Tragic Hero Macbeth & Oedipus

Topics: Tragedy, Macbeth, Tragic hero Pages: 6 (1812 words) Published: November 24, 2013

SEMESTER 3 2012/2013


Questions: Aristotle in the Poetics defines the tragic hero as someone who is neither excessively evil, someone who is rather like ourselves, who falls from prosperity into adversity because of an error and/or character falling. Discuss this statement with close reference to main characters from plays you have studied.

According to Aristotle, he defines tragic hero as someone who has a nobility status or a powerful man with some greatness and outstanding qualities within himself. As can be seen in almost plays, tragic heroes are always being portrayed as someone that occupy a high status but must also illustrates nobility and virtue as part of his or her innate characters, (Poetics from Aristotle). However, these heroes are not all perfects. There will be some tragic incidents that eventually lead them to the downfall. This is due to the heroes’ own faults and in fact, in some cases the tragic incidents are usually triggered by some error judgments or some characters’ flaws that could contributes to the hero’s downfall. “Hamartia” or the error of judgments is also known as “tragic flaw” is one of the sixth qualities from tragic heroes according to Aristotle. Other than that, an overwhelming self-confidence or in Greek tragedies, it is known as “hubris” also one of the factors that leads to the downfall of the hero. Furthermore, another idea of Aristotle regarding tragic hero is that the tragic downfall is not solely a pure loss but there is some great lessons and values that can be gained from the tragic hero himself. Even though eventually there will be a tragic ending to the characters however, according to Aristotle the tragedy does not leave its audiences in a state of depression. He argues that solemn emotions such as sad, fear and pity that aroused are one of the functions of the tragedy through catharsis. According to Aristotle also true tragic hero must have six key qualities and these are hamartia, hubris, anagnorisis, peripeteia, nemesis, and catharsis.  Anagnorisis is a recognition or discovery made by the tragic hero. In other words, the tragic hero will learn a lesson, usually as a result of his downfall.  For example, Oedipus kills his father in ignorance and then learns of his true relationship to the King of Thebes,(Ley Graham,1991).  Peripeteia is a reversal of fortune, the downfall of the tragic hero and it occurs when a situation seems to developing in one direction, but then suddenly "reverses" to another. For example, when Oedipus first hears of the death of Polybus (his supposed father), the news at first seems good, but then is revealed to be a disastrous, (Ley Graham, 1991). According to Ben Johnson in his Modern Day Tragic hero articles, (2007), Nemesis is a fate that cannot be escaped. Meanwhile, catharsis is a feeling of overwhelming pity and or fear that the audience or reader is left with after witnessing the downfall of a tragic hero, Aristotle has quoted, "A man cannot become a hero until he can see the root of his own downfall." Thus, from my understanding of what Aristotle means by this quote is that people must discover the main points that lead them to the failure and after that, they can be their own protagonists or heroes for their own life. They can stand high back when they overcome their failures.

In Oedipus Rex play, Oedipus, the main character is the tragic hero in this play. As according to the character of Oedipus, Aristotle says that a tragic hero must be an important or influential man who makes an error in judgment, and who must then suffer the consequences of his actions. In this play, Oedipus originally is a hero because of his good deeds, sacrifices and contributions that he had made for his people. He had his highest moment...

References: Modern Day Tragic Hero- Ben Johnson retrieved from
Aristotle & The Elements Of Tragedy- Definition of tragedy from The Poetics of Aristotle retrieved from
Oedipus as a Tragic Hero retrieved from
Macbeth – Tragic Hero retrieved from
Aristotle’s tragedy retrieved from
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