Greek Tragedy

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Greek Tragedy


The Greek idea of Hubris is that of a character in a position of power who becomes so proud of either his position or qualities that he believes he is equal to the gods, and ultimately attempts to defy both the gods and his fate.

The Ulimate tragic hero: Oedipus

Greek Tragedy

Tragedy depicts the downfall of a noble hero or heroine, usually through some combination of hubris, fate, and the will of the gods. The tragic hero's powerful wish to achieve some goal inevitably encounters limits, usually those of human frailty (flaws in reason, hubris, society), the gods (through oracles, prophets, fate), or nature. Aristotle says that the tragic hero should have a flaw and/or make some mistake (hamartia). The hero need not die at the end, but he / she must undergo a change in fortune. In addition, the tragic hero may achieve some revelation or recognition (anagnorisis--"knowing again" or "knowing back" or "knowing throughout" ) about human fate, destiny, and the will of the gods. Aristotle quite nicely terms this sort of recognition "a change from ignorance to awareness of a bond of love or hate" (

1) Flaw or error of judgment (hamartia) Note the role of justice and/or revenge in the judgments.2) A reversal of fortune (peripeteia) brought about because of the hero's error in judgment.3) The discovery or recognition that the reversal was brought about by the hero's ownactions (anagnorisis)4) Excessive Pride (hubris) 5) The character's fate must be greater than deserved.

Tragic Hero

If an individual as brilliant and noble as Antigone can succumb to hubris, anyone can. Antigone pursued goodness with a singular insight and courage. Discovering a flaw in a near-perfect character suggests a universal human weakness. Antigone’s flaw is a special kind of hubris that afflicts those who possess the greatest insights. Political modesty requires a recognition that one individual or group alone is likely to come up short in the search for truth: "something is left out which should go into the reckoning . . . ." No one knows the whole truth, although each may know a part of it. All human beings are "shortsighted and very often see but one side of a matter . . . . From this defect . . . no man is free. We see but in part and we know but in part, and therefore it is no wonder we conclude not right from our partial views."Antigone’s flaw may be the plague of our times (

Tragic Hero: Antigone

Antigone performers the burial rituals for her brother Polyneices.

Press photo to hear a History of Greek Theatre


Greek Theatre Mask:Press image to play.

The blind prophet of Thebes appears in Oedipus the King and Antigone. In both plays, he represents the same force — the truth rejected by a willful and proud king, almost the personification of Fate itself.

Impervious to reason and advice, Oedipus follows his will with an intellectual passion. His drive to unearth the mystery — and his pride in performing his intellectual feat before the whole city — end in horror, as he discovers that the object of his relentless search is himself. To the chorus, Oedipus explains his blinding as his mournful inability ever to look upon his loved ones again, but the violence also represents his attack on that part of himself that cannot stop seeking out and finding what is hidden, despite the fateful consequences.

Tragic Hero: Antigone


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