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.
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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). . 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 • Macbeth Hamlet • Othello • Oedipus • Brutus • Doctor Faustus • Antigone |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 witches, how Lady Macbeth | |influenced and manipulated Macbeth’s judgment, and finally Macbeth’s | |long time ambition which drove his desire to be king.
Macbeth’s | |growing character degenerates from a noble man to violent individual. | | | |The prophecies which were told by the witches were one of the | |factors which contributed to the degeneration of his character.
If it | |had not been for the witches telling him that he was to be Thane of | |Cawdor, Thane of Glamis, and King of Scotland, Macbeth would still be | |his ordinary self. As a result of the prophecies, this aroused | |Macbeth’s curiosity of how he could be King of Scotland.
As the play | |progresses, Macbeth slowly relies on the witches prophecies. | |Shakespeare uses the witches as a remedy for Macbeth’s curiosity which | |corrupts his character. | | | |The influence of Macbeth’s wife, Lady Macbeth also contributed | |to his degeneration of character.
Lady Macbeth’s character in the | |beginning reveals that she is a lovable person. When Lady Macbeth was | |ready to kill King Duncan herself, it showed that Lady Macbeth could | |not murder King Duncan because he reminded her of her father.
This | |proves that Lady Macbeth has a heart deep inside her. Lady Macbeth | |plays an important role in this play because she provided a scheme | |which caused Macbeth to assassinate King Duncan.
After Macbeth had | |killed King Duncan, he later regrets on his wrong doing. At the point | |of this play the audience can note the change in Macbeth’s character. | |Macbeth’s first murder was a trying experience for him, however after | |the first murder, killing seemed to be the only solution to maintain | |his reign of the people of Scotland.
Therefore, it was Lady Macbeth | |who introduced the concept of murder to Macbeth. | | | |Macbeth’s ambition also influenced his declining character. | |However, Macbeth’s ambition had not been strong enough to carry the | |motive to kill King Duncan.
Lady Macbeth’s influence also comes in to | |play because if not for Lady Macbeth, his ambition would not have been | |intensified enough to drive him to obtain and maintain his title of | |King of Scotland no matter what it took, even if it meant murdering. |Macbeth’s ambition influenced the cause of his new character. This new | |character of Macbeth contained greed, violence, and power hunger. | |Macbeth shows this when he kills King Duncan. | | |In conclusion, the prophecies given to him by the witches, Lady | |Macbeth’s influence and plan, and his intensified ambition, all | |contributed greatly to his degeneration of character which resulted to | |his downfall… eath. Therefore Macbeth character displays strong | |signs of a tragic hero, making him the ideal classic example. |