Summary of The Shakespearean Tragic Hero

Assignment, English Literature ic and Modern) Topic: Summary of “The Shakespearean Tragic Hero,” pp. 687-691
The Shakespearean Tragic Hero as articulated by A.C Bradley needs to be of “high degree”(687) meaning a king, prince, commander or the like as such the welfare of others, most probably a whole nation, is impacted by his actions and certainly by his downfall. His tragic hero suffers a calamity. that is, his collapse and eventually death. In addition the collapse must be determined, at least in part, by own actions or character, specifically some “tragic flaw”.
Heroes have certain common qualities that are essential to the tragic effect. “They are exceptional beings. He is a person of high degree or of public importance, and that his actions or sufferings are of an unusual kind.” (687)Hero is placed in unusual circumstances. “His tragic trait, which is also his greatness, is fatal to him.”(688) “He commits faults and they result in grave consequences for himself, for the people and the country that he governs.”(688) Shakespearean tragic hero is generally good and draws the sympathy because his errors are acceptable by common human standards. “He may be wretched and he may be awful, but he is not small” (688). There is some greatness about him which is strikingly different and the people are obliged to notice and respect that trait. He may be placed in difficult situations, evoke deep sympathy, his disposition may be mysterious and people will not view with a contemptuous feeling. He has the capacity and grit to face the challenges, whether he succeeds or not, is another issue. In either situation he carries the sympathy-wave with him. He is the power-center in victory or defeat! Bradley articulates his stance by giving the example of some of tragedies of Shakespeare. He writes, “The love of Romeo and Juliet conducts them to death only because of the senseless hatred of their spouses. Guilty ambition, seconded by diabolic malice and issuing in murder, opens the action in Macbeth.”(689) Bradley further writes that Shakespearean innocent hero “still shows some marked imperfection or defect, — irresolution, precipitancy, pride, credulousness, excessive simplicity, excessive susceptibility to sexual emotions, and the like.”(690) Most of these traits are markedly evil and have direct bearing to the overall development of the story and the impending conflict and catastrophe.
The aftershocks of the evil manifested though the actions of the tragic hero are more painful. Just to counter the effects of evil, good has to manifest, and Bradley writes, “When the evil in him masters the good and has its way, it destroys other people through him, but it also destroys him. At the close of the struggle, he has vanished and has left behind him nothing that can stand” (690). Such a tragic hero leaves behind him a trial of destruction and the people who hero-worship him, or are under compulsion to worship him, suffer the consequences.
Finally, the tragic hero must be good or commendable, or at the very least, a person whose "high degree"(687) or importance will be known by the spectators, a person with whom the spectators can recognize, or who they understand to represent a general human nature. The fate of the tragic hero impacts the fate of the entire nation, a generation or generations. When the empire suddenly collapses from great heights, people suffer from multiple directions and they become directionless and destination less, in the absence of their leader and the one on whom they have pinned the hopes of life. No one can challenge destiny and what is fated for him. The tragic hero perishes in the disaster created by him and his people undergo a long period of unpredictable suffering.
Work Cited
Bradley A.C. The Shakespearean Tragic Hero