What Is an Example of a Tragic Hero?

An example of a tragic hero in literature is Hamlet in William Shakespeare's "Hamlet" or Oedipus in Sophocles's "Oedipus Plays." The tragic hero in literature is a character who is born of noble birth and heroic traits but is destined to suffer and be destroyed by the gods but who will not accept this fate and fights against it.

The tragic drama results from the hero's free will and choices versus the fate and plan that the gods have made for him. This leads to the question of whether it is fate or free will that ultimately leads to the hero's great suffering. It asks readers to question their personal tragedies as well.

A tragic drama also seeks to reveal. It wants the hero to be searching for his identity and then to discover something new and unexpected about his identity. This can be seen with Oedipus when Oedipus realizes that he is not the protector of Thebes, but that he is actually the plague of the city. Oedipus must come to the realization that he is married to his mother and killed his father, even though he did both of things unwittingly.

Although Aristotle set down the rules for the tragic hero and believed that the hero must be of noble birth, the famed playwright Arthur Miler believed that a common person could also be a tragic hero figure as long as he wanted to find his true identity and was looking for a personal dignity.