Aristotle (384-322 B.C) was a
great Greek philosopher,
moralist, political thinker,
biologist and founder of
His analysis of the ideal form
of tragic plays became a
guideline for later
playwrights in western
5. “Tragedy is the imitation of an action that is
serious and also, having magnitude complete in
itself; in language embellished with each kind of
artistic ornament, each kind bought in
separately in the parts of the work; in dramatic,
not in narrative form; with incidents arousing
pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its
catharsis of such emotions.”
6. According to him tragedy involves the imitation of
men better than they are in actual life.
Hence tragedy presents a character in idealized form.
The characters are good in strictly moral sense.
It merely means that characters live in a more
complete and intense life than the real man and
women dare to in real world.
7. High birth:
Aristotle believed that hero of tragedy should either
King or Prince, a man belonging to a noble family.
Tragedy of a noble person affects more.
So the hero should not be a common man or layman or
man of street.
According to A.C. Bradley:
“Tragedy of noble man affects the welfare of the
8. Concept of Pity and fear:
The main object of tragedy is to create the feelings of pity
In tragedy the fall of hero creates the feelings of pity and
Aristotle knew it very well that if a thoroughly gentleman
or saint like figure is moves from prosperity to adversity, we
take pity on him but we don’t feel fear.
It indicates that a saint like person can’t be a tragic hero.
This concept of tragic hero is rejected by George Bernard
He wrote play “Saint John” in which he has violated
various concepts of tragic hero propounded by Aristotle.
9. Contrary to this, Aristotle believed that a ruffian rascal
or murderer cannot be a tragic hero.
If a murderer is moving from prosperity to adversity,
we don’t take pity on him but we feel only fear.
This same philosophy is also refuted by many
William Shakespeare violated concept of pity in his
10. Four Qualities of the Tragic Hero
In chapter 15 of “Poetics”, Aristotle laid stress on four
qualities of the tragic hero.
3. Likeness/true to life
A character is assumed ‘good’, if his works and action
reveal a good purpose behind them.
This is irrespective of class to which he belongs.
Sympathy is necessary as it is the very basis of the
whole tragic pleasure.
The bad man does not arouse pity in us if he falls from
happiness to misery.
12. Place of Wicked Persons In Tragedy
Entirely wicked persons have no place in tragedy
according to Aristotle.
But we must remember that, by implication, we can
see that Aristotle allows the ‘bad’ and ‘wicked’ in
tragedy if he is indispensable to the plot.
And the action of the play as a whole should be a good
13. Hero is Good But not Perfect
Aristotle asks for a good man, not for a perfect man. In
Greek sense, goodness involves any virtues of courage,
temperance, magnificence, truthfulness, liberty etc.
According to Humphry House:
“The term ‘good’ and ‘goodness’ is Greek meant
something different from what it has come to
mean in terms of Christian ethics. The insistence
on goodness is not coloured with direct didacticism”
14. Place of woman and slaves in tragedy:
Aristotle held women to be inferior (classified them
with slaves) but even women, if introduced in tragedy,
should be shown to have some good in them.
The next essential quality for a tragic hero is
It means the character should be true to their
particular age, profession, class, sex or status.
But they are individuals at the same time, for they are
‘men in action’ as represented in tragedy.
In other sense the character should be appropriate to
the historical and traditional portrait of him.
16. So, each character should be given a character
appropriate to his ‘status’ or situation.
The character’s actions and words should be
appropriate to what he is represented to be,
As well as to the situation in which he is placed.
17. Likeness/true to life:
The character must be true to life.
We can identify ourselves with the characters.
If we don’t see the characters as we see ourselves, the
tragic emotions of pity and fear become irrelevant.
Thus the tragic character has to be a normal person or
of an intermediate sort. Only then he will be
The fourth essential with regard to character is that
the character must be consistent.
This is valid point which can’t be disputed.
The character must be seen as a whole, and consistent
to what he is presented as from beginning to end.
There has to be probability or necessity in the
character’s actions and words.
If the character is to be shown as being an inconsistent
one, he should be consistently inconsistent.
The character should act and seem to think in a
manner which we can logically expect from that
19. An Ideal Tragic Hero: An intermediate sort of person:
The person who stands between complete villainy and
complete goodness according to Aristotle is the ideal
tragic hero, he is a man like us, yet he has a moral
He is more intense person, his feelings are deeper. But
he is essentially a human.
So, that it is easy for us to identify ourselves with him
and sympathise with him.
20. :According to Aristotle the tragic hero must be like:
“The tragic hero must be an intermediate kind of
personage, a man not pre-eminently virtuous
and just, whose misfortune however, is brought
upon him not by vice and depravity; but by
some error of judgment(Hamartia). He must be
one of those enjoying great reputation and
21. A good man—coming to bad end. (Its shocking and disturbs faith)
A bad man—coming to good end. (Neither moving nor moral)
A bad man coming to bad end. (moral, but not moving)
A rather good man—coming to bad end. (An ideal situation to arouse
pity and fear)
Hamartia has been interpreted variously. Bradley
interpreted Hamartia as “tragic flaw”.
Hamartia is not a moral falling but some error of
The entire tragedy should rise from this minor flaw or
error of judgment.
Critics like, Butcher, Bywater, Rostangi and Lucas
agree that Hamartia is not a moral drawback.
23. Hamartia, arises in three ways:
1. Ignorance of some material fact or circumstances.
2. Hasty or careless view of given situation. One
example is Othello. In his case the error was
avoidable but he does not avoid it
3. Error may be voluntary, though not deliberate. This
happens in an act of anger or passion. Lear commits
such an error when he banishes Cordelia.
On the whole we see that Aristotle concept of the tragic
hero is not unacceptable.
In some ways he has a limited vision.
Tragedy is possible with saints, as G.B Shaw and Eliot have
shown. But this is not a generally found fact.
Tragedy is also much possible with villainous hero, has
been remarkably shown by Renaissance dramatists,
especially by Shakespeare.
Nevertheless the views of Aristotle cannot be completely
Many dramatists have learned much from his conception.
25. The main points
1. Noble man/high birth.
2. Good but not perfect.
3. Intermediate person neither saint nor Satan. Because the
tragedy of Saint like person crates the feelings of pity but
not of fear. And the tragedy of Satanic/rascal person
creates the feelings of fear but not of pity.
4. Appropriate to his class and status and to that what he is
5. Likeness/true to life.
6. Consistent in his actions and words.
7. Misfortune/downfall comes due to his error of judgment;
it means he is not morally deprived.