Friday, November 4, 2011

Elements of a Tragic Hero

Elements of a Tragic Hero
The tragic hero has:
1. The tragic hero is a man of noble stature.  Usually he is of noble birth.
2. The tragic hero is good, though not perfect, and his fall results from his committing what Aristotle calls "an act of injustice" (hamartia) either through ignorance or from a conviction that some greater good will be served. This act is, never-the-less, a criminal one and the good hero is responsible for it even if he is totally unaware of its criminality and is acting out of the best of intentions. In other words, he must make an error in judgment that will make him fall from his grand stature.
3. The hero’s downfall, therefore, is his own fault, the result of his own free choice- it could be a matter of hubris (excessive pride); listening to the wrong people; or perhaps not listening at all.
4. Never the less, the hero’s misfortune is not wholly deserved; the punishment far exceeds the crime. We do not come away from tragedy feeling that the hero "got what he deserved." We are, instead, saddened and feel a sense of a waste of human potential.
5. However, according to Aristotle, tragedy (when well-performed) does not leave its audience in a state of depression because the loss is not a pure loss. Though it may result in the hero’s death, it involves, before his death, some gain in self-knowledge. On the level of plot, it may be simply a discovery or the learning of a truth.
6. Though the hero may be defeated, he at least has dared greatly, and he gains understanding from his defeat and must become and example for others.

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