Essay about The Tragic Hero Of The Duchess Of Malfi

Essay about The Tragic Hero Of The Duchess Of Malfi

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Tragic figures are characters that aim for a goal but never reach it. They suffer throughout their story and are most likely to die before the play ends. The tragic hero is the most commonly known of these figures, but tragic villains also exist. An example of the tragic hero is Franz Woyzeck, of Georg Büchner’s working-class tragedy ‘Woyzeck’. Compared and contrasted to Woyzeck is the tragic villain, Ferdinand, of John Webster’s tragedy ‘The Duchess of Malfi’. Both characters fail to gain what they desire because they suffer of a mental illness.
Franz Woyzeck is an unusual tragic character, mainly because he is one of the few heroes who doesn’t die at the end of his play. However, the form of the play as a whole is unusual, which may be because Büchner died before he could finish his writing. The twenty-four, short scenes have no definite order, nor are they held together by acts. None of the scenes have a transitions to a next one and there are no steady developments in the characters, except for the protagonist. Additional to that, Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero is “the fall of a ‘great’ person” (Büchner, Introduction, P. xvii), leading them to lose their social status, which evokes the audience to sympathise with them. Therefore, Woyzeck is the first tragic hero in a stage drama, whose misery does not start at a higher social class. He is a simple-minded soldier, happy to come home after a working day, to his lover Marie and their child. Looking at the characters around Woyzeck, it seems as if with increasing classes, the characters’ decency and kindness decrease. This is displayed in cases of the Doctor and the Captain, who have the highest status of all characters in the play. But at the same time, they are the one...


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...ch would be the typical ending for a tragic character, before they die.
Finally, I can say Franz Woyzeck and Ferdinand are similar characters in many ways, even though the roles they play in their tragedies are immensely different. The reason for portraying a character in a play as tragic is to gain sympathy from the audience. I can see how Woyzeck would have that effect. He is a simple man, who did not want to cause any harm and only live a happy life with his lover, Marie, and their child. This dream was destroyed by men of authority. Ferdinand does not suffer as horribly as Woyzeck, and my amount sympathy for him is rather small. Nonetheless, in my opinion, his figure is the most interesting of the whole play, except for the Duchess herself. My final conclusion is that Ferdinand’s and Woyzeck’s similarities in actions caused by madness outweigh their differences.

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