Elements that Make a Tragic Hero in Shakespeare's Works

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Elements that Make a Tragic Hero in Shakespeare's Works

In all of Shakespeare's tragedies, the hero must suffer and in some if not most cases, die. What makes a tragic hero? One has to be a man of high estate: a king, a prince or an officer of some high rank.

It was common practice for Shakespeare to tell of his tragic hero through the voices of others around his hero. This way we can understand his conflicts, his struggles, and flaws. Usually the hero's own actions and obsessions bring him to his tragic end. (Bradley 2)

v The calamities of tragedy do not simply happen, nor are they sent—

v The calamities of tragedy proceed mainly from actions, and those, the actions of men.

v Shakespeare's tragic heroes are responsible for the catastrophe of their falls.

(Lewin 51)

Who is the tragic hero in Julius Caesar? I believe it to be Brutus, and not Caesar. Even though the play is actually about the fall of Julius Caesar. The difficulty of relating to Caesar in terms of words, actions and reputation can contribute to an understanding of Brutus's behavior. (Fox 140) This is one of the reasons Brutus is the tragic hero.

Marcus Brutus is a servant, but also friend to Caesar. He has a strong bond with Caesar, but he also cares about Rome and his people. Brutus said to Cassiius in Act 1 "What means this shouting? I do fear the people do choose Caesar for their king…yet I love him well." (I.II)

Brutus feels a great friendship with Caesar, but he is afraid that Caesar will turn away from Rome and his people once in power. "I know no personal cause to spurn at him… how that might change his nature…" (II.I) He has great respect for his friend Caesar even though he knows he must put him to d...

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... Julius Caesar Barnes and Noble Inc

New York, 1963.

Shakespeare, William. King Lear HarperCollins Publishers

New York, NY, 1994

Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet Berkley Publishing Corp

New York, NY, 1967

Secondary Resources

Bradley, A.C. Shakespearean Tragedy


Dover, James. An Intro to Shakespeare Oxford University

Press, New York, NY, 1961

Fox, Levi. The Shakespeare's Handbook. G.K. Hall & Co.

Boston, Mass, 1987

Lamb, Sidney. Complete Study Edition to King Lear Cliff Notes

Incorporated, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1979

Lewin, Michael. An Introduction to Shakespeare's tragedies D.C.

Heath & Company Publishers, Boston, 1909

Webster, Margaret. Shakespeare without Tears The World Publishing

Company, New York, NY 1942
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