The Fall of the Tragic Hero: A Critique of the “Hubristic Principle”

  • RV Cudjoe
  • PKT Grant
  • JA Otchere


The idea of attaching moral depravity to the fall of the tragic heroes (according to Aristotle, those men who enjoy prosperity and high reputation like Oedipus and Thyestes etc.) did not start with the three tragic poets, namely; Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, but rather it dates back even to Homer. This idea is, of course, influenced by the old Greek tradition of Koros, Hubris, Nemesis and Ate. The totality of this traditional view and its application is equated to the phrase ‘hubristic principle’, in the scheme of this work. The hubristic principle makes specific that the fall of the hero
is as a result of a sin or wrong that he committed. The commission of this wrong must not go unpunished. In effect, the hand of Justice, what they call nemesis, no matter how delayed must fall on the hero. The problem is how then do you reconcile situations where the fall of the hero is not his
making? In other words, where do you place undeserved misfortune that befalls the hero? Apparently, it is this inadequacy of the hubristic syndrome that Aristotle proposes hamartia (Greek, for error) as the appropriate means in accounting for the fall of the tragic hero. This paper
discusses first, the hubristic principle and its application and second, assesses the reliability of the theory in accounting for the fall of the tragic hero.

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eISSN: 1595-1413