What is a tragic hero?
A tragic hero is an honourable protagonist (or any literary character) with a tragic flaw, also known as fatal flaw, which eventually leads to his death or decease or downfall. A tragic hero usually has the following sequence of "Great, Good, Flaw, Downfall." and more often than not dies at some point in the story. Tragic heroes appear in the dramatic works of Shakespeare, Seneca, Marlowe, Webster, Strindberg, and many other writers. Tragic heroes possess some flaw or obsession that will eventually lead to their demise. The characters do not have to be inherently "good", or moral, but they do have to have some undiscovered potential that makes the audience feel that they could have done great things. The audience admires and pities these characters for that reason, but when the death of the tragic hero comes it often brings a sense of relief. The concept of the tragic hero was created in ancient Greek tragedy and defined by Aristotle.As defined by Aristotle, a man of noble stature who is admired by society but flawed. An Aristotelian tragic hero must have four characteristics : 1.
2. Hamartia (translated as flaw or error of judgment or tragic virtue). 3. A reversal of fortune(peripeteia) brought about because of the hero's Hamartia. 4. The discovery or recognition that the reversal was brought about by the hero's own actions (anagnorisis)
Some common traits characteristic of a tragic hero are:
• The hero is sometimes led to his downfall due to excessive pride. • The hero usually struggles with an antagonist, where they fight to the death for what they believe in. • The hero discovers his fate by his own actions, not by things happening to him. • The hero sees and understands his doom, and that his fate was revealed by his own actions. • The hero's downfall is understood by Aristotle to arouse pity and terror. • The hero is physically or spiritually wounded by his experiences, often resulting in his death. • The hero is often a king or leader of men, so that his people experience his fall with him. This could also include a leader of a family. • The hero learns something from his mistake.
• The hero is faced with a serious decision.
• The suffering of the hero is meaningful.
• There may sometimes be supernatural involvement (in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Caesar is warned of his death via Calphurnia's vision and Brutus is warned of his impending death by his evil spirit). • The Shakespearean tragic hero dies at some point in the story, for example Macbeth. Shakespeare's characters illustrate that tragic heroes are neither fully good nor fully evil. Through the development of the plot a hero's mistakes, rather than his quintessential goodness or evil, lead to his tragic downfall. • The hero of classical tragedies is almost universally male. Later tragedies (like Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra) introduced the female tragic hero. Portrayals of female tragic heroes are notable because they are rare.
Famous tragic heroes
• King Lear
• Doctor Faustus
|MacBeth - Tragic Hero | | The character of Macbeth is a classic example of a Shakespearean | |tragic hero. There are many factors which contribute to the | |degeneration of Macbeth of which three will be discussed. The three | |points which contribute greatly to Macbeth's degeneration are the | |prophecy which was told to him by the...
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