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By: Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy Anna Karenina

Leo Tolstoy’s psychological novel Anna Karenina follows the life of the enchanting and rebellious Anna who seeks to break free from the shackles of society. Set in late 19th century Russia, Anna is portrayed as an ideal, cultivated aristocratic wife, mother and model for women alike. Although at first glance she seems to have it all in life, Anna yearns for love and affection- something her cold diplomatic husband cannot provide. She grows discontent of their loveless relationship, and is tired of the façade she has been putting up in order to sustain a positive social image...

Ivan the Fool by Leo Tolstoy Ivan the Fool

Written after Tolstoy suffered a spiritual crisis, Ivan the Fool is a fairy tale that offers children instruction in how to live rightly, simply, and generously. The story emphasizes the destructive aspects of materialism and militarism while idealizing manual labor and the peasant life. (Introduction by Dorlene Kaplan)

The Kreutzer Sonata by Leo Tolstoy The Kreutzer Sonata

Publication of The Kreutzer Sonata in 1889 was a significant intellectual event worldwide. Censored in Russia, it set off an explosive debate in Europe, America, and Asia on matters relating to sexual abstinence and the hypocrisy of marriage. The novella emphasizes Tolstoy's controversial view on sexuality, which asserts that physical desire is an obstacle to relations between men and women and may result in tragedy. The Kreutzer Sonata has been recognized as among the best examples of Tolstoy's art of storytelling.(Introduction by Dorlene Kaplan)

By: William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet

William Shakespeare’s most well-known play is more than most people realize. While it is the story of star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, it is also the story of two families in the middle of a bitter feud. Many people avoid the story because they believe it will be too difficult to read, but this is not true at all. Within a few paragraphs, the play captures your imagination and attention. Juliet is 13 years old and is love with the son of her father’s enemy. Her father has promised that she will marry another boy when it is time, but she refuses to accept the suit...

King Lear by William Shakespeare King Lear

Considered to be one of Shakespeare's greatest plays, the tragedy King Lear portrays some of the darkest aspects of human nature that can be found in literature. The helplessness of the human condition, as we fall prey to our destinies, the injustice and random cruelties practiced by people, suffering and humiliation, the lust for power and the greed for wealth are all depicted in this magnificent play. And through it all, runs the golden thread of love and sacrifice, daughterly affection and the true nature of our relationship with our parents...

The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare The Tragedy of Macbeth

Right from its famous opening scene which begins, “Thunder and lightning. Enter Three Witches” The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare holds the reader fast in a stirring, monumental experience that plumbs the depths of the human soul and reveals its most morbid secrets. The play is set in medieval Scotland. It is based partly on historical facts and recounts the tale of Macbeth, who was a king in Scotland, according to The Holinshead Chronicles, a book published in 1577. This book was extensively used by contemporary playwrights like Shakespeare and Marlowe as inspiration for their themes, characters and events...

Othello by William Shakespeare Othello

In seventeenth century Venice, a wealthy and debauched man discovers that the woman he is infatuated with is secretly married to a Moorish general in the Venetian army. He shares his grief and rage with a lowly ensign in the army who also has reason to hate the general for promoting a younger man above him. The villainous ensign now plots to destroy the noble general in a diabolical scheme of jealousy, paranoia and murder, set against the backdrop of the bloody Turkish-Venetian wars. This timeless tale, Othello The Moor of Venice was one of the ten famous tragedies that William Shakespeare wrote...

The Tragedy of Hamlet by William Shakespeare The Tragedy of Hamlet

The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is a tragedy by William Shakespeare. Set in the Kingdom of Denmark, the play dramatizes the revenge Prince Hamlet exacts on his uncle Claudius for murdering King Hamlet, Claudius's brother and Prince Hamlet's father, and then succeeding to the throne and taking as his wife Gertrude, the old king's widow and Prince Hamlet's mother. The play vividly portrays both true and feigned madness – from overwhelming grief to seething rage – and explores themes of treachery, revenge, incest, and moral corruption.

Shakespeare's Sonnets by William Shakespeare Shakespeare's Sonnets

Shakespeare’s Sonnets, or simply The Sonnets, comprise a collection of 154 poems in sonnet form written by William Shakespeare that deal with such themes as love, beauty, politics, and mortality. The poems were probably written over a period of several years.

King Richard II by William Shakespeare King Richard II

The Tragedy of King Richard II, by William Shakespeare, is the first of the history series that continues with Parts 1 and 2 of King Henry IV and with The Life of King Henry V. At the beginning of the play, Richard II banishes his cousin Henry Bolingbroke from England. Bolingbroke later returns with an army and the support of some of the nobility, and he deposes Richard. Richard is separated from his beloved Queen, imprisoned, and later murdered. By the end of the play, Bolingbroke has been crowned King Henry IV...

Richard III by William Shakespeare Richard III

Richard III is an early history play probably written and performed around 1592-93. It is the culmination of Shakespeare's earlier three plays about Henry VI, and chronicles the bloody career of Richard, Duke of Gloucester. As the play opens, the Wars of the Roses are over, King Edward IV (Richard's brother) is on the throne, and all is ostensibly well. The problem? Richard wants to be king - and he'll stop at nothing to realize his ambition.

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare Twelfth Night

Shakespeare's great festive comedy, probably written and first performed around 1601, follows the adventures of twins Viola and Sebastian, who are separated from each other by a shipwreck. Viola, believing her brother dead, disguises herself as a page in order to serve the lovesick Duke Orsino, who has been rejected by the Countess Olivia. The ensemble cast includes a roster of wonderfully comic characters: Olivia's drunken uncle Sir Toby Belch, his foolish friend Sir Andrew Aguecheek, the witty serving woman Maria, the social-climbing steward Malvolio, and the clever, riddling clown Feste.

The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare The Winter's Tale

Mad with jealousy, King Leontes of Sicilia orders his best friend Polixenes killed, his child abandoned, and his wife put on trial for adultery. Sixteen years later, Perdita, raised as a shepherd's daughter, falls in love with Polixenes's royal son and returns to her father's kingdom.

Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare Titus Andronicus

Titus Andronicus may be Shakespeare's earliest tragedy; it is believed to have been written in the early 1590s. It depicts a Roman general who is engaged in a cycle of revenge with his enemy Tamora, the Queen of the Goths. The play is by far Shakespeare's bloodiest work. It lost popularity during the Victorian era because of its gore, and it has only recently seen its fortunes revive.

King John by William Shakespeare King John

The Life and Death of King John, a history play by William Shakespeare, dramatises the reign of John, King of England (ruled 1199–1216), son of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine and father of Henry III of England. It is believed to have been written in the mid-1590s but was not published until it appeared in the First Folio in 1623. John (24 December 1166 – 19 October 1216), also known as John Lackland or Softsword, was King of England from 6 April 1199 until his death. His reign...

By: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)

Book cover The Parasite

Being a physiologist, Austin Gilroy is unconvinced that the occult is real. His friend Professor Wilson, however, is not only convinced that psychical powers are real, but eagerly desires that Gilroy should be persuaded. To this end, Wilson invites Austin to his house for a demonstration. The effect is that Austin, although still skeptical, now concedes that there is more in the matter than he at first believed. But when the psychic, Miss Penclosa, controls his actions to the point where he nearly murders his fiancee, Austin Gilroy doubts no longer.

By: Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy The Mayor of Casterbridge

Irritated and drunken, an itinerant farm-worker sells his wife and child to a stranger. Thus begins The Mayor of Casterbridge, set in rural and small-town England in the mid-1800s. In the original subtitle, Hardy called this the story of "a man of character," and the central character, Michael Henchard, is one of English fiction's greatest creations. Henchard is deeply developed as a realistic character, but also larger-than-life in the manner of a Greek or Shakespearean tragic hero — huge in his determination and huge in his failings...

By: Homer

The Iliad by Homer The Iliad

A divinely beautiful woman who becomes the cause of a terrible war in which the gods themselves take sides. Valor and villainy, sacrifices and betrayals, triumphs and tragedies play their part in this three thousand year old saga. The Iliad throws us right into the thick of battle. It opens when the Trojan War has already been raging for nine long years. An uneasy truce has been declared between the Trojans and the Greeks (Achaeans as they're called in The Iliad.) In the Greek camp, Agamemnon the King of Mycenae and Achilles the proud and valiant warrior of Phthia are locked in a fierce contest to claim the spoils of war...

By: Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

The Duchess of Padua by Oscar Wilde The Duchess of Padua

Guido Ferranti, a young man, travels to Padua with his friend Ascanio after receiving a mysterious letter from a stranger, claiming to know the true secret of Guido's birth. His plan of revenge goes awry, however, when he falls in love with his enemy's beautiful wife, the Duchess of Padua.

By: Gaston Leroux (1868-1927)

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux The Phantom of the Opera

A masterly mix of romance, drama, mystery, suspense, love and jealousy, The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux will haunt you long after you've turned the last page. Today the world knows it by Andrew Lloyd-Webber's long running musical on stage and its 2004 film adaptation, and earlier from Lon Chaney's screen portrayal of the dark intruder who roams the Paris Opera House. However, Gaston Leroux's novel was first released as a serial in the French magazine, La Gaulois over four months in 1909-10...

By: Joseph Conrad (1857-1924)

Amy Foster by Joseph Conrad Amy Foster

Classic shortish story by Conrad that relates his self-thought alienation from British society, as a young foreign man survives a shipwreck off the coast of Kent, England only to be shunned by most of the townsfolk. The one exception is the loving, if dull-witted, Miss Foster.

By: Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851)

Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Frankenstein

A precursor to gothic literature and science fiction genres, Frankenstein is a novel fuming with imagination as it depicts a well known horror story. Shelly’s gothic fiction is written in epistolary form as a means of correspondence between the failed writer Robert Walton and his sister, while he is away on a dangerous expedition in search of fame. Some major themes explored in the gothic classic are the fallibility of ambition and knowledge, revenge, prejudice, isolation, and the imperfections of society...

Mathilda by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Mathilda

The finished draft of a short novel by Mary Shelley. Its adult theme, concerning a father’s incestuous love for his daughter and its consequences, meant that the manuscript was suppressed by Shelley’s own father, and not published until 1959, more than a hundred years after her death. Summary by Cori Samuel

By: Wilkie Collins (1824-1889)

The Dead Alive by Wilkie Collins The Dead Alive

Ill feelings exist between the Meadowcroft sons and John Jago, the foreman of the Meadowcroft estate. Then, John Jago disappears, and a body is found in a kiln. The Meadowcroft brothers stand accused of the crime, but are they guilty? The Dead Alive is a novel written by Wilkie Collins based on the true-life Boorn Brothers murder conviction case of 1819. Jesse and Stephen Boorn were sentenced to death for the murder of their brother-in-law, but were they wrongly convicted?

By: John Milton (1608-1674)

Samson Agonistes by John Milton Samson Agonistes

“The Sun to me is darkAnd silent as the Moon,When she deserts the nightHid in her vacant interlunar cave.”Milton composes his last extended work as a tragedy according to the classical Unities of Time, Place and Action. Nevertheless it “never was intended for the stage” and is here declaimed by a single reader.Samson the blinded captive, in company with the Chorus of friends and countrymen, receives his visitors on their varying missions and through them his violent story is vividly recalled...

By: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

Book cover The Sorrows of Young Werther

The Sorrows of Young Werther (German, Die Leiden des jungen Werther, originally published as Die Leiden des jungen Werthers) is an epistolary and loosely autobiographical novel by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, first published in 1774. The story follows the life and sorrows of Werther after he falls desperately in love with a young woman who is married to another. A climactic scene prominently features Goethe's own German translation of a portion of James Macpherson's Ossian cycle of poems, which had originally been presented as translations of ancient works, and was later found to have been written by Macpherson. (Introduction by Wikipedia and Barry Eads)

Faust, Part 1 by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Faust, Part 1

Faust is the protagonist of a classic German legend; a highly successful scholar, but also dissatisfied with his life, and so makes a deal with the devil, exchanging his soul for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures.Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust is a tragic play in two parts. It is Goethe's most famous work and considered by many to be one of the greatest works of German literature.This first part of Faust is not divided into acts, but is structured as a sequence of scenes in a variety of settings. After a dedicatory poem and a prelude in the theatre, the actual plot begins with a prologue in Heaven and Scene 1 in Faust's study.

By: Edgar Lee Masters (1868-1950)

Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters Spoon River Anthology

Two hundred and twelve residents of a small town tell their stories without fear of recrimination or ridicule. The only difference is that they're all dead! The two hundred and forty-four poems that form the Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters is really a series of epitaphs about the citizens of a fictional town called Spoon River and deals with the “plain and simple annals” of small town America. Edgar Lee Masters grew up in a small town in Illinois. His father's financial problems forced the young Masters to abandon ideas of college and take up a job instead...

By: Emily Bronte (1818-1848)

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte Wuthering Heights

Emily Bronte’s first and only novel, Wuthering Heights, portrays the obsessive and vengeful love story between Heathcliff and Catherine. Images of cruelty and passion with an incorporation of gothic supernatural elements set the dark and misty atmosphere present throughout the novel. Moving between two neighboring houses, Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, the wild love story turned destructive obsession is narrated by Mr. Lockwood through his diary entries. Bronte sets the novel into motion with the arrival of Mr...

By: John Galsworthy (1867-1933)

Book cover Skin Game

A small play in three acts. A kind of comic tragedy. The plot tells the story of the interaction between two very different families in rural England just after the end of the First World War. Squire Hillcrist lives in the manor house where his family has lived for generations. He has a daughter, Jill, who is in her late teens; and a wife, Amy, as well as servants and retainers. He is "old money", although his finances are at a bit of low ebb. The other family is the "nouveau riche" Hornblowers,...

Book cover Skin Game

A small play in three acts. A kind of comic tragedy. The plot tells the story of the interaction between two very different families in rural England just after the end of the First World War. Squire Hillcrist lives in the manor house where his family has lived for generations. He has a daughter, Jill, who is in her late teens; and a wife, Amy, as well as servants and retainers. He is "old money", although his finances are at a bit of low ebb. The other family is the "nouveau riche" Hornblowers,...

By: Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880)

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert Madame Bovary

The strands woven together in Gustave Flaubert's famous, path breaking 1856 novel Madame Bovary include a provincial town in Normandy, France, a shy young doctor with an indifferent career and a lovely young woman who lives in a fantasy world based on the innumerable romantic novels she reads. Of course there is also the story of a dull marriage punctuated by passionate, adulterous love affairs. First published in serial form in a Parisian magazine and deemed to be the “perfect” novel, Flaubert's debut was received by both readers and critics with acclaim and admiration...


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