For a character to be a ‘Tragic Hero’ is it mandatory for them to hold all of the characteristics that supposedly make one? According to Aristotle, a Tragic Hero must hold the characteristics of Hamartia, Hubris, Peripitia, and Anagnorsis. However, in the four texts that I have studied there are characters who hold some but not all of the characteristics of a Tragic Hero and could be deemed one. The four texts and characters that I have individually studied are King Lear, Gladiator, Citizen Kane, and The Great Gatsby. There is a character within each of these, all the main character who holds characteristics of the Tragic Hero. Noticeably, they all hold a Hamartia from selfishness to pride, the fatal flaw of all of these characters is a key characteristic to portray a character as a tragic hero. The other characteristics are almost scattered through the characters and texts and by that I mean that they all ave different aspects and types of these characteristics but all link up to show that all of these characters portray a Tragic Hero.
Two of the characters that relate in significant ways according to their hamartia is Charles Foster from the film Citizen Kane and King Lear from King Lear. His hamartia is mixed up with tthe plot of the story. Although these two characters are from very different time periods and leading incredibly different lives, their hamartia is selfishness. This fatal flaw leads to their ultimate downfall as Tragic Hero’s. Citizen Kane’s selfishness stems from childhood when he is taken away to accomplish an incredibly wealthy life which is handed to him through a relatives death. He begins as very curious as mindless kid, not a worry in the world but when he is torn away from his family to attend a private school and lead a life in which he will have every opportunity given to him as he makes his way to the top with a helping hand. Kane gets to his twenties and has already accomplished a lot as he is given a position at a newspaper as almost the owner. This isn’t enough for him, he wants more. Although he seems to already have the ideal “American dream” with lovely wife, who was basically handed to him, a so, a campaign, a newspaper. This was not enough. He didn’t just want more, he felt like he needed it so he stumbles upon a mistress and when this leads to his campaign downfall and his family life also going down hill he decides to use the resources that he has to make a name and marry his new mistress, leaving his family behind him like dust in the wind. The wife almost goes crazy as Kane tries to control her life and her name and in the end, because Kane will never settle for less he ends up alone. He has nobody to surround him on his deathbed, just things, meaningless items. Kane’s selfishness reflects his life and leads to his ultimate downfall as a tragic hero with one of the key characteristics sticking out. His hamartia. Gladiator, on the other hand just wanted to serve. You do not see much of his childhood but from what you do see, he is an incredibly loyal servant to the Emperor before and after his death. He wanted nothing more than to serve the Emperor and what the Emperor wants for his country. before his death, the emperor tells Maximus that instead of his son, Commodus,he wants Maximus to take his place as Emperor of Rome but doesn’t tell anyone else. When the Emperor goes ahead to tell Commodus of his plans, Commodus does not accept it and kills his own father. Maximus knows that something happened but does not go on to tell anyone else of the Emperors plans and instead his downfall begins when he refuses to serve Commodus as Emperor due to his excessive pride. His hamartia.
Another similarity that I noticed through majority of these texts is the idea of the American dream. Obviously, King Lear cannot relate to this because the timeline doesn’t match up to the idea of this but all three of the other texts have some sort of tie to it. The American dream is the ‘set of ideals in which freedom includes the option for prosperity and success.’ To outline it, it is what all Americans strive to achieve in their lifetime. Success, happiness, and a stable family. In all three of these texts (excluding King Lear) they are working up to this dream. It is what they aspire to achieve as middle aged men leading their own lives. All of them have a love interest (or multiple), they all die with nothing and/or no one, and they all let money drive their life choices. This is such a major similarity because it is made blatently obvious by Baz Luhrmann, Orson Welles, and Ridley Scott. It is a significant connection that links to a majority of the texts but the one that stands out the most as chasing the American dream is Citizen Kane because the main character is so focused on getting what he wants in life and to be able to show off his American dream that he loses everything in the process. Maximus in the Gladiator, however had the American dream from the beginning and he begins to lose everything he has achieved in his life as soon as the film begins. The Great Gatsby however is claimed as a critique of the American dream and Jay Gatsby is the provider of this example as he goes from ‘rags to riches’ and achieves the American dream.
Something else that it appears all these characters have in common is that they all have a nemesis, whether it be a characteristic or another character. This can also tie in with their Hamartia because it is most likely that it is their fatal flaw which causes them to gain the nemesis’s. In Gladiator, Maximus’s nemesis is Commodus. It was not until Maximus made the comment to Commodus that his loyalties lye with the previous emperor and he will never serve Commodus. Commodus refuses to accept this and throws Commodus out to be killed and all throughout the film all Commodus wanted was for Maximus to be gone so he didn’t have to worry about him getting in the way of his ruling. It was because of Maximus’s hamartia, his excessive pride that caused him to make this fatal mistake. King Lear’s biggest nemesis however, was himself. He victimizes himself with the thought process that everyone is out to get him but we soon realize that his only real nemesis is him. Him and his trust issues that we can see by him banishing his two most loyal companions out. We get the idea of his sorrowfulness through the line “I am a man more sinned against then sinning.” As we continue through the texts, Charles Foster’s nemesis appears to be himself, similar to King Lear. His excessive need for more success than he already has stumps him in many tragic ways. A scene that outlines a realization that he has about this is one in which he receives a piece of paper. On this piece of paper there is the morals that he wrote down for the newspaper and how he wanted to run it. His wife starts to go ballistic and he begins to realize his fatal mistake of not staying true to himself but it is too late. This is a very significant similarity throughout these four texts.
The idea of an American dream, a nemesis and the traits of a tragic hero all appear to be significant connections throughout the four texts. Across the four texts, they all hold a tragic hero in my eyes. Although they do not all hold all of the characteristics of a Tragic hero, they represent the significant factors in an analysis of these characteristics. Significantly, majority of the main characters are chasing the American dream, or are facing the aftermath of achieving this. All of the characters from these texts also have a nemisis with whom they hold the most emotion for. These texts relate in many significant ways which help us to understand the plot and the ideas within the texts.