Basic Plot Structure – Tragedy

Booker's TragedyChristopher Booker’s book The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories outlines seven plots. One of these seven is ‘Tragedy.’ Opposite of ‘Overcoming the Monster,’ the hero does not reach his goal. The inner conflict is not solved. The story ends unhappily.

To begin with, the hero is part of a community. He has connections and relationships. This may be friendships, family, or marriage. A fatal flaw in the hero’s nature causes good intentions to fail. The hero breaks the bonds of loyalty with others. He makes a great mistake. Step by step the hero is separated from others. When the hero becomes aware of the mistake, his life is basically destroyed. This results in a fall of a good character. The final result is frequently death.

The plots of Booker’s ‘Tragedy’ are similar to classic Greek, Roman, and Shakespearean tragedies.

Plot Description

All of Booker’s Plots

This video provides a short overview of each of the seven story plots. After the first minute and a half, Lego scenes illustrate each plot type. Be ready to pause the film after each short scene for discussion.

The Greek Tragedy

Many Greek, Roman, and Shakespearean tragedies aren’t appropriate for upper elementary students. The story of “Ajax” by Sophocles can be shown in class. This illustrated version, created by a high school student, is excellent. The summary of the story goes into enough detail for students to complete the ‘Tragedy Outline’ assignment found in the printable.


  • Many of Shakespeare’s plays
    • Anthony and Cleopatra
    • Hamlet
    • Julius Caesar
    • King Lear
    • Macbeth
    • Othello
    • Romeo and Juliet
  • Bonnie and Clyde
  • The Great Gatsby
  • John Dillinger
  • West Side Story
  • Titanic
  • Peter Parker ‘Spiderman’ and Gwen Stacy
  • Breaking Bad (television series)


Students create a staggered flip organizer that explains Booker’s plot “Tragedy.” The organizer also contains a page for students to list examples from literature or pop culture. Next students answer a ‘Digging Deeper” question. For this lesson, the question asks students about reason readers enjoy tragedies. Finally three outline pages provide practice.

Get the printable here.

Mini Lesson on the Tragedy Story PlotI hope you have a fantastic year! Enjoy reading.

Gay Miller

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