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A tragic hero is the "protagonist of a "tragedy in "drama. In his Poetics, Aristotle records the descriptions of the tragic hero to the playwright and strictly defines the place that the tragic hero must play and the kind of man he must be. Aristotle based his observations on previous dramas.[1] Many of the most famous instances of tragic heroes appear in Greek literature, most notably the works of Sophocles and Euripides.


Aristotle's tragic hero[edit]

In his "Poetics, Aristotle suggests that a hero of a tragedy must evoke in the audience a sense of pity or fear, saying, “the change of fortune presented must not be the spectacle of a virtuous man brought from prosperity to adversity."[2] In other words, the focus of the tragic hero should not be in the loss of his "prosperity. He establishes the concept that the emotion of "pity stems not from a person becoming better but when a person receives undeserved misfortune - and "fear comes when the misfortune befalls a man like us. This is why Aristotle points out the simple fact that, “The change of fortune should be not from bad to good, but, reversely, from good to bad.” According to Aristotle a tragic hero is thought to be a man whose misfortune comes to him, "not through vice or depravity but by some error of judgment." This is called "hamartia, which refers to the character's lack in judgement, a mistake made, or a flaw. In Sophocles' "Oedipus Rex, for example, the title character kills a man without knowing that the man in question is his father, then marries his mother out of ignorance.

"Creon of Sophocles' "Antigone is another notable example of a tragic hero. Polyneices and his brother, Eteocles, were kings, and the former wanted more power, so he left and assembled an army from a neighboring city. They attacked and the two brothers killed each other. Through Creon's law forbidding the burial of "Polyneices, Creon dooms his own family. Other examples provided by Aristotle include "Thyestes.

Therefore, the Aristotelian hero is characterized as virtuous but not "eminently good," which suggests a noble or important personage who is upstanding and morally inclined while nonetheless subject to "human error. Aristotle's tragic heroes are flawed individuals who commit, without evil intent, great wrongs or injuries that ultimately lead to their misfortune, often followed by tragic realization of the true nature of events that led to this destiny.[3] This means the hero still must be - to some degree - morally grounded. The usual "irony in Greek tragedy is that the hero is both extraordinarily capable and highly moral (in the Greek "honor-culture sense of being duty-bound to moral expectations), and it is these exact, highly-admirable qualities that lead the hero into tragic circumstances. The tragic hero is snared by his or her own greatness: extraordinary competence, a righteous passion for duty, and (often) the arrogance associated with greatness ("hubris).

In other media[edit]

The influence of the Aristotelian hero extends past "classical Greek literary criticism. Greek theater had a direct and profound influence on Roman theater, and both formed the basis of Western theater continuing into the modern era, and deeply influenced theater, literature and film throughout the world. Many iconic characters in literature, theater, and film are considered by some critics to follow the archetype of the tragic hero. These include "Anakin Skywalker of the Star Wars "prequels (1999–2005) and "Return of the Jedi (1983), Okonkwo of Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart (1958), "Charles Foster Kane from "Citizen Kane, "Arthas Menethil of "Warcraft (2003-2008), "Stannis Baratheon of "A Song of Ice and Fire (1996–present) and "Game of Thrones (2011–2015). A minority of critics have also called "Michael Corleone of the Godfather "trilogy (1972–1990) a tragic hero, although traditional literary conventions would classify him as a "villain, not a tragic hero.


  1. ^ Aristotle, On Poetics, Ingram Bywater
  2. ^ S.H. Butcher, The Poetic of Aristotle (1902), pp. 45-47
  3. ^ Charles H. Reeves, The Aristotelian Concept of The Tragic Hero, Vol. 73, No. 2 (1952), Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/291812 pp. 172-188


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