The Characteristics Of The Tragic Hero
‘A man doesn’t become a hero until he can see the root of his own downfall.’ This was stated by the man himself, the Greek philosopher Aristotle. Aristotle believed that there was six characteristics a person needed to fit the tragic hero criteria like Oedipus or Creon from the play antigone. Now people for the past 2,000 years have either met or experienced a tragic hero. Whether its person you knew like a relative or a friend, or it could have been a person that you read about or have watched in a film. Now for me I know a lot of tragic hero’s, but the tragic hero that I will use is the novel/film character Severus Snape from the series Harry Potter. I am a fan of this series, but I think Snape fits Aristotle’s tragic hero criteria perfectly, and here is why.
To start off, Aristotle pretty much said that there is a pattern the tragic hero must follow that include these six characteristics of hamartia, peripeteia, anagnorisis, hubris, nemesis, and catharsis. A good example of this would be the story of Oedipus, he represents every characteristic that is listed. Oedipus does have hamartia which is “typically translated as ‘tragic flaw,’ actually is closer in meaning to a ‘mistake’ or an ‘error,’ ‘failing,’ rather than an innate flaw.” (Struck). These kinds of flaws are usually in the form of Hubris which is having to much pride or being ignorant. And his flaw is not having the knowledge of himself or where he came from and not listening to the wise men through the plays. “Aristotle indicates that a truly tragic hero must have a failing that is neither idiosyncratic nor arbitrary, but is somehow more deeply imbedded — a kind of human failing and human weakness.” (Struck). After reading that statement and the play you know that Oedipus displays this characteristic perfectly. Now if you fast forward to the end of the play you can see that Oedipus reaches an anagnorisis which means he recognized his mistakes which then makes the audience reach a catharsis and that is when they feel pity for the hero. This happens because Oedipus realizes what he’s done and decides to punish himself for being so ignorant and unknowledgeable, so he gouges his eyes and blinds himself and then continues to step down as king and exile himself out of the city. This play was what began so many great stories of tragic heroes.
In addition of tragic heroes there are many that come to mind especially from books and movies, but the one I think is a good one and personally one of my favorite tragic heroes is Severus Snape from the harry potter series. In the series it explains how Snape didn’t come from great status and had to work hard to become a great wizard. His tragic flaw in the series was working for both the good and the bad sides of wizards kind of like a double agent. That’s where the hubris comes in because he stays on the bad side and because of that that’s when Snape gets to peripeteia when the love his life lily who was also Harry potters mom got murdered by Voldemort who is most evil wizard in the series. Snape becomes upset because he could have prevented this from happening, so in honor of Lily he decides to watch over Harry and protect him as he grows up. What’s so great is that in the series they portray Snape as an evil man and that he disliked Harry which is sort of how Sophocles portrayed Creon in the play Antigone. Snape eventually moves to the nemesis characteristic which means when a hero is a situation he can’t avoid and that’s when he has to kill Dumbledore the leader of the good wizards, because Dumbledore commands Snape to do it so he can keep the bad wizards trust, and the reason Snape couldn’t avoid it was because of his tragic flaw. And then the catharsis characteristic comes to play when Snape gets killed by Voldemort and as he is laying there dying Harry confronts him and that’s when Snape lets him into his memories and he shows Harry how he loved his mom and promised to protect him. I can tell your personally that this is a very emotional scene and I felt a lot of pity for Snape and wished he didn’t get murdered.
To conclude about the tragic hero is that because of Aristotle’s so-called formula the character of a tragic hero has been entertaining us people for over 2,000 years and there’s a reason why its been going so long. It’s because we can’t get enough of those stories, they’ll never stop being entertaining. Well I think the lessons that can be learned from any tragic hero is that you can always prevent your downfall you just need to listen and not be ignorant or stubborn just because you care about your pride to much like Creon. After understanding the tragic hero a bit more I can now be more open-minded in my decision making.
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