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Aristotle View On Tragic Hero

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 2974 words Published: 24th Apr 2017

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W. Hamilton Fyfe in his book Aristotles Art Of Poetry highlighted that Aristotle was the first critic of literature to view the dissimilarity between moral and visual condition. He is specific in his vision that they want of tragedy is to give delight, strange kind of pleasure which go with the release of feeling result through the stage performance of a tragedy. The human interest holds us. He also share the feelings of people like Othello or Macbeth. These are all people like ourselves, yet somehow, even in the two contemporary dramas, increase to a superior power. W .H. Fyfe also clear that they achieve to some extent more than human self-respect. And yet we fully distribute their feelings and share them more easily and exactly because the poet has disqualified all those conditions and thought which in real life perplex our feelings and reject our pleasure. W. H. Fyfe also clarify that Aristotle’s represent his emotion in dramatic form and, as we share it, it becomes our own. If the tragedy has its way with us, our secreted emotion and perhaps also the physical discharge of tears is released, and when the storm of thrill settle, we are left with a sense of pleasurable relief. We have the same sense of worried, tensions determined in pleasurable relief when we are upset with our problems we sit down to watch some movies or start reading books or listen to the music which gave us soothing effect. In the same way W. H. Fyfe also said that great poem or a great picture both stimulate and relieves our emotions. According to him Athenian tragedy combined all these demand poetry, music, pictorial expression; it carried the yet stronger and more popular demand of a thrilling story and present in the great open-air theatre of Dionysus the strengthening group of people. It was really a bold step. People who avoid their panic by reading careless accounts of football and racing, adultery and murder, might better their health by means of this safer and much more pleasing form of relief. It is still existing; and great works of art come so hardly ever within our reach that there is no danger in indulging in such activity to get pleasure. This is all about the W. H. Fyfe point of view about the emotional effect of tragedy.

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Now in my first chapter of Analysis I want to high light some rules and regulation of tragedy and tragic hero given by Aristotle. Firstly I would like to talk about Aristotelian tragic hero. He emphasize that the tragic hero of any play should belong to reputed family and he must fall from propriety into misfortunate not due to any villainies character but due to his own error of judgment or due to his fate. To this point I want to give the example of Shakespearean Macbeth and Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus. These two character are the best example of Aristotelian tragic hero both the character belong to reputed family and their own error of judgment became the cause of their downfall.

According to Aristotle:

“The hero of any tragedy ancient or modern must be one whom we regard as a fine fellow. He certainly need not be of good family or even in high station those requirements were peculiar to Greek drama”.

A.C Bradley in (1935) given a lecture on Hamlet ,Othello, Kinglear and Macbeth. He said we see men and women self-assuredly arresting into the obtainable order of things in pursuance of their thoughts but what they accomplish is not what they designed, in fact it is awfully different what they thought. In Shakespearean play “Othello” is trapped in his own evil deeds which he designed for others. Hamlet react from the forceful duty of revenge is pushed into blood sin he never vision of and enforced at last on the revenge in actual he don’t want to do this. Everywhere in the tragedy man’s thought translated into action is changed into the opposite of itself. All the action which are mentioned above are due to their own flaw in their character. Yet, by itself it would hardly put forward the idea of fate but in actual it shows their own free will it shows man as, in some degree, however, slight the cause of his own downfall.

Character itself contributes to the feelings of fatality which is not due to their fate but through their free will now here I want to give the example of King Macbeth because his down fall occurred due to his own ambitious nature and other example I want to give is about Dr Faustus whose downfall occurred due to his own free will.

Some people thought fate in Shakespeare can be described as a moral order and its necessity as a moral essential. But in my point of view fate and free will are the two sides of a same coin. These thing brings into the light those aspects of the tragic fact which the idea of fate and free will throws into the shade leading to the argument, ‘whatever may be said of accidents, circumstances and the like human action is after all presented to us as the central fact in tragedy and also as the main cause of the catastrophe.

The moral necessity which so much impresses us is, after all, chiefly the necessary connection between actions and consequences for those actions we without even raising on the subject. The agents responsible and the tragedy would disappear from us if we did not. The central action is in greater or lesser degree, wrong or bad. The catastrophe is the main is the return of this action o the head of the agent.



Marlowe’s “Doctor Faustus” is the first major Elizabethan tragedy and the first to see the sights of the tragic possibilities of the direct conflict of Renaissance compulsions with the Hebraic – Christian tradition. Marlowe sinned, suffered regret and was damned.

Faustus in thought and deed, threatening, philosophizing, disputing, artifice, defying God and risking all with a prosper does not put forward the lay character of moralities. Marlowe interpreted into the old medieval equation the new, unsolved and frighteningly vague lively of the renaissance, gave it a charm and a dignity never realized in previous treatments of the story, and made Faustus, rather than Hamlet, the first modern man.

The play introduced the modern tragic theme of the alienated soul. Faustus is tragic because he known the problem as actual. Even as he claims the freedom of his soul, he hears the terrified echoes thundering in his ears like Macbeth Dr. Faustus is a man who of his own wide awake determination brings tragedy and suffering cashing down upon his head, the pitiful and fearful victim of his own ambitious and desires.

The satire with which Marlowe usually invests the downfall of his Protagonists is an irony based on these reasonable concepts of sin and damnation, and vividly expressed in two major patterns of action: the monotonous pattern of ethical preference leading to the option of spiritual demolition, and the pattern of dissimilarity between Faustus grand imaginative designs and the real, stupid activities of his magical career.

Marlowe devotes his first scene to a careful staging of Faustus decision to take up magic. One by one the fields of material education are rejected because their ends not satisfy his demand but notice what the demand is. He does not pursue knowledge for the sake of truth, but for power, for superhuman power, the power over life and death.

We find Marlowe’s hero Faustus, he sold his soul to the Devil in order to gain super human power through knowledge by mastering the Un-Holey art of magic and thus he says to himself.

J. C. Maxwell in (1947)(89-94) in his research of “The Sin of Faustus”. His purpose is to keep a due measure of attention directed upon that side of the theme is to recognize Faustus central act of sin for what it is. He said that his major sin on which his whole research revolve is Faustus pride and his curiosity. He said that pride is the ultimate source of Faustus fall and sensuality is pervasive element of his character after it. However, curiosity is most notably operative in the conduct of the action. Moreover, J. C. Maxwell said that it is largely owing to a failure to apprehend the nature as indeed the existence, of this sin that there has arisen the misrepresentations of Marlowe’s purpose, which have seen in Faustus largely. J. C. Maxwell also said that to him the points arising out of this examination that seem to me important for understanding of the play are “No insistence on the pervading and increasing sensualist of Faustus ought to difficult to understand the fact that he falls, like man and like Lucifer himself, through the spiritual sin of pride. J. C. Maxwell highlights pride, sensuality and curiosity as the major sin of Dr. Faustus. However, I somewhat disagree with this conclusion because his major sin was his over ambitious nature to gain the knowledge of the whole universe. J. C. Maxwell talks about curiosity but not in this manner, he says that Faustus is curious to get the pride. But in my point of view he is curious to gain the knowledge and ambitious to be the god.

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Kaitlyn Cavanaugh in (2008) wrote an article named “Faustus as a tragic hero”(www.writinghood.com) draw attention to many traits of Dr Faustus character and said There may be dissimilar or changeable ways of looking at assured characters and enlightening them as a certain type of character. In Christopher Marlowe’s play Doctor Faustus, the main character, Doctor Faustus, could be described and exposed as a tragic hero, similarly to other tragic characters, such as Sophocles’ Oedipus and Shakespeare’s Macbeth may also be described as such. There are different features and personality, which would make these characters be considered as tragic heroes rather than another type of character. In Marlowe’s play, the main character, Faustus, brings his own downfall by the end of the story. In his opening speech, Faustus tells and explains the audience and the readers that he made himself expert in law, medicine and divinity, but he wants to know more than what he knows and also know more about other things in short his intention was to became a god. This aspect of Faustus, his curiosity to learn and know more, may be thought of as part of the human condition and human nature and isn’t something that is seen as wrong in our society. However, this aspect also blinds Faustus from a sense of reason and right from wrong. This in the end leads the main character of Doctor Faustus to make an agreement with the devil, which results in Faustus’ downfall. This aspect of Faustus’ character and personality is similar to Oedipus, in Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. Oedipus’ pride blinds him from seeing truth, reason, as well as the difference from right and wrong, which leads to and results in the character’s downfall and to the main character of Sophocles’ play, Oedipus, stabbing his eyes out. This feature will lead to the characteristic and fact that, by doing these mistakes or “flaws”, the tragic heroes are doomed from the beginning and the audience and readers know the fate of these characters is sealed. And for the tragic hero be just that, a tragic hero or tragic character, this type of character has to be doomed from the beginning of the play, but doesn’t hold any responsibility for possessing his flaw or fault. This may be seen in Faustus. From the beginning of the play, from the time that he tells the audience and readers that he wants to acquire more knowledge and especially when he signs the, the audience and readers may that Faustus is doomed to have a less than perfect and happy ending. Much like Faustus, Oedipus’ fate is sealed when he refuses to see the truth, even when it’s standing right in front of him. Though these two tragic heroes may feel some sense of guilt about their actions, neither Faustus nor Oedipus seem feel some sense of guilt or responsibility of their flaw.

These aspects are a few attributes and features that characterize a tragic hero. Most of these attributes may be applied to Faustus. Throughout the article it is highlighted that the most prominent trait of Dr Faustus character was his ambitious nature which became the reason of his downfall.



In one of the research paper named “Macbeth As A Tragedy According To Aristotle’s Definition.” (www.123helpme.com). The researcher highlight some of the characteristic of Macbeth’s personality. He first compare Macbeth’s character with qualities of tragic hero set by Greek philosopher Aristotle. Researcher highlight that the genre of some works of literature can be discuss, Macbeth written by William Shakespeare seems to fit into a ideal shape of Aristotle’s definition of a tragedy, unite seven elements that he believes make the type of a work a tragedy, is that pattern. Demonstrate all seven aspects, Macbeth fits the definition of tragedy specifically. According to him elements in the play verify the fact that Macbeth is a serious story, the first elements of Aristotle’s definition . In spite of the outcome of the play, Macbeth was a good and great man, one of elements in the definition of tragedy. Macbeth was an admirable man whom held the position of the Thane of Glam and was victorious in battle. This success helped him take escape of admiration from Duncan, very good deed attain by few. The most important detail that Macbeth is truly not just a good but a great man is the fact that at first, even though Lady Macbeth pleaded for him to kill Duncan, he refuse. Through Lady Macbeth’s scheming ways brought about by her hunger for power and position, he did certainly kill him and others though. Yet, this in itself if analyze prove he is a great man. Through tactical planning and cunning wits, he was able to murder, and briefly get away with it. Yet, every great man must have a single flaw, which they give into, as declared in the definition of a tragedy. Macbeth’s flaw was ambition, brought about by Lady Macbeth and the witches. Through the imagery they created of him as a noble, bold and successful King, he let his ambitions get the best of him, which led to murder, deceit, cheating and eventually tragedy. The ambition in him was not at full smother until the witches and his wife fully brought it out of him yet, it was a flaw, unlike a curable condition or problem, which he could not prevail over, not even by fate. The aspect of a flaw that the good or great man cannot overcome by fate is the fourth element in Aristotle’s adaptation of a tragedy.

This research paper highlight all the traits of Macbeth’s character that in the start of the play Shakespeare portrays Macbeth’s character as a noble, kind hearted, victorious, and people and King Duncan praised him a lot. But later in the play we came to know his actual character that he is ill eared and easily get manipulated by witches and his wife lady Macbeth. Macbeth ambitious nature became the cause of his downfall or we can say that his tragic flaw is his own nature.

Marilyn French in 1982 wrote a term paper named “Macbeth and masculine values”(pg no:14-24) draw attention to many aspect of Macbeth’s character and said that there is an uncertainty about gender role in Macbeth. She said that Macbeth is brave, valor’s follower, courageous cousin and praise worthy men. Most of the praise comes from Duncan the king. In conclusion she said a tragedy she accept without object the decision that Macbeth is an exterminate. Throughout the play, manhood is equated with the ability to kill. She also highlights the factor responsible in killing king Duncan is Lady Macbeth who convinced Macbeth to do so. But I am not agree with the point of view of Marilyn because Macbeth himself is overambitious to gain the power and to achieve the kingdom as we have seen throughout the play Macbeth is committing sin after sin in order to gain the power. Now if Marilyn is making Lady Macbeth responsible for Macbeths down fall is not true because Lady Macbeth persuaded Macbeth once and that is to murder the king Duncan but not his son and not his friend Banquo so it is clear that Macbeth is to blame for his own dreadful mistake.

In one of the research paper named “The question of justice in Macbeth” (www.123helpme.com) the researcher is emphasizing in the play Macbeth, many different choices are brought onward to a positive character and the result that is chosen affects the entire play. The researcher analyzed the results of these actions can be a positive or negative conclusion towards the character. As is represented in the play Macbeth, justice always prevails due to the guilty character’s developing sense of regret or the character receiving fair punishment. This shows some traits of macbeth’s character.

To give clear idea of Macbeth’s character I again want to high light some of the points from one of the research named “The personality of Macbeth”(www.123helpme.com). In his research researcher highlight that Macbeth down fall is due to natural law in which person has his own choice to select his path. He also emphasize that Macbeth also has his own choice either he want to go with the prophecy of witches or to act as his wife want him to act so it is clear that it is totally depend upon his own will and his will is to became the king and want to attain the power. This thing clarify that is ambition became the reason of his down fall.


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