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The Shīʻī passion : Taʻzī yeh, tragedy and the sublime

McGill University
Publication Date
  • TaʻZiyah
  • Astronomy
  • Design
  • Philosophy


This thesis is a study of ta`ziyeh , or the Shi`i passion play commemorating the martyrdom of Husayn b. `Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. The goal of the work is to provide an aesthetic evaluation of the plays and their tragic and sublime aspects. It begins with a discussion of the historical development of ta` ziyeh and its most important theatrical features. This is followed by an interpretation of ta`ziyeh using Friedrich Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy as a guide. Nietzsche's work on tragedy has not been chosen to equate the Persian plays with Greek theatre, but rather to show how ta` ziyeh embodies certain tragic ideals proposed by the German philosopher. In its final section, the thesis extrapolates from Nietzsche to highlight two important aesthetic aspects of the passion plays: the central role of Husayn in the cosmological drama of Shi`ism, and the sublime nature of ta`ziyeh. Thus, this work tries to compare ta`ziyeh to certain Western conceptions of art, while maintaining that the Persian passion plays are representative of Shi`ism's vital aesthetic dimension.

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