What were the common traits of a hero that Shakespeare portrayed?

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wordprof eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The word “hero” carries many connotations through history.  In Shakespeare’s Elizabethan England, heroism is seen as a willingness to sacrifice one’s own safety for a nationalistic cause, while today it is hyperbole, used for any action threatening one’s own safety for the sake of another individual.  If we list Shakespeare’s “heroes” it cannot simply include protagonists—we can’t just say Hamlet and Othello and Prospero and Macbeth, etc.  We must first determine who among the characters sacrificed for their sovereign or country.  In this list would be Cordelia from King Lear, Polonius from Hamlet, and Banquo from Macbeth.  Moving to the histories, we would look at soldiers—not every one, but those truly motivated by loyalty and country and righteousness.  The histories take place, according to Froissart’s French Chronicles and Holinshead’s English Chronicles, in times when 95% of men died by bleeding out in battle, so heroes are difficult to define. 

iklan100 | Student

Hello. I assume that you are asking about a Shakespearean tragic hero? If so, then at least three (3) basic traits are found in common in them:

1. They are generally men of noble birth and background, of high social status and repute.

2. Due to some 'tragic flaw' or quirk they generally fall from grace and face difficulties and problems. and

3. They ultimately meet tragic ends, by which, to some extent generally, their standing/repute is restored.

However, these points are merely simpifications, other scholars and critics add other traits etc-- Shakespeare is a great writer and his works are rather more complex and need to be studied properly in depth and researched in libraries in books, online resources have only limited utility.

good luck.