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What characteristic does a tragic hero always have?

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jdmkyle11 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 25, 2008 at 7:47 AM via web

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What characteristic does a tragic hero always have?

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katemschultz | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted August 25, 2008 at 8:11 AM (Answer #2)

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"A man cannot become a hero until he sees the root of his downfall." ~ Aristotle

The characteristics of a tragic hero include the following:
1. The character should be born into some form of nobility or wisdom (remember that in ancient times, nobility was the royal family; modernly, nobility could be social.)
2. The character has a personality trait that leads to his/her downfall
3. The character is doomed to make an error in judgement.
4. The character should be neither good nor bad, but the audience should be able to identify with the character.
5. The character is responsible for his/her own fate.
6. The character will fall from great heights or esteem when s/he realizes s/he has made an irreversible mistake.
7. The character will face a tragic death with honor.

Remember that a tragic hero doesn't have to meet ALL of these characteristics, but should meet most of them.

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mclouse | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted August 26, 2008 at 7:25 AM (Answer #3)

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I would add hubris to the list.  It is possible hubris would fit under "the character has a personality trait that leads to his/her downfall."  Hubris is excessive pride.  Two examples include:

Oedipus - ignoring warnings not to travel by the oracle, oversteps his boundaries as a human

Daedalus - created wings for himself and his son, as they were flying, bystanders thought them to be gods because only gods have the ability to fly

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arrellbelle | Student, College Sophomore | Valedictorian

Posted June 30, 2014 at 11:23 PM (Answer #4)

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A tragic hero must contain several qualities and characteristics:

  1. Must be of higher status or of noble stature.
  2. Must be relate-able, in a way, that the audience/readers may empathize with him.
  3. Must be at fault for whatever bad happens or be responsible for their wrongdoings.
  4. The punishment of their crime or misfortune is too great and the 'tragic' hero does not deserve such a punishment.
  5. Although in the end, there was much turmoil with the tragic hero, there was some gain in the end, possibly within the character themselves.
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nishu2766 | High School Teacher | Honors

Posted August 19, 2014 at 11:31 AM (Answer #5)

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A tragic hero is a character in a work of fiction (often the protagonist) who commits an action or makes a mistake which eventually leads to his or her defeat. The idea of the tragic hero was created in ancient Greek tragedy and defined by Aristotle (and others). Usually, this includes the realization of the error (anagnorisis), which results in catharsis or epiphany.Aristotelian tragic heroCharacteristicsAristotle once said that "A man doesn't become a hero until he can see the root of his own downfall." An Aristotelian tragic hero must have four characteristics:Nobility (of a noble birth) or wisdom (by virtue of birth).Hamartia (translated as flaw, mistake, or error, not an Elizabethan tragic flaw).A reversal of fortune(peripetia) brought about because of the hero's Hamartia.The discovery or recognition that the reversal was brought about bythe hero's own actions (anagnorisis).Other common traitsSome other common traits characteristic of a tragic hero:Hero must suffer more than he deserves.Hero must be doomed from the start, but bear no responsibility forpossessing his flaw.Hero must be noble in nature, but imperfect so that the audience can see themselves in him.Hero must have discovered his fate by his own actions, not by things happening to him.Hero must see and understand his doom, as well as the fact that his fate was discovered by his own actions.Hero's story should arouse fear and empathy.Hero must be physically or spiritually wounded by his experiences, often resulting in his death.Ideally, the hero should be a king or leader of men, so that his people experience his fall with him.The hero must be intelligent so hemay learn from his mistakes.A tragic hero usually has the following sequence of "Great, Good, Flaw, Recognition, Downfall."Tragic virtueAn alternative view of the tragic hero, especially in Renaissance British literature, is one in which he or she possesses a tragic virtue (as opposed to the Classical idea of Hamartia). In thisparadigm, the hero exhibits traits that would under other conditions be considered desirable, but due to external circumstances cause their eventual undoing. For example, Shakespeare's characterHamlet from the eponymous play is often criticized for his contemplative nature, and his failure to act is cited as his tragic flaw. Under other circumstances, however, such as the kingship that Hamlet was to inherit, a contemplative nature is certainly avirtue. The tragedy of Hamlet, then, is not that of a flawed character who simply succumbs to his failings, but that of a virtuous character who is consumed by circumstances not under his control.Modern fictional tragic heroesIn the Modernist era, a new kind oftragic hero was synthesized as a reaction to the English Renaissance, The Age of Enlightenment, Gothic and Romanticism. The idea was that the hero, rather than falling calamitously from a high position, is actually a person less worthy of consideration. Not only that, the protagonist may not even have the needed catharsis to bring the story to a close. He may die without an epiphany of his destiny, or suffer without the ability to change events that are happening to him. The story may end without closure and even without the death of the hero. Thisnew tragic hero of Modernism is the anti-hero

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