The Best Tragic Hero Examples for a Heroic Essay and How to Pick Them
How to Pick a Tragic Hero
Tragic heroes are an important part of classical literature. Aristotle gave a detailed description of the concept of tragic heroism that is still influential in the modern era. There are several characteristics that a character must exhibit to be considered a tragic hero. These are hamartia, hubris, peripeteia, anagnorisis, nemesis, and catharsis. At a glance, these characteristics make it very difficult to tell a tragic hero from a narrative. A much simpler definition of a tragic hero can, therefore, be given as a virtuous character who ultimately suffers from a mistake in judgement. Tragic heroes are people like you and me. They are relatable characters hence upset the audience when they suffer or eventually die. Tragic heroes often suffer more than they should. They are also always undone by their own flaws or actions.
The first step to picking a tragic hero is picking the tragedy. A tragedy can be picked from novels, poems, movies, or television shows. A tragedy is any story where a character experiences a tragic event such as death or a lot of suffering. While reading or watching the story, pay attention to any connection with the character. If the character exhibits behaviors that you find relatable then there is a connection. Finally, determine why the character suffered or died and trace back the downfall to a flaw in the character. If a flaw exists, then the character can be considered a tragic hero.
Best Examples of Tragic Heroes
Perhaps the most famous classic tragic hero is Oedipus in the play titled Oedipus Rex. Oedipus was a king who tried to do what was right and just in the eyes of his people. However, due to his pride, he tried to outmaneuver a prophecy that predicted he would kill his father and marry his mother. Upon realizing his failure to avoid his fate, he kills himself and brings about his downfall. Oedipus’s tragic flaw, in this case, is his pride that pushes him to believe that he can trick destiny and have his way.
Jay Gatsby in the classic novel “The Great Gatsby” by Scott Fitzgerald is another good example of a tragic hero. He chases after a woman and designs his whole life to revolve around gaining her love. He relentlessly pursues an ideal and is blind to the fact that the woman he pursues does not fit the ideal. Jay Gatsby eventually gets himself killed while protecting the woman he loves even though she would never do the same for him. Gatsby’s tragic flaw is his relentless pursuit of love that drives him to take a bullet for the woman of his dreams.
Shakespeare literature is littered with several examples of tragic heroes. One such example is Hamlet. Hamlet seeks to avenge the death of his father and his investigations lead him to conclude that his uncle is the murderer. However, his indecisiveness on how to enact his revenge leads him to waste a lot of precious time that results in the death of his mother after she consumes poison meant for Hamlet. As a result, Hamlet eventually kills his uncle and later dies. In this case, Hamlet’s tragic flaw is his indecisiveness leading to the death of his mother.
Ned Stark of the Game of Thrones television show and George R. Martin’s novel series is an example of a tragic hero from stories written in the modern era. After the death of King Robert, Ned Stark seeks to remove Joffrey Baratheon from the throne because he believes he is not the rightful heir. He trusts that Lord Baelish will help with this quest. However, Lord Baelish betrays him and he is arrested. Later, Ned Stark trusts that Joffrey will spare his life if he confesses but instead he gets beheaded. Ned Stark’s tragic flaw, in this case, is his blind trust in others and the belief that everyone else is as honorable as he is.
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