According to Williams, If we think of it as a theory about a single and permanent kind of fact, we can end only with the metaphysical conclusions that are built into any such assumption. Chief among these is the assumption of a permanent, universal and essentially unchanging human nature. But if we reject this assumption, tragedy is then not a single and permanent kind of fact, but a series of experiences, conventions and institutions. It is not a case of interpreting this series by reference to a permanent and unchanging human nature. Rather, the varieties of tragic experience are to be interpreted by reference to the changing conventions and institutions.
Having given us a background to modern times and formation of theories Williams says that the universalist character of most tragic theory is at the opposite pole from our necessary interest. The most striking fact, he says, about modern tragic theory is that it is rooted in very much the same structure of ideas as modern tragedy itself. However, one of its paradoxical effects, after almost a century of important, continuous and insistent tragic art, there is its denial that modern tragedy is possible.
The denial of the possibility of tragedy, according to Williams, is not very easy to explain. In his view, it is significant that the major contributions to the theory were made in the nineteenth century. It was the time when the creative period of modern tragedy was not started yet. This period, however, has since been systematised. The people who did this systematisation were expert in evaluating their past against the present. They were so trained in their academic background that they could not bring together the critical theory and critical practice.
The modern critical theories, in Williams’ views are not even worth the number to be counted on fingertips. According to him they are: order and accident; the destruction of the hero; the irreparable action and its connections with death; and the emphasis of evil.
Whether we agree with Williams or not the way he approaches his topic seems praiseworthy. The background he provides us with the modern tragic theories is sufficient enough to make them comprehensible for us.