A tragic hero is a literary character who makes an error in judgment that inevitably leads to his/her own destruction.
"…the plots of the best tragedies must be complex, not simple…the plot of a tragedy must be an imitation of pitiable and fearful incidents…unqualifiedly good human beings must not appear to fall from good fortune to bad; for that is neither pitiable nor fearful; it is rather repellent. Nor must an extremely evil man appear to move from bad fortune to good fortune for that is the most untragic situation of all because it has none of the necessary requirements of tragedy; it both violates our human sympathy and contains nothing of the pitiable or fearful in it. Furthermore, a villainous man should not appear to fall from good fortune to bad. For, although such a plot would be in accordance with our human sympathy, it would not contain the necessary elements of pity and fear; for pity is aroused by someone who undeservedly falls into misfortune, and fear is evoked by our recognizing that it is someone like ourselves who encounters this misfortune. Therefore the emotional effect of the situation just mentioned will be neither pitiable nor fearful. What is left, after our considerations, is someone between these extremes. This would be a person who is neither perfect in virtue and justice, nor one who falls into misfortune through vice and depravity; but rather, one who succumbs through some miscalculation." ~ Aristotle, Poetics, Chapter 13
As outlined in Poetics, Aristotle believed that a hero is someone who is not all good or all bad. Instead, a hero is human, which is to say flawed. The audience identifies with the essential humanity of the hero -- he is "someone like ourselves." For this reason, we are able to feel sympathy or pity for the hero. Within the story of a tragedy, the hero falls because he makes a mistake or error in judgment, not because he commits an evil deed or has malice. When this happens, the audience experiences fear -- because we identify and sympathize with the hero, we fear that we could make the same mistake or incorrect judgment and arrive at the same fate.
We realize that a person may be destroyed even while attempting to be good
We realize that there is a conflict between human goodness and reality
We see that even in the name of goodness a human can cause his/her own downfall (IRONY)
Aristotle once said that “A man doesn’t become a hero until he can see the root of his own downfall.” Aristotle believed that Sophocles' play Oedipus Rex was a perfect example of a tragedy. Aristotle developed a theory about what a tragedy is and does.
He identified 5 essential criteria:
1. A tragedy is an imitation of action (mimesis) that is complete -- it has a definite beginning, middle, and end (Freytag's pyramid is seen: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution).
2. A tragedy has a unified, complex plot in which all actions are connected -- every cause has an effect, there aren't any random events or loose ends.
3. A tragedy possesses a certain magnitude (universal relevance or significance).
4. A tragedy arouses pity and fear in the audience.
5. A tragedy causes catharsis (purging of emotions) at the end.
Eventually the Aristotelian tragic hero dies a tragic death, having fallen from great heights and having made an…