Tragic Hero Essays: The Most Famous Characters in the World Literature

There’s nothing more disheartening than reading a story where the hero experiences a tragic fate. Stories like these have a specific purpose – to induce pity or fear. This type of literary tool is commonly called the “tragic hero.”

The hero stands for the consequences of having personal flaws or being destined to a certain fate that would then result in their death or downfall. Because of this, the readers have nothing to do but sympathize with the hero of the story.

Hamlet (Hamlet)

This is one of the most famous tragedies Shakespeare wrote. It involves the flaws of the tragic hero, Hamlet, which are obsession and indecisiveness. Although intelligent, Hamlet often gets stuck in his own head.

The main objective of his, which is also his obsession, is to avenge his father’s death. But because of indecisiveness, he doesn’t act quickly enough. He couldn’t decide whether his uncle Claudius murdered his father or not.

Even after discovering that his uncle murdered his father, Hamlet still couldn’t decide how to take revenge, then he obsesses over it. While he wasted his time trying to decide, Claudius poisoned his drink.

But it was Hamlet’s mother who drank the poison by mistake, which led to her death. Hamlet finally overcame his flaw by killing Claudius. But then, he dies too. It’s a truly tragic story but by the end, you would feel bad for Hamlet anyway.

Achilles (Iliad)

Achilles is famously regarded as the Trojan War’s greatest hero, who also happens to be a tragic hero. He is of royal blood as his father was a king and his mother a goddess. This noble stature is very common among Greek heroes.

Achilles also possesses superhuman and exceptional qualities like courage, bravery, great strength, and pride. He’s almost like a god himself as he also possesses immortality.

In this story Achilles is a perfect and virtuous character. But in reality, he also has laws, which were overconfidence, stubbornness, and pride. The story ends when Achilles’ flaws lead to his tragic death.

Jay Gatsby (The Great Gatsby)

When thinking of topics for tragic hero essays, consider choosing Jay Gatsby. This story revolves around Jay Gatsby, a millionaire in the 1920s who always threw lavish parties. He was a popular and well-regarded member of the elite social community.

But he had a flaw that brought about his downfall. This tragic hero’s flaw was his love for Daisy, his sweetheart from the past. That love was both obsessive and delusional.

To win Daisy over (who is already now married), Gatsby embarked on a crusade to tempt Daisy back into his arms. Daisy found his offer alluring in the beginning, but she left Gatsy anyway and went back to her husband.

Gatsby’s obsessive behavior pushed his love away while invoking her husband’s anger. But Gatsby never gave up. What happened next was a series of events that eventually led to one lonely death.

Javert (Les Misérables)

Anyone who has read Les Misérables won’t forget Javert’s character. He is the epitome of a person who respects the law. Javert spends most of his difficult life searching for Valjean, an escaped convict.

Ironically, Valjean ends up saving Javert’s life. This is when Javert reaches a crossroad as he is cannot arrest the person who saved him, but he cannot give up his devotion to law and justice either.

To overcome his predicament, Javert commits suicide. This twist surprised a lot of people, especially those who wanted Javert to succeed as they read the story.

Victor Frankenstein (Frankenstein)

Victor Frankenstein is the main character in this novel and his pronouncements about learning the secrets that the physical world has to offer clearly establish his flaw. Eventually, this flaw led to his downfall.

Frankenstein succumbed because of his blind ambition and belief that he could overcome death through science. His pride, overconfidence, and stubbornness blinded him. He never believed that what he did would have adverse consequences.

Although the tragic downfall of Frankenstein’s was clearly described here, most people who read this book still pitied him.


Having a clearer understanding of what tragic heroes are will help you write about them more effectively. Whether you’re assigned to write an essay on this topic or you just want to read more books about tragic heroes, you now know exactly what to look for.