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Definition and Characteristics of Tragic Hero Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 5 May 2018

Definition and Characteristics of Tragic Hero

Most Greek tragedies consist of a protagonist, usually a main character with outstanding qualities, which falls from prosperity to a disaster based on their personal failure or unfavorable circumstances. Tragic heroes are very important in tragic plays. They possess a tragic flaw and makes a judgment error that inevitably leads to their destruction. Antigone’s hubris and her loyalty to the gods are her tragic flaws that lead to her defeat. Hamlet’s failure to act on his mother’s marriage, the death of his father, and his throne are evidence of his tragic flaw. His procrastination leads to his demise. Throughout the plays of Hamlet and Antigone, the main characters’ try to do right by their loved ones but suffer the consequences of it leading to their tragic downfall.

In the novel, “Antigone” by Sophocles, Antigone breaks the law of Creon, the new king and her uncle, to give a proper burial to her loved one. King Creon has decreed that only Eteocles should receive an honorable burial. The corpse of Polynices, on the other hand, since he has shown himself the enemy of his country, is to be thrown out and left lying in the plain, a prey for the birds. The penalty for anyone who attempts to bury him is death (CITE). Eteocles and Polynices are brothers of Antigone, who killed each other in a war over their fathers, Oedipus, throne. Antigone is punished unjustly and unfairly for going against the law that the king set forth even though she innocently wants to do what is right. Antigone’s courageous act of following her beliefs result in her heroicness and tragic death.

Disregarding Creon’s law, Antigone puts herself in danger between what she believes is right and the state believes is right. Antigone takes it upon herself to defy the law of King Creon because she believes in following traditions. According to Kitto, it is believed by the Greeks that unless a body was buried, literally or symbolically, the soul of the dead man could not find rest in Hades (52). Antigone insists on respecting her brother and giving him a proper burial according to Greek tradition so that his soul may go to the afterlife. Antigone declares that her death has no importance if it means following the laws of the gods which she holds most sacred.

After Antigone sacrifices her life to perform a symbolic burial, a handful of dust sprinkled on Polynices, defending the rights of all beings to a proper burial, she is captured by Creon’s guards. She exercises her belief in tradition when she declares, “ I will bury him, and if I must die, I say that the crime is holy: I shall lie down with him in death, and I shall be as dear to him as he is to me” (CITE). Antigone explains that if she must die for burying her brother, then to let it be since it was a holy act.

Antigone exemplifies bravery saying, “Think Death Less than a friend? This death of mine is of no importance, but if I had left my brother lying in death unburied, I should have suffered. Now I do not. You smile at me. Ah, Creon, think me a fool if you like, but it may well be that a fool convicts me of folly” (CITE). She stands up to Creon proving that what she is doing is proper but he is not convinced.

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