What Are Some Examples of Hamartia?

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The most famous examples of hamartia include the actions of Hamlet in Shakespeare's play of the same name, the behavior of Oedipus in "Oedipus the King" by Sophocles and the conduct of Victor in "Frankenstein," a novel by Mary Shelley. Hamartia is a literary term meaning "a tragic flaw."

Hamartia, according to Aristotle, in "Poetics" was a mistake or error in judgment. These days it may mean an action, either deliberate or in error, taken by a protagonist, or it may indicate an inherent personality trait in a fictional character.

A protagonist who experiences hamartia may do so because of a lack of knowledge about a situation or another character or through a moral flaw. It usually ends in the death or downfall of the protagonist, and the results of hamartia are often completely different to what the fictional persona expected.

In "Hamlet," the main character, Hamlet, had the major character flaw of indecisiveness and could not make up his mind what to do about the various dilemmas he faced. Oedipus, on the other hand, inadvertently kills his father and marries his own mother due to his ignorance. Victor in "Frankenstein" is a victim of his own hubris or pride when he, in attempting to become a famous scientist, creates a monster.