Tragic Hero Examples
A hero in literature is broadly defined as someone who faces adversity and shows bravery despite conflict and danger. A tragic hero is specifically defined as a hero who experiences a downfall. Tragic heroes often bring about their own downfalls through their pride or a mistake that they have made. The tragic hero was first conceived in the Greek tradition and as a character in the Greek tragedies (dramas).
Tragic heroes share several characteristics:
1. They have a tragic flaw. This is often pride, but can be any character flaw that causes the hero's demise.
2. They experience a "reversal of fate." For the tragic hero, things are often going very well until a turning point-a decision is made-that causes the downfall.
3. At the end, there is catharsis, or feelings of pity and sadness for the tragic hero and the circumstances of his downfall.
Examples of Tragic Heroes from Literature:
Oedipus in the Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex. Oedipus' pride causes him to ignore prophecies and he unknowingly kills his father and marries his mother. In the end he gouges out his own eyes in anguish.
Romeo is Romeo and Juliet can be seen as a tragic hero. He is rash in his actions, and this leads to his downfall. He rashly falls in love with Juliet. In a fit of anger, he kills Tybalt. He is banished, and when he returns, he thinks Juliet is dead, so he kills himself.
Anakin Skywalker can be seen as a tragic hero in the Star Wars movies. His downfall, or turn to the dark side, is brought about by the tragic flaw of fear (for his wife). There is catharsis at the end of his life when he reconciles with Luke and saves Luke from the Emperor.
In the Greek play Antigone, Antigone is a tragic hero. She stubbornly refuses to obey the laws of Thebes, leading to her downfall when she goes against the law to bury her brother.
Literary Terms Examples