago was in its rudimentary stages, and many things were explained away by magic, incantation, and dark spirits. Since then there have been many theories, none of which fully explain the situation, but many of which make some sense.

It should be noted that the dancing plague of 1518 is not the first or last of such occurrence, but seems to be the most highly-documented.

1. The most common explanation is the ingestion of the hallucinogenic fungus ergot, which commonly grew on wheat and rye. Ergot’s historically believed to be responsible for the Salem witchcraft trials, and happens to be what LSD-25 was synthesized from. However, scientists aren’t sure how people could dance non-stop for weeks at a time, as ergot’s hallucinogenic effects are generally short-lived (a day or two.)

2. Another, and perhaps more likely culprit, is that of Angel’s trumpet / datura / belladonna, which after ingestion has been noted to cause most, if not all, of the symptoms experienced in the dancing plague. Symptoms include: disorientation, hyperactivity, delirium, motor restlessness, over-sexual excitement, incoherent thought, fever, illusions, alternating levels of consciousness, audio-visual disassociation, respiratory distress and weakness, seizures, delayed gastric emptying, and increased urinary retention.

3. Other theories abound. Lack of sleep, communal choreomania (historically, a way for communities to bond through dancing), and prolonged malnutrition, have all been named as culprits. Other theories blame lead poisoning, stress, the intense summer heat, and poverty. Yet another example blames tarantism, in which the victims were said to have been poisoned by a tarantula or scorpion. Tarantism’s earliest known outbreak was in the 13th century, and the only antidote known was to dance to music “to separate the venom from the blood.”

There are many theories. However, there is no true consensus. Many have agreed to pin it down to generic “mass hysteria” affecting the psyche, with no actual physical cause, but historical proof isn’t substantial.

Amazingly, though it’s one of the most documented occurrences of mass hysteria in history, not much is really known about why or how this event happened. Modern physicians agree that it’s almost physically impossible to maintain this type of frenetic dance for days, weeks, and months straight. At the same time, this particular event is extremely well-documented.

Science at the time was rudimentary, and records of the event, while prominent and very descriptive, do nothing to explain the apparent cause. That dancing mania had occurred previous to this, and after, is interesting. This suggests that dance mania was somehow connected to practices at the time, though narrowing it down to one practice in particular has never occurred.

The first recorded episodes of choreomania appeared during the 13th century and persisted on a widespread scale in southern Europe for at least 400 years, reaching a peak in the 1600s, after which it virtually disappeared.

Perhaps we will never know or understand what caused the dancing plagues documented during these years of mystery and magic. Maybe we are so far removed from the mindset and circumstances of that time that the best we can do is guess. However, it’s clear that mass plagues shaped the path to where we are now. It’s important to remember where we come from, how we got here, and the sacrifices (odd though they may be) that our predecessors experienced to get us to this point.

While our science may be better and we know more than we used to, the dancing plague of 1518 will likely remain a mystery forever. What do you think was the cause?

Andrews, E. (2015, August 31). What Was the Dancing Plague of 1518? Retrieved October 7, 2018, from https://www.history.com/news/what-was-the-dancing-plague-of-1518

Dancing Mania. (2018, August 23). Retrieved October 7, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dancing_mania#cite_ref-Bartholomew_2-6

Dancing Plague of 1518. (2018, September 05). Retrieved October 7, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dancing_plague_of_1518

Pennant-Rea, N. (2018, September 27). The Dancing Plague of 1518. Retrieved October 7, 2018, from https://publicdomainreview.org/2018/07/10/the-dancing-plague-of-1518/

Printing Press. (2018, September 10). Retrieved October 7, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Printing_press

The Dancing Plague. (2017, February 24). Retrieved October 7, 2018, from http://www.historicalblindness.com/blogandpodcast//the-dancing-plague

The Witches Curse. (2014, June 04). Retrieved October 7, 2018, from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/witches-curse-clues-evidence/1501/

Wallis, P. (2008, August 13). Mystery Explained? ‘Dancing Plague’ of 1518, the Bizarre Dance that Killed Dozens. Retrieved October 7, 2018, from http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/258521

Facts about Concentration Camps

Concentration camps were an integral part of Nazi Germany between the years 1933 and 1945. Without them, Nazi Germany would not have been the threat it had become. Concentration camps were a “camp” where people were imprisoned for being born into a certain family, such as Jewish, Austrian, etc. The conditions in these “camps” were harsh, much rougher than most prisons. People imprisoned were often forced to work, as well as abused. Those who were not forced to work, were put to death.

The first concentration camp was built as soon as Adolph Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany in January 1933. Hitler claimed at the beginning that it was for those who opposed the Nazi policy, but it was not long before others were imprisoned beyond their political beliefs. Eventually these “prisons” were built throughout all of Germany, Poland, and other parts of Europe. By 1941, they began to use the concentration camps to kill those who were not the ideal blond haired, blue eyed Christian. He began with those of Jewish descent.

The German Holocaust was a time when 6 million Jews were killed throughout all of the German concentration camps. This began due to Hitler’s belief that Caucasian blond hair, blue-eyed Germans were superior to all other races. Jews, in his mind, were a very tainted race, which caused him to target this group more than any other. Hitler hoped by exterminating the Jews, only the “supreme” race would be left.

Jews were not the only targets during the German Holocaust. Disabled people, Roma or Gypsies, Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, and others were also deemed unworthy races, although Jews were by far the most targeted. In 1933, Europe had over 9 million people who considered themselves Jews. Less than 3 million survived by the end of the Holocaust. Many lived in countries that Hitler’s Nazi regime overtook during World War II. Many of those who survived had escaped and moved to the United States or other countries.

Along with people of Jewish descent, 200,000 people with disabilities were murdered, during a “euthanasia program” that was enacted. Most of these institutions were within Germany, although some laid outside of the boundary, where Nazi regime had authority.

Concentration camps were used for several purposes, although all were run by those trained by Theodore Eiche’s school.

Theodore Eiche created the concentration camp system, and even ran a school where he trained people towards leading them. Most belonged to the Dead Head’s Unit referred to as the SS’s Totenkopfverbände. Many of the guards were chosen since they also attended the school. These men were trained on several different ways to run the concentration camps, although all were trained on killing innocent human beings, even those who ran labor camps were taught to kill those who had lost their usefulness.

Here are the different types of concentration camps:

Labor Camps: Within these camps, they would sort people based upon ability. Those who were sick or disabled were immediately killed, due to their inability to work. Those who were capable of manual labor would work sunrise to sundown with very little food and water. Once a person showed signs of illness, they would be murdered either execution style or however those in charge felt was fit. Eventually, those who were brought into a labor camp would either contract a disease from those around them or die due to the extraneous labor with little nourishment.

Gassing: Many concentration camps had gas chambers where they would bring a line of unsuspecting people into a room. They would then seal the room off and fill the room with poisonous gasses. Auschwitz, one of the most famous concentration camps, was set up specifically for this purpose. The gas room was actually right underneath the crematorium. Once they gassed the people, they would send the bodies in an elevator straight up towards the crematorium where the bodies would be burned. Chelmno, the first concentration camp, used this method. Most places, in order to gas the people, would use the exhaust from a truck.

Mass Shooting: Another form that SS soldiers chose to do mass killings was by shooting Jews and other groups. One notorious camp who used this method was Majdanek. On November 3rd and 4th, 17-18 thousand people died in one day through this method. It was so notorious that they even named the mass shooting, ‘harvest feast,’ or the German name Erntefest. Erntefest also included other mass shootings in the Lublin area. The total body count was believed to be around 40 thousand. Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident, and this form was used in other concentration camps as well.

Medical Testing Extermination: Some felt they were taking a nobler way of exterminating what they felt were inferior races. These facilities would do medical testing experiments. In order to test these medical experiments, they would give those who lived in the camps a disease, then try a cure to see if it worked. Obviously, they knew many of these supposed cures would fail, and were not disheartened by the loss of people when these cures did not work. A vast majority of the people within camps like this died of the diseases they were infected with. Throughout all of these medical testings, there were no cures found for any known disease.

The stories of both camps are extremely disturbing and heartbreaking. Before you read the stories below, remember you cannot unlearn anything. As I was studying this, my heart literally ached. Yet, I know this history is important to know. The stories are unbelievable. So read with caution:

Chelmno become an operational killing factory on December 8,1941. At Chelmno they had three trucks that were specifically designed for mass murders. The large trucks had tightly sealed areas where large loads would be able to be carried, but unlike a semi that carries large loads of items, these large loads were of people, specifically those who were Jewish. They then redirected the exhaust of these trucks to enter the enclosed area; therefore, the people would die once the vehicle was turned on.

The first victims, on December 8, 1941, were Jews that lived in the Kolo ghetto. They were asked to line up near the local synagogue in front of the Jewish Counsel. They were told that they could bring one handbag only, and they were going to be taken somewhere where they would be building railroads and working in the fields. This was not the case. The men kept up appearance of good faith, asking the “workers” to place down their handbags once they arrived in Chelmno. The leaders within the camp, then numbered their bags and wrote down their names in a book. They then were told they were going into bathhouses, and asked them to undress. Instead of leading them to bathhouses, all 800 were brutally forced into the deadly vans. All 800 men, women, and children died that day. This was only the first mass murdering to take place, many more were to follow to total a death count of around 350,000 innocent people. This was just one death camp, and not even the worst.

Auschwitz was the largest and most notorious concentration camp. It was made up of three concentration camps within Poland. They chose a variety of means of death from gassing to experimental testing. This one concentration camp took the life of 1 1/4 million people during World War II. Auschwitz’s first killing was earlier than that of Chelmno in September 1941, when 850 people lost their lives, because they were too malnourished and weak to work in labor camps.

437,402 Hungarian Jews were killed between May 14th and July 8th, 1944. This all occurred in less than two months, killing more than Chelmno did in its entire working history. This was the largest single deportation of any concentration camp known to mankind.

The treatment of children is even more appalling. Most children upon arrival to Auschwitz would be immediately killed. There was a camp doctor who did choose select children to be tested on. What he was testing is unknown since his main forms of testing were castrating them, freezing them, placing in pressure chambers, and testing with drugs. In later years, before the camp closed, they chose to “save money,” by changing their procedures. Instead of killing children then cremating the body, they skipped the step of killing these children and sent them straight to the crematory alive.

The stories of the German Holocaust, the concentration camps, and all the brutality is unbelievable. It will never be understood how such atrocious acts could be acted upon other human beings. The idea that these acts were organized makes it that much more unbelievable. How could so many men gather together, and make decisions on the death of thousands? How could a man go home after a day at work at a concentration camp? How could they not see that what they were doing is wrong, beyond wrong, evil?!? These questions will never be answered.

http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005143

http://library.thinkquest.org/CR0210520/concentration_camps.htm

http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/understanding-the-treatment-of-jews-during-world-w.html

http://www.holocaust-education.dk/lejre/udryddelseslejre.asp

Risks of Global Warming Rising

From many unprecedented natural disasters to extreme weather changes occurring lately, scientists over the globe are getting more worried about the catastrophic issue of global warming and its many bizarre effects. According to (Biello, 2009), the risks of harmful consequences brought on by global warming has explicitly marred many potential positive aspects, like the complete melting of ice caps in areas like Greenland and Antarctica has seriously interfered with the duration of growing seasons in countries like Canada and Russia. From the burning of fossil fuels to release of poisonous gases in the atmosphere, variations in climate extremes to rising sea levels, and shrinking extent of Arctic sea ice, the issue of global warming has unequivocally impacted the Earth both environmentally and geographically in a way that no one can remain oblivious to it. 

One of the most distressing issues presented by global warming is that it can do much more than simply melting polar ice and increasing global average temperatures. This is an established fact that global warming can both conspicuously and subtly impact the Earth map. The relation between global warming and the geography can be illuminated by the scientific fact that in the past many years, the extent of Arctic sea ice has been declining and reportedly, millions of square kilometers of sea ice have been lost due to increasing temperatures. Such disrupted Arctic climate patterns have led to increased wastage of the sun’s energy which normally has to be recycled back towards space, but with the ice melting at an aggravated pace in the Northern Hemisphere, the ocean waters absorb most of the sun’s energy and this explains the why the global average sea levels are increasing. 
The picture above shows that Arctic sea ice retreat will not continue at a stable rate in the future. Global warming has casted huge geographical changes in the Arctic sea ice. Most of the ice lost over the past many years owing to global warming has been replaced by thin ice that is being melted by the increasing temperatures at a faster pace. In fact, the Arctic sea ice cover will continue degenerating over the coming years and if the increasing trend in global warming persists, the Earth will be completely swept of the Arctic sea ice by 2050. (marellascience, 2011).

Rising sea levels is also one of the worst consequences of global warming brought on by rapidly melting ice caps and this has led a large number of people to move away from areas near the coasts and settle down somewhere else. According to (Bergman & Renwick, 2005, p. 96), scientific studies have proved that global warming has caused a rise of “1 to 5 meters” in the worldwide sea level. Owing to the fact that sea level is on a constant rise for the past many years, minimal changes in climate can change into deadly storms that can cause flooding farther inland and inflict population on a large scale. 2010 Pakistan floods and 2011 Tsunami in Japan are the recent most disastrous examples of the extreme climate changes.

The sever climate change occurring from global warming can also lead to water shortages in some areas. Small changes in evapotranspiration rates can lead to decreased water flow to the rivers and semiarid and densely populated areas depend on river flow for drinking water, agricultural, and waste removal purposes. In case of increase in evapotranspiration rates owing to an increase in global warming, less water reaches the rivers and extreme water shortage occurs causing huge distress for the local population. (Vastag, 2005) claims that according to a research study done by the US climate scientists, “global warming threatens to leave a billion people high and dry despite the fact that ice caps are gradually melting.”

Global warming has also affects the geographic ranges of some plant and animals, according to (pewclimate.org, n.d.). Changing climatic patterns play a crucial role in determining the geographical distribution of some plant and animal species. With the global warming on a rise, research studies done in the western United States suggest that many populations of the species checkerspot butterfly have vanished completely and while Mexico is nearly devoid of this species, northern areas like Canada are crowded with it. In animals, the red fox is another species that has shifted to the Arctic area, as the temperatures have increased over the last many years. Northern areas are infiltrated by the southern, warmer-water species and such major shifts potentially threaten United State’s biodiversity. 

References:

  • Bergman, E. F. & Renwick, W. H. (2005). Introduction to Geography (3rd ed.). US: Pearson Education Inc. 
  • Biello, D. (2009). Risks of Global Warming Rising: Is It Too Late to Reverse Course? Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=risks-of-global-warming-rising. 
  • Marellascience. (2011). Some scientists say that changes to the Arctic Sea Ice will cause the rate of climate change to increase. WHY? Retrieved from http://marellascience.wikispaces.com/Sea+Ice 
  • Pewclimate.org. (n.d.). Global warming in depth. Retrieved from http://www.pewclimate.org/global-warming-in-depth/all_reports/observedimpacts/execsumm.cfm
  • Vastag, B. (2005). Warming May Cause Widespread Water Shortages, Studies S. Retrieved from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/11/1121_051121_warming_water.html 
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