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Tragedies

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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...

By: Aeschylus (c. 525/524-456/455 BC)

Book cover Prometheus Bound (Browning Translation)

Whether or not it was actually written by Aeschylus, as is much disputed, "Prometheus Bound" is a powerful statement on behalf of free humanity in the face of what often seem like the impersonal, implacable Forces that rule the Universe. As one of the most compelling rebel manifestos ever composed, it has appealed not only to the expected host of scholars of Greek drama, but also to a fascinatingly free-spirited array of translators, especially since the early 19th century; Percy Bysshe Shelley, Henry David Thoreau, and activist-poet Augusta Webster are among those who have tried their poetic and linguistic powers at rendering it into English...

By: Willa Sibert Cather (1873-1947)

Alexander's Bridge by Willa Sibert Cather Alexander's Bridge

Alexander's Bridge is the first novel by Willa Cather, published under the name Willa Sibert Cather. Heavily influenced by the works of Henry James, the book tells the story of bridge builder Bartley Alexander. Through his relationship with Actress Hilda Burgoyne while he is married his wife, Winnifred, he meets his moral downfall, and through another set of circumstances he meets his physical.

By: Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

Zastrozzi, A Romance by Percy Bysshe Shelley Zastrozzi, A Romance

“Would Julia of Strobazzo’s heart was reeking on my dagger!”From the asthmatic urgency of its opening abduction scene to the Satanic defiance of the villain’s departure “with a wild convulsive laugh of exulting revenge”, this first of Shelley’s Gothic novelettes recycles much sensational boyhood reading and also points to some of his more mature concerns.It is the ego-driven pursuit of passionate extremes, revenge included, which consigns figures like Zastrozzi and the murderous Matilda to an isolation which is socially destructive as well as self-annihilating...

By: Charles Morris (1833-1922)

The San Francisco Calamity by Earthquake and Fire by Charles Morris The San Francisco Calamity by Earthquake and Fire

The first half of this book describes the devastating earthquake that hit San Francisco in 1906, and the subsequent destruction caused by fire. Various eyewitnesses and victims give their account on the tragedy. In the second half, a number of different other earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are retold, like the eruption of the Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeij or the explosion of the Krakatoa, together with scientific explanations for the causes of earthquakes and the eruption of volcanos.

By: Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906)

The Master Builder by Henrik Ibsen The Master Builder

Henrik Ibsen's The Master Builder, first published in 1892, is about architect Halvard Solness, who despite personal tragedy (including the death of his two sons) has risen to the top of his profession. He has succeeded partly through ruthless competition and exploitation and partly through a seeming ability to force his will on others. His unhappy wife Aline mourns for their lost life, and resents his interest in various young women, including his bookkeeper Kaia Fosli. Solness disregards the ambitions of other architects, including Knut Brovik and his son Ragnar, and seeks solace in the advice of family physician and friend Dr...

Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen Ghosts

Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts was first published in 1881 and staged in 1882, and like his earlier play A Doll's House, profoundly shocked his contemporaries. Dubbed "a dirty deed done in public" by one of its critics, the play focuses on (among other things) venereal disease, euthanasia, and incest. The original title literally means "the ones who return," and the play is about how we can deal with the awful legacy of the past.

Little Eyolf by Henrik Ibsen Little Eyolf

Henrik Ibsen's 1894 play Little Eyolf tells the story of the Allmers family: the father, Alfred, his wife Rita, their crippled nine-year-old son Eyolf, and Alfred's sister Asta. As the play begins, Alfred has just gotten back from a trip to the mountains, and resolves to spend more time with his son, rather than on intellectual pursuits. Asta is romantically pursued by Borgheim, an engineer, while the cracks in Alfred and Rita's marriage gradually reveal themselves. The family receives a visit from the Rat-Wife, and are never the same again.

Book cover When We Dead Awaken

When We Dead Awaken (1899) is the last play by Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen. Dreamlike and highly symbolic, the play charts the dissolution of sculptor Arnold Rubek's marriage to Maia, her flirtation with Ulfheim, and his involvement with the mysterious Irene, his former model. The tensions rise between the characters as they climb higher and higher into the Norwegian mountains.

By: Émile Zola (1840-1902)

L'Assommoir by Émile Zola L'Assommoir

Émile François Zola (French pronunciation: [emil zɔˈla]) (2 April 1840 – 29 September 1902) was an influential French writer, the most important exemplar of the literary school of naturalism. More than half of Zola’s novels were part of a set of twenty novels about a family under the Second Empire collectively known as Les Rougon-Macquart. L’Assommoir (1877) is the seventh novel in the series. Usually considered one of Zola’s masterpieces, the novel—a harsh and uncompromising study of alcoholism and poverty in the working-class districts of Paris—was a huge commercial success and established Zola’s fame and reputation throughout France and the world.

By: Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805)

Mary Stuart by Friedrich Schiller Mary Stuart

Schiller's tragedy depicts the final days of Mary, Queen of Scots, who has been imprisoned by her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, because of her potential claim on the English throne. The action of the play revolves around an attempt to rescue Mary from prison and Elizabeth's indecision over whether or not to have her executed. The 1801 translation is by Joseph Mellish, a friend of Schiller's.

Book cover Love and Intrigue

Ferdinand is an army major and son of President von Walter, a high-ranking noble in a German duke's court, while Luise Miller is the daughter of a middle-class musician. The couple fall in love with each other, but both their fathers tell them to end their affair. The President instead wants to expand his own influence by marrying Ferdinand to Lady Milford, the duke's mistress, but Ferdinand rebels against his father's plan and tries to persuade Luise to elope with him.

Book cover Love and Intrigue

Ferdinand is an army major and son of President von Walter, a high-ranking noble in a German duke's court, while Luise Miller is the daughter of a middle-class musician. The couple fall in love with each other, but both their fathers tell them to end their affair. The President instead wants to expand his own influence by marrying Ferdinand to Lady Milford, the duke's mistress, but Ferdinand rebels against his father's plan and tries to persuade Luise to elope with him.

By: Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823)

A Sicilian Romance by Ann Radcliffe A Sicilian Romance

A Sicilian Romance is a Gothic novel by Ann Radcliffe. It was her second published work, and was first published anonymously in 1790. The plot concerns the turbulent history of the fallen aristocrats of the house of Mazzini, on the northern shore of Sicily, as related by a tourist who becomes intrigued by the stories of a monk he meets in the ruins of their doomed castle. The introduction to the 'Worlds Classics' edition notes that in this novel "Ann Radcliffe began to forge the unique mixture of the psychology of terror and poetic description that would make her the great exemplar of the Gothic novel, and the idol of the Romantics"...

By: Sophocles (495-406 BC)

Antigone by Sophocles Antigone

This is the final installment in Sophocles's Theban Plays, following Oedipus Rex and Oedipus at Colonus. Oedipus's daughter Antigone deliberately breaks the laws of Thebes when she buries her brother's body and is sentenced to death. She clashes with Creon, the King of Thebes, over what constitutes justice and morality: the laws of the state or the laws of the individual.

Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles Oedipus at Colonus

This is the second installment in Sophocles's Theban Plays that chronicles the tragic fates of Oedipus and his family. After fulfilling the prophecy that predicted he would kill his father and marry his mother, Oedipus blinds himself and leaves Thebes, to wander in the wilderness accompanied by his daughters Antigone and Ismene.

Book cover Electra

Sophocles' play dramatizes the aftermath of Agamemnon's murder by his wife Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus. His daughter Electra is hungry for revenge and longs for the return of her brother Orestes to help her achieve her ends.

By: Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593)

The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus

The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, normally known simply as Doctor Faustus, is a play by Christopher Marlowe, based on the Faust story, in which a man sells his soul to the devil for power and knowledge. Doctor Faustus was first published in 1604, eleven years after Marlowe's death and at least twelve years after the first performance of the play.

The Jew of Malta by Christopher Marlowe The Jew of Malta

Christopher “Kit” Marlowe (baptised 26 February 1564 – 30 May 1593) was an English dramatist, poet, and translator of the Elizabethan era. The foremost Elizabethan tragedian before William Shakespeare, he is known for his magnificent blank verse, his overreaching protagonists, and his own untimely death. The Jew of Malta (1589) is an original story of religious conflict, intrigue, and revenge, set against a backdrop of the struggle for supremacy between Spain and the Ottoman Empire in the Mediterranean...

Tamburlaine the Great by Christopher Marlowe Tamburlaine the Great

Tamburlaine the Great is the name of a play in two parts by Christopher Marlowe. It is loosely based on the life of the Central Asian emperor, Timur 'the lame'. Written in 1587 or 1588, the play is a milestone in Elizabethan public drama; it marks a turning away from the clumsy language and loose plotting of the earlier Tudor dramatists, and a new interest in fresh and vivid language, memorable action, and intellectual complexity. Along with Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, it may be considered the first popular success of London's public stage...

Book cover Tragical History of Doctor Faustus (1616 version)

The Tragicall History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus, commonly referred to simply as Doctor Faustus, is a play by Christopher Marlowe, based on the Faust story, in which a man sells his soul to the devil for power and knowledge. Doctor Faustus was first published in 1604, eleven years after Marlowe's death and at least twelve years after the first performance of the play. "No Elizabethan play outside the Shakespeare canon has raised more controversy than Doctor Faustus. There is no agreement concerning the nature of the text and the date of composition...

Book cover Edward II

Christopher Marlowe's Elizabethan tragedy focuses on the downfall of King Edward II, whose love for his favorite courtier, Piers Gaveston, leads to rebellion.

By: Lord George Gordon Byron (1788-1824)

The Island by Lord George Gordon Byron The Island

Written late in his career, Byron's narrative poem The Island tells the famous story of the mutiny on board the Bounty, and follows the mutineers as they flee to a South Sea island, "their guilt-won Paradise."

By: Anton Chekhov (1860-1904)

Book cover Ivanov

Nicolai (anglicised Nicholas in this translation) Ivanov, a middle-aged public servant, is unhappy. His wife Anna, disinherited by her family after converting from Judaism, is dying of tuberculosis. He is deeply in debt. And his best friend’s daughter is infatuated with him. Comedy and tragedy ensue in truly Chekhovian fashion. An example of the young Chekhov’s maturing style, Ivanov is an early harbinger of themes that would recur throughout his work.

By: August Strindberg (1849-1912)

Book cover Creditors

Creditors is an 1889 tragicomedy by August Strindberg that plumbs the depths of the twisted triangular relationship between Tekla, her husband Adolph, and her ex-husband Gustav.

By: Aeschylus (525/524 BC - c. 455/456 BC)

The Oresteia by Aeschylus The Oresteia

The Oresteia is a trilogy by Aeschylus, one of the foremost playwrights of ancient Greece. It encompasses three plays: Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Furies. It tells the tragic tale of the House of Atreus, whose inhabitants have been cursed and are doomed to play out their bloody, vengeful destinies. At the beginning of the first part, the Trojan War has ended and the Greek general, Agamemnon, is returning victorious to his wife Clytemnestra. Yet she finds it difficult to forgive his sacrifice of their daughter, Iphigenia, who was killed to ensure the Greek fleet fair winds in their voyage to Troy...

By: Morgan Robertson

Futility, Or the Wreck of the Titan by Morgan Robertson Futility, Or the Wreck of the Titan

This novel was published a full 14 years before the sinking of the Titanic, but listeners may be surprised at how many parallels this fictional tale has with subsequent true events. The Titan is the largest and most technologically advanced steamship of her time. She is considered unsinkable. Her full speed crossings of the Northern Lane Route carry her rich passengers in the highest standards of luxury and comfort. The less well-off travel in rougher quarters but still benefit from the speed of travel...

By: John Webster (c.1580 - c.1634)

The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster The Duchess of Malfi

John Webster's bloody Jacobean tragedy exposes the decadence of the Italian court. The virtuous Duchess of Malfi, a young widow, secretly marries her steward Antonio, and is subsequently persecuted by her brothers: the sexually obsessed and eventually mad Ferdinand, and the corrupt Cardinal.

By: Euripides (480-406 BC)

The Bacchae by Euripides The Bacchae

This tragedy is based on the mythological story of King Pentheus of Thebes and his mother Agave, and their punishment by the god Dionysus (who is Pentheus' cousin) for refusing to worship him.

The Trojan Women by Euripides The Trojan Women

Euripides' play follows the fates of the women of Troy after their city has been sacked, their husbands killed, and as their remaining families are about to be taken away as slaves. However, it begins first with the gods Athena and Poseidon discussing ways to punish the Greek armies because they condoned Ajax the Lesser for dragging Cassandra away from Athena's temple. What follows shows how much the Trojan women have suffered as their grief is compounded when the Greeks dole out additional deaths and divide their shares of women.

By: Francis Brett Young (1884-1954)

The Tragic Bride by Francis Brett Young The Tragic Bride

The story centers on Gabrielle Hewish, only and lonely child of Sir Jocelyn Hewish, a loveable lush and owner of the peaceful Roscarna estate nestled in the Irish countryside. In due course, young Gabrielle falls in love with a Navy man whose untimely demise sends her into a depression, and the consequences of which alter her future, culminating in a fascinating and quite unpredictable relationship with Mrs. Payne and her troubled son Arthur. A story of understanding in it’s finest sense and aptly titled, The Tragic Bride is both interesting as a story and telling as a character study.

By: Ford Madox Ford (1873-1939)

The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford The Good Soldier

The Good Soldier (1915) "... is set just before World War I and chronicles the tragedies of the lives of two seemingly perfect couples. The novel is told using a series of flashbacks in non-chronological order, a literary technique pioneered by Ford. It also makes use of the device of the unreliable narrator, as the main character gradually reveals a version of events that is quite different from what the introduction leads you to believe. The novel was loosely based on two incidents of adultery and on Ford's messy personal life.”Music in sections 1-5 "Minuet in G flat major and Valse Bluette" by Beethoven


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