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Shakespeare Tragic Hero

William Shakespeare is the leading dramatist in history and wrote the plays against which all subsequent dramatic writing has been measured. Shakespeare's tragedies generally follow the demands of the Aristotelian view of the tragic hero, though Shakespeare does bend some of the Aristotelian "rules" when he believes it is necessary to accomplish his purpose. An examination of several of his tragedies will show how he achieves his dramatic effects in terms of the definition of the tragic hero.

The tragic hero derives from the Greek drama, as elucidated by the criticism of Aristotle in particular. Tragedy in this conception is struggling against something over which we really have no control, and the tragedy develops from a recognition of the futility of the struggle, leading to the resignation of the tragic hero to his or her fate and indeed even to their embracing that fate. The hero takes responsibility for his or her failure--this is the lesson learned and imparted to the audience and only reinforces the power of the gods and the need for the human spirit to obey. Underlying the actions of the tragic hero is a fatal flaw in his character, and it is because of this flaw that he is not able to escape his fate. The flaw is usually a form of pride, but it need not be. As developed by Shakespeare, the flaw and its consequences can be seen to take different forms in different plays and always to emphasize both the blindness of the hero in not seeing what is happening to him beforehand and/or his inability to do anything other than what he does. There is no escape for the tragic hero from the calamity facing him, even when he knows full well what that calamity will be and even its source.

Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy motivated by the forces of faith, accident, and character, and the reason the play is a tragedy is that these motivations are all bound with the overriding force of fate. The motivations operate on the huma...

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Shakespeare Tragic Hero. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 01:43, December 02, 2020, from