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The classical tragedy was defined by Aristotle in Poetics. Within this text, Aristotle outlined the characteristics typical of the classical tragedy. These characteristics are as follows.
The protagonist must possess hamartia (meaning a tragic flaw). The downfall of the protagonist is not fully the fault of the protagonist (other factors play into his or her downfall). The protagonist is typically of high status (therefore, his or her fall is greater than that of a "normal person").
In regards to Shakespearean plays, many of the tragedies followed the characteristics denoted by Aristotle. For example, in Shakespeare's Macbeth, the protagonist's (Macbeth) ambition (his hamartia) leads to his downfall. His place as king, and his fall from king, shows his downfall as being rather extreme. Macbeth is not completely at fault (both the prophecies and Lady Macbeth push his actions).
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