In his classic work "Poetics" Aristotle provided a model of the tragic hero. According to Aristotle, the tragic hero is more admirable than the average person. This results in the tragic hero being admired by the audience. For the audience to accept a tragic ending as just, it is crucial that the tragic hero be responsible for their undoing. At the same time though, they must remain admired and respected. This is achieved by the tragic hero having a fatal flaw that leads to their undoing. One of literature's examples of the tragic hero is Achilles from Homer's The Iliad. However, Achilles is different from the classic tragic hero in one major way - his story does not end tragically. Unlike the usual tragic hero, Achilles is able to change, reverse his downfall, and actually prove himself as a true hero.
The first requirement of Aristotle's tragic hero is that they are more admirable than the average character. Achilles meets this requirement because of his ability on the battlefield. In The Iliad, the background to the story is the war between the Greeks and the Trojans. This background is not only the basis for the story overall, but is also the basis for Achilles' own story. This begins when Achilles refuses to join the battle because he is insulted by Agamemnon. This decision results in the action that drives the remainder of the story. Later in the story when Achilles becomes angered and goes to the other extreme, launching into battle and killing ferociously. The significance of this is that it places battle as central to both Achilles' story and to what is important in the setting of the story. Importantly, the aspect that makes Achilles greater than most is his ability o...
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...es in himself. Overall, this shows how a fatal flaw can be preventing from becoming fatal.
Overall, it has been seen that Achilles meets the major requirements of a tragic hero. He is more admirable than the average person. He also has a fatal flaw that leads to his own undoing. However, unlike the normal tragic hero, Achilles is able to address his own flaw and prevent his downfall from spiralling to the point where his life ends tragically. Ultimately, Achilles is an almost-tragic hero who saves himself from tragedy. Ultimately, The Iliad is an almost-tragedy with hope, where the audience can see the tragic ending that had been narrowly avoided.
Aristotle. "Poetics." In The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Ed. David H. Richter. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990.
Homer. The Iliad. New York: Penguin, 1998.
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