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Central Themes in Shakespearean Tragedies

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In the plays of Shakespeare, a tragic hero is always a nobleman who enjoys some status and prosperity in society but possesses some moral weakness or flaw which leads to his downfall. External circumstances such as fate also play a part in the hero’s fall. Evil agents often act upon the hero and the forces of good, causing the hero to make the wrong decisions. Innocent people always feel the fall in tragedies, as well. Shakespeare’s tragedies are, for the most part, stories of one person, the hero, or at most two, to include the heroine. Only the Love Tragedies (Romeo and Juliet. Antony and Cleopatra) are exceptions to this pattern. In these plays, the heroine is as much at the center of the action as the hero. The rest of the tragedies, including Macbeth, have single stars, so the tragic story is concerned primarily with one person. The tragic hero nature is exceptional and generally raises him in some respect much above the average level of humanity. Shakespeare’s tragic heroes are made of the stuff we find in ourselves and within the persons who surround him. But, by an intensification of the life which they share with others, they are raised above them. and the greatest are raised so far that, if we fully realize all that is implied in their words and actions, we become conscious that in real life we have scarcely known anyone resembling them. They have a fatal gift that carries with it a touch of greatness (fierce determination, fixed ideas). and when nobility of mind, or genius, or immense force are joined to it, we realize the full power and reach of the soul, and the conflict in which it engages acquires that magnitude which stirs not only sympathy and pity, but admiration, terror, and awe. Shakespeare wrote tragedies from the beginning of his career: one of his earliest plays was the Roman tragedy Titus Andronicus, and he followed it a few years later with Romeo and Juliet.