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Guide on How to Understand Tragic Hero Literature for Students and Writers

August 16, 2019
Guide on How to Understand Tragic Hero Literature for Students and Writers

The term ‘tragedy’ is common to drama literature readers. As a writer or a student, you might have come across this phrase, but do you really know what it means? Can you identify a tragic protagonist is in any piece of literature? Do you wish to write compelling drama books or essays that will go viral just like Shakespeare's? If your answer is ‘yes’, then this is the starting point to become the next Shakespeare! Continue scrolling and see the magic of tragedies.

Literature Definition of a Hero in a Tragedy??

The ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, was the first person to give the tragic hero definition as he was studying ancient Greek drama. However, before we get to the philosophy, let’s answer the question, “what is a tragic hero?” with tragic hero literary definition and characteristics.

Hero literary definition by drama writers explains that a hero is a drama literature protagonist; that is the main virtuous character with whom readers have created a strong connection and would feel emotionally trapped when he faces any type of torture or danger. Tragic heroes, however, make mistakes due to their overconfidence and pride that lead to downfall.

Have you ever had a certain character that feels real to you? Did you feel like you wanted to do everything so that you would protect this character from drowning in the pool of destruction? Ever felt like any torture that your favorite character went through was unfair? Did your favorite character make a mistake, in the process of finding a solution, that drowned him or her in downfall? Well, this is your tragic protagonist.

Aristotle Philosophical Insight on Tragic Protagonist Hero

Aristotle did define tragic hero as the main character who heads into destruction because of making judgment errors. The definition of tragic hero, according to Aristotle insinuates that not every character can be termed as a hero. Heroes are the characters who struggle and end in destruction. Heroes can trace the root of their downfall.

The existence of a character hero in any literature makes the author’s work a tragedy. Therefore, what are tragedies, and what are the features of character heroes?

In literature, tragedy is a branch of drama writing. The main characteristics of tradgic literature are instances of emotional torture that make heroes suffer. Tragedies can include novels and narratives that have character heroes with their downfall. Any literature that has a character with a tragic flaw that leads him to destruction possess the characteristics of a tragedy.

Scholarly Answer to “What Is a Tragic Flaw?”

The tragic flaw literary definition can be exclusively captured as the characteristic of the main protagonist of a tragedy that leads him or her into making judgment errors that bring about destruction. The term can be traced back to Aristotle’s Greek poetics, where he was using the word ‘hamartia’ to explain the personality of protagonists who make judgments that make downfall inevitable. The possession of tragic hamartia feature by literature characters makes them the tragic protagonists. Therefore, having answered the question, “what is a tragic flaw,” what are the other tragic hero characteristics?

Elaborate Explanation of Tragic Heros Characteristics

Tragic heros have personalities and features that distinguish them from other characters. Following is an in-depth insight on all characteristics that can make a character be a hero:

  • They suffer severely; more than they should

Tragic protagonists endure the most pain in tragedies. However, they usually end up in this kind of situational pain because of their erroneous judgment and decisions that make suffering inevitable.

  • Protagonist heroes are noble

Character heroes gain respect among other characters and are highly valued or even admired. They are noble. It is because of their noble nature and their virtuous help on other characters that the normal reader will feel attached to them. Readers wish to be like the protagonist at the start of the literature; only to see how tragic their downfall is.

  • Character heroes cause their downfall

One of the distinct features of character heroes is that they are the root cause of their own destruction. Their suffering does not just happen to them; they happen as a result of their flaw. This is the time when a reader will feel like stopping these characters from what they want to do. Tragic hamartia is the feature that causes the downfall.

  • Character heroes are intelligent.

Character heroes are always smart, with very high intelligence that makes them outstanding. They get respected and valued due to the intelligence that amazingly enables them to survive the first challenges of their roles. The intelligence would help them live long enough to be loved by the readers as well as delay their demise. However, they would dreadfully face the consequences of their flaw and perish, leaving the readers emotionally hurt.

  • Heroes have pride

Hero characters have a sense of superiority that would eventually make them decline defeat and ends in downfall. It’s due to their pride that they would feel like they are capable of taking the risk that leads to their downfall.

  • Heroes have to make a risky decision.

The decision that leads to the hero’s downfall would often be risky. The people surrounding them would feel that it’s too risky, but the protagonist would think that they are capable of. It would be a difficult decision to make. The hero’s misjudgment on the risky decision will lead to the downfall.

What Aristotle said on Tragic Hero Characteristics

Aristotle is termed as the father of tragic poetics and literature. In his poetics or Greek drama, he explained the five main characteristics of a tragic hero:

  • Hamartia

This is the personality that makes a character risk due to a decline of defeat. It is the term that Aristotle used to define tragic flaw.

  • Hubris

This refers to too much pride. It makes the character hold upon his ego and fights even when he feels there is no hope for success.

  • Anagnorisis

Every literature hero would be so intelligent that he or she makes important discoveries about other characters, events or discover their abilities as heroes.

  • Nemesis

This is the consequence of the hero’s tragic hamartia. It is always inevitable and comes as a result of his own Hubris.

  • Catharsis

This is the emotional empathy or pity felt by readers. It develops uncontrollably in the readers since they like the hero.

Tragic Protagonist Hero in The Modern World Literature

Unlike the ancient times of Aristotle, the modern world tragic character hero does not have to belong to a noble family or be such a noble character. In the ancient drama, catharsis would be the death of the hero. However, in the modern world, a protagonist does not have to die – even a defeat or being overthrown is enough catharsis in the modern tragedies. The modern tragic literature is also known as classical tragedies, and the character hero is also referred to as, “anti-hero”. Moreover, modern character heroes can be either male or female. This is a contrast of the ancient tragedies in which character heroes had to be of the male gender. Having explained tragedies in the modern world, what are some of the tragic hero records that can be used as examples?

Best Tragic Hero Examples to Read On

Writing tragedies isn’t a cup of tea for everyone. However, with the help of illustrative tragic hero examples, a student can grasp an in-depth understanding of how to put across tragedies. Here are examples of Oedipus in Oedipus Rex.

One of the most commonly known features of Oedipus is the tragic pride or determination to establish the solution for his city that. His determination led to his downfall. King Oedipus was Aristotle tragic hero in his play entitled Oedipus Rex. The king was determined to rid the city of a terrible plague and make it a better place. One of the characters of the play is the prophet who prophesied that the only way the plague could be gotten rid of was to punish the person who caused the death of the previous king named Laius. Moreover, the same king said that Oedipus had killed his own father and married his mother. All this time, Oedipus did not know that Laius was his father and that he was the person to be punished.

Oedipus believed the first prophecy but ignored the second one because he obviously knew he had not killed his father nor did he think that he could have done the unimaginable --marrying his mother. Therefore, he started his mission of finding the person who killed the previous king.

It is through his hubris (pride and overconfidence) that he decided not to heed to the second prophecy. He made the decision of looking for the killer. As a tragic hero, he made a discovery that Laius was his father and that he had killed him and married his mother. The dreadful discovery opened Oedipus’ eyes. Eventually, the mother killed herself while Oedipus gouged his own eyes.

Among character hero examples is Willy Loman who is the tragic protagonist in the “Death of the Salesman” and Jay Gatsby of the tragedy entitled “The Great Gatsby”.

Scholarly Answers on “Is Hamlet, a Tragic Hero”?

Many readers of the Hamlet tragedy by Shakespeare get confused when asked to answer the question, “Is Hamlet a tragic hero?” Some might have points, but they cannot prove. Well, here is proof.

Just like every character hero, Shakespeare ensures that Hamlet has so many good traits and a single trait that would lead to his downfall.

Some people might think that Hamlet’s madness is the cause of his downfall in the play, and argue that he is not a character hero, but the reality is that his hesitant personality brought about his destruction. Moreover, he has noble features and bravery; which are also reasons why he is one of the examples of heroes.

In the play, Hamlet promises his father’s ghost that he would revenge and make his father noble. His bravery illuminates when he makes the tough choice. He was either to save himself or revenge for his father’s death by killing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. A hero in a tragedy should always have free-will to take part in his source of downfall. Hamlet had the chance to escape but chose to carry out the pledge he had made with his father’s ghost. After the ship was attacked in the play, Hamlet managed to escape. However, he did not choose his safety but went to look for his father’s killers. He decided to feign madness so that he would get more information about Claudius. When he eventually finds Claudius praying, he hesitated to kill him because he did not want him to go to heaven. Even after gathering enough information, Hamlet does not kill Claudius. This gives Claudius enough time to plot and kill Hamlet.

Well. That was fascinating, tragic literature. Ever thought of crafting your own? Are you a writer who needs help from experts at an affordable price? We have the most talented writers who will coach you to the greatest heights of the writing profession. Get help from our great minds today and smile with a published tragedy!

Author: ResearchGuider