Since the beginning of time, people discussed and analyzed theconcept of the tragic hero in epic poetry and other stories. An epic poemconsists of a hero of high caliber whose actions affect a nation or a group ofpeople.
The deeds of this hero must be exceedingly brave and havesupernatural elements. Many of these stories first began as an oraltradition then eventually became written pieces of literature. Oralliterature comprises a vast range of verbal products, including modernblues lyrics, African drum songs, ancient Greek epic poetry, folk tales,etc. . . .
Even when the heroes are characters of different authors, theyshare common characteristics and abide by certain personality traits whichdefine them as heroes. A hero is an example of valiancy and intelligence. In times of danger a hero must remain strong, brave, and audacious. Many epic poems consist of tragedys.Order now
Tragedies consist of severalkey points. First, they cannot be discussed and must be able to be actedout. They also include a hero of high stature and nobility. The tragic heromust have a tragic flaw, such as an excess of pride, ambition, passion, orsome other trait that leads directly to disaster. Aristotle describes that thekey element to a tragedy is that it should invoke Catharsis.
The spectatorsshould be purged of their emotions of pity and fear through their vicariousparticipation in the drama. In the Greek times, these plays were the centerof their culture and society. They used tragedies to demonstrate howfragile their own lives could be. If a hero couldnt escape fate and painthen either could they.
It also enforced the theory that no one is above thegods and no person can control their destiny. Finally, a tragedy mustemploy formal, poetic writing with the use of noble language. Four storiesthat demonstrate a tragedy which a tragic hero are Hamlet, Beowulf,Frankenstein, and Oedipus Rex. These stories show how the tragic herohad evolved throughout history and how our changing society has impactedThe epic poem Beowulf, author unknown, discusses the meaning of ahero in there primitive society. A nefarious monster named Grendel comesto plague Heorot, the mead hall of Hrothgar, king of the Danes. Themonster battles in the hall for 12 years before Beowulf, prince of the Geats,comes to destroy this villainous creature.
Beowulf engages the monsterwhen it broke into the hall one night and kills him by ripping off his arms. Grendels mother seeks revenge by stealing one of the Danes and Beowulfdives down into the monsters lair in the nearby lake, and kills Grendelsmother with a sword sent from the gods. Beowulf returns home to becomeAfter many years a Geatish slave breaks into the lair of a dragonwhich wakes him. The dragon begins to ravage the countryside beforeBeowulf faces this ferocious beast with the help of his retainer Wicglaf.
Beowulf was mortally wounded in the battle but with his remainingstrength, was able to defeat the dragon. Wicglaf returns to the Geats toBeowulf is considered a hero because he a man of exceptionalquality. According to Talvin Walter, The hero, Beowulf, is a seeminglyinvincible person with all the extraordinary traits required of a hero. Menof this time were godless, fearless, fame seeking, strong, and most of all,courageous. Warriors were in search of these things and often achievedthem through completing daring deeds, withstanding harsh conditions, orbeating the odds. There are also noble things in Beowulf- not only loyaltyand dauntless courage but courtesy in the hall and respect for ladies; thestyle too has a grave dignity throughout; and the figure of the old kinggoing out to fight to die for his people, is truly heroic.
(Grierson 3) Beowulfs self-imposed purpose was to help others in need, and eventuallysacrifices his own life doing so. He was a courageous man willing to riskhis life in order to help the Danes. He traveled to another land in order torid the Danes of the nuisance of the monster. A hero must be a risk takerand willing to give his life for his country.
When Beowulf was discussingthe attack on Grendel with Hrothgar, he states that his bravery mightultimately lead to his own death. He was aware of chance that he mightexperience a cruel and torturous death by the hands of the monster. Youwill not need to hide my head if death takes me, for he will have meblood-smeared; he will bear away my bloody flesh meaning to savor it, hewill eat ruthlessly, the walker alone, will stain his retreat in the moor; nolonger will you need to trouble yourself to take care of my body. If battletakes me, send to Hygelac the best war-clothes that protects my breast,finest of mail-shirts.
Fate always goes as it must. Also, during this time,armor and weapons were a vital part to being a well-known hero. Armorwas passed down from generation to generation. Lavish and fancy armorsignified that the warrior of his ancestors accomplished heroic tasks. Swords were also a significant to the warriors of this time period.
InBeowulf, there were also many references to swords. There are threeswords in the story. These include Naegling, Beowulfs sword, Hrunting,the sword lent by Unferth, and the magic sword used against GrendelsA prime example of Aristotles view of tragedy is Oedipus Rex bySophocles. Oedipus was kind of Thebes as was his father. He was a good,just king and he saved Thebes from the Sphinx. His tragic flaw was hisarrogance.
He made interpretations of the Oracles prophecy and acted onthem without consulting the oracle himself, nor does he seek the answerselsewhere. He just runs off and defies fate. There are a number ofcharacteristics described by Aristotle that identify a tragic hero. First, thehero must have cause his own downfall and the punishment must exceedthe crime. Oedipus makes a few fatal decisions and is condemned toprofound suffering because of them. Even though he does not know it, hefulfills the oracles prophecy by killing his father, Laius, and then marryinghis mother, Jocasta.
However, his father was just a mistake. Oedipusthought that the person killed was just some random person harassing him. In the play, Oedipus misfortune happens because of his tragic flaw. If he hadnt been so judgmental or narcissistic, he would have never beenso oblivious about Laius death. The oracle informs Oedipus that theplague is a curse from the gods for sheltering the murderer of the previousking. He then orders any citizen of Thebes that has information on themurder must come forward.
The killer would face nothing worse than exile. This murderer, no matter who he is, is banished from the country wheremy power and my throne are supreme. Oedipus is then encountered by ablind prophet Teiresias which is the first time he was confronted with theidea that he might have fulfilled the prophecy. When Teiresias tries to warnhim by saying, This day will give you parents and destroy you, Oedipusstill doesnt care and continues to question him.
Oedipus realizes he maybe the culprit and starts to discover the truth about his past. This tragicking then learns he is the murderer and who his true mother is and repliesOh, oh, then everything has come out true. Light, I shall not look on youAgain. I have been born where I should not born, I have been marriedwhere I should not marry, I have killed whom I should not kill; now all isclear.
He is now aware how blind and naive he has been and how hisnegligence has led to his downfall. In a state of shock and trauma, hegouges out his own eyes so he will not be able to see what the world hasdone to him. What use are my eyes to me, who could never- See anythingpleasant again? His stubbornness and negligence led to his downfall andthe devastation of life and his throne. Oedipus learns a lesson about lifeand how there is more to it than just one persons fate.
Arguably the best piece of writing ever done by William Shakespeare,Hamlet is the classic example of a tragedy. Aristotle states that tragedy isan imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certainmagnitude. Hamlet is a great example of this. The play is centeredaround Hamlets quest to avenge his fathers death by killing his uncle. Hamlet also follows Aristotles idea of the tragedy being of a largemagnitude.
The characters are supposed to be of high nobility. Hamlet isa wealthy prince, however he deals with similar problems as the commonman. He is confused, paranoid, and angered about the circumstancessurrounding his fathers death. Aristotle also feels that in order for a play tobe called a tragedy it must invoke fear and pity. Hamlet, an innocentbi-stander, suffers immense misfortune which causes the audience to worrythat bad situations could happen to them.
Hamlet is the perfect example of the tragic hero. He is very braveand daring. He put his life on the line in order to murder his uncle . Hewas also very intelligent.
He was first able to act insane in order to try toprove his uncles guilt. That I essentially am not in madness, But mad incraft. This statement reveals Hamlets intent to fool people with his oddbehavior. Later in the play a troop of actors come to act out a play, andHamlet has them reenact the murder of his father in front of his uncleClaudius. He is also very loyal.
He stood by his father when everyone,including his mother, moved on and forgot about his father. The audienceis also able to feel sympathy towards this character. He has been throughmany tragedies in a short time, such as his fathers death, motherremarriage, and Ophelias death. Hamlets tragic flaw was his indecision. His dilemma is not about what decisions he should take but rather whetherhe will be able to make any decisions at all. Jean-Louis Barrault said ofhim that he is the hero of unparalleled hesitation.
According to CharlesBoyce, Hamlets notorious procrastination of his revenge has a similarfunction. Though he accepts the Ghosts orders, he senses the evil in hisduty sent from heaven and hell. (Boyce 18) This eventually leads to hisdownfall. These attributes are what made Hamlet a tragic hero.Bibliography: