The Tragic Hero Definition and Key Features of This Category


First of all, let’s figure out what the tragic hero definition is and what influence this character can have on the course of the narrative. In fact, this type of hero often plays the role of the main protagonist of the story of the tragic genre.

More Detailed Description

Literature is not the only habitat for tragic heroes. These characters can appear in the cinema or even on television. The key features of the tragic hero are a complex and confusing fate, which is characterized by constant ups and downs. All these aspects make readers or viewers empathize and follow the course of events excitedly.

Perhaps one of the first associations that causes the concept of a tragic hero is the legendary work of Shakespeare, which is called “Romeo and Juliet”. It’s really hard to find a person, who wasn’t impressed by this tragic love story that led to death.

However, the story of the emergence and formation of a tragic hero is long and confusing. Before making an excursion into the past, let’s get acquainted with a pinch of entertaining facts that are associated with this character

  • the first description and characterization of the tragic hero belongs to one of the most famous and influential ancient philosophers, whose name is Aristotle;
  • the “hero” part does not always match the context, that we are used to. Sometimes such characters do not play the role of heroes, while in some situations they can even be antagonists.

Historical Background

The key feature that defines and reveals the type of hero is a tragedy. It allows you to explore and analyze all the necessary aspects. Nevertheless, each genre has its own unique specificity, which over time intensively changes and transforms.

The story of a tragic hero is no exception and has a long evolutionary path. Below we have identified and briefly described the main periods.

Tragic Hero of the Antiquity

Earlier, we mentioned the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, who revealed the essence of the phenomenon of a tragic hero. In his opinion, the key elements of the spectrum of feelings that can affect the audience most are the following:

  • sympathy;
  • anxiety;
  • a pity.

The philosopher believed that the true experience of catharsis can be achieved precisely thanks to these sensations. In addition to the features in the list, there are also

  • Nobleness. This quality is an integral part of any tragic hero. Moreover, the heroic aspect is at the center of the system of this type of ancient art. This fact indicates the presence of a certain archetype which is an example to follow and has a powerful message. Meanwhile, do not forget about the sympathy that should be caused by the story of his life.
  • One of the main concepts used by the philosopher is hamartia. This phenomenon denotes a tragic tint that colors the character’s life. An obligatory element in the history of a tragic hero is a certain situation or moment that contributes to his fall and makes the audience worry.
  • The effect of such problems and take-offs makes you empathize. This creates a certain connection with the tragic hero. Some traits of her or his character may be well-known or even identical to yours.

In addition to the aforementioned art historians and artists of the Ancient times defined luck as one of the fundamental aspects of any tragic or other work.

Tragic Hero Definition In Modern Times

Over time, the concept and features of this character went through a series of changes and additions. In fact, in the modern world, the phenomenon of a tragic hero is presented in a somewhat simplified version.

  • Unlike ancient times, a modern character may not have a noble family tree. Sex and the place that he occupies in society are also not determining criteria. Both men and women who belong to different types of classes can play the role of a tragic hero.
  • Nowadays creating a true and exemplary hero is not your task when writing tragic work. In fact, having a fascinating life story will be enough. The lack of the necessary qualities draws the line between these characters and real heroes. Moreover, they can even be identified as antagonists or villains. Some of their statements can be captured in the form of quotations.
  • However, you should not think that the aspects created and described by Aristotle have lost their value. They still occupy an important position in the space of contemporary art. Remember that the story of a tragic hero must be difficult and affect every bit of audience perception. At the same time, it is the abundance of difficult situations of falls and take-offs that are the main elements of the character’s everyday life thanks to which he becomes tragic.

What About the Examples

There is a huge variety of tragic characters, each of which has its own unique features and is remembered for certain aspects. The discovery of a critical character is possible in almost any art genre; nevertheless, we have prepared a small list of the most famous tragic heroes with whom you are probably familiar.

  • Well-known Macbeth. This character is a native of the works of the beloved Shakespeare. His story tells of a man who is forced to kill the king of a certain prophecy While his support is the wife. As events take place, the story becomes more and more bloody. While the character himself begins to play the role of a real villain. All this is compounded by the fact that all the people close to him, including his wife, are dead while his own life was lived in vain.
  • The Story of Michael Corleone. These heroes became famous thanks to a cult story called The Godfather. Each part of the trilogy given the character’s desire consists in trying to avoid his own fate, which is to become a gangster. All this continues until at the very end of the story his own daughter dies at the hands of enemies. Even sadder is the fact that this situation occurs after the last step towards the legitimate life Corleone had dreamed about. Even considering the fact that he is a negative character, the audience is sympathetic and worried about the fate of the heroes, since the fact that he did not choose such a life and is trying in every possible way to help his own family is obvious.
  • The tragedy of Anakin Skywalker. Perhaps finding a person who has not heard about the existence of this character is an extremely difficult task. Each of the legendary Star Wars pieces tells the story of the formation of Skywalker movies which are a truly tragic character. The lost and incorrect perception of others contributes to its formation as the main anti-hero of the entire legendary series. Nevertheless, the first episodes of the history of Kanakin were some of the purest and most positive. At the same time, he was one of the best heroes who I got incredible abilities. Nevertheless, the goal of gaining more power, he turns out to be deceived by the dark side and turns the heroes of little-known Darth Vader. All these facts can be assumed that this character turned out to be a simple victim of the circumstances.

Why Need a Tragic Hero

Let’s start with the fact that it is obvious that not one tragedy cannot exist without such characters because its essence lies precisely in the presence of tragic heroes and their history. The endless ups and downs, as well as the abundance of life’s problems, cause such feelings as empathy and other emotions in the audience. From time to time, they are also able to play the role of a teacher and show what actions they can lead to and also cause fear or other similar feelings.

Despite the negative character, from time to time a tragic hero can have a much deeper and more complex story than other ones of a work of art to which he refers.
Above, we emphasized and described the main features of such a concept as a tragic hero definition. We connected this information with certain and all our favorite examples from religious works.

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