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Shakespearean Protagonists Create their Own Situation

Aisha Bilal
University of Lahore
M.Phil. English Literature
Semester 2nd
Submitted To: Dr Shahid Imtiaz
Subject: Elizabethan & Restoration Literature

In this article, the analysis of Shakespearean protagonists and their own constructed situations

is presented. Researcher explore that Shakespeare’s plays are full of human flaws, human

conflicts and imperfections. The leading characters suffer a lot through due to their own

fabricated false reality which ultimately cause of their own downfall. Shakespeare’s

protagonists are full of human error and due to these errors they caught in a serious of

suffering and worst circumstances. These Sufferings and misery are created by themselves.

Concept of Shakespearean tragedy also discussed in the article and more focuses on the four

tragedies of Shakespeare and their central characters. With the help of the Shakespearean

tragedy researcher investigate the protagonist’ errors which lead to their own labefactions.

Key words: Tragedy, protagonist, fatal flaws, fate, situation, Imperfection, downfall

Chapter # 1

Shakespeare is known as prodigious tragedian and novelist. His writings have outshine and

the way he felicitously deal with time, action, setting and language is simple made him a

miraculous writer of all the centuries because his writings and plays not only deals with

human nature like “overthinking, actions, love, pride jealousy all these human aspects of life

turn extraordinary man into a unpretentious one because of own errors and mental state in

which human nature build its own berries and those barriers opens another darkest side of

human instinct, though in a tragic but righteous manner. Shakespeare wrote approximately 37

plays and with his plays he tremendously added words in English language we can say that he

may also be famous for English language ponders

who give a new strength to language. Shakespeare

introduce many literary terms and theories in his

writings like tragedies, comedy etc. Shakespeare

also known for famous tragedies and in which

Shakespeare tackle with tragic actions, tragic

situations, leading characters flaws and death of a tragic hero is the keen point of his tragedy.

Researcher focused on the Shakespeare’s tragedy rather than comedy because Shakespeare’s

tragedy reveals many dark sides of human nature no matter how intelligent and noble his

character but in the end Shakespeare’s central character defected by himself because all worst

situations and action turn him a noble human to a distinct tragic individual due to his own

flaws and negativity of brain.

.Emile Leguois says: “Free of every theory accepting all of life, rejecting nothing, uniting

the real and the poetic, appealing to the most various men to a rude workman as to a wit,

Shakespeare’s drama is a great river of life and beauty”


In order to understand the Shakespeare protagonists and their characteristics one must first

understand Shakespeare concept of tragedy and explore the spotted points which make them

tragic hero with their flaws and errors.

-Shakespearean Concept of Tragedy:

In order to understand the Shakespearean protagonist one must understand his concept of


“A tragedy is the imitation of an action that is serious and also, as having magnitude,

complete in itself; in appropriate and pleasurable language; in a dramatic rather than

narrative form; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish a catharsis of

these emotions.” — Aristotle and F.Scott Fitzgerlad said “Show me a hero and I will write

you a tragedy” Shakespearean tragedies are highly prestigious by Greek Drama and Aristotle

concept of tragedy. Aristotle was the first one who introduced the genre in his “poetics” and

Aristotle term of tragedy used almost in all ages by all writers in different forms.

Shakespearean tragedies are more rooted in revenge and power. For instance, Shakespeare

four major tragedies: Othello, Hamlet, Macbeth and King Lear build around the revenge and

tragic actions and death of a leading character these four tragedies also known as dark

tragedies of its time.

-Characteristics of Tragedy and Tragic heroes as Protagonist of the play

“Tragic Flaw”

O farewell, farewell the neighing steed, and the shrill tump,the spirit –stirring drum,th’ear-

piercing fife; the royal banner and all quality , pride ,pomp, and circumstances of glorious

war! And O you mortal engines ,whose rude throats th’ immortal jove’s dread clamours

counterfeit , farewell! Othello’s occupation‘s gone.


Tragic flaw or term Hamartia derived from the “Greek” which means “to miss the mark” it’s
is often associated with the “Greek Tragedy”. A tragic Flaw is basically defect in the
protagonist character that leads to his downfall or sometimes a tragic death. Shakespearean
characters like Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello, were obsessed with power and indecisiveness and
jealousy their major flaws leads them toward their own downfall.

“Supernatural Elements”

“By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes

Open locks whoever knocks!”

_____ Macbeth

Another primary characteristics of Shakespearean writing is Super Natural element. Super

natural elements plays a vital role in Shakespearean drama these elements bring a new

change in the life of protagonist and they are one the reason to downfall of the hero. And

super natural elements turn action into a worst situation like in Macbeth feeling of revenge is

the core reason of his tragic death.

“Internal and External Conflict”

To be, or not to be, that is the question:

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles

And by opposing end them. To die—to sleep,


Conflict is another core element of the Shakespearean tragedy. Conflict can change the

mental state of mind in the case of hamlet’s conflict turn his whole life in dark hell where he

can’t decide what he do or what he do not. This internal and external conflict is become the

cause of his tragic death.


“Fate / Fortune”

“How now .my Lord, why do you keep alone, of sorriest fancies your companions making,

using those thoughts which should indeed have died with them they think on ? things without

all remedy should be without regard: what’s done is done.”


Shakespearean protagonists are not the ordinary men they are men of high state and high rank

they are noble by birth .Fortune and peripeteia plays an important part in Shakespearean’s

play reversal of fortune turn character’s life. Fate or fortune is another core cause of

protagonist down fall in the drama

Shakespeare’s four dark tragedies: Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello and King Lear, he explore the

way in which Shakespeare heroes potent, can be tumble by the glitch in their luminary that

make them individual or human. The higher and more laudable the character, the more

devastating and complete their fall must be, and in this truth lies a cautionary tale, or four, for

all organisations, especially those large firms, whom, like the characters, are giants in their


“Macbeth” a great warrior acclaim his power, and the lust of get more power made him blind

and exploit his noble character. His greed overwhelmed him. His greed for power made bad

decisions and turn the whole state and himself into a lusty beast who want to get power at any

cost and this lust of ambition become the cause of his own death.

“Hamlet’s” inability to take decision and his mental conflict burst out his royal figure

because of the procrastination and over-thinking situations revolves around him in a dark

way. Hamlet killed because of his over- thinking and delay without achieving anything.

The central characters of the Shakespearean’s tragedies are always the considerable

and deviant depiction of the human nature and mental conditions of the human. The best

example of it King Lear who is anomalous. And it is the core quality of the tragic hero that he

naturally intended the situation in that way which move toward his own tragic downfall to

present him as a tragic hero. For instance Othello due to his stupidity and jealously killed his

honest wife and his jealousy turn out the whole situation and lead him ultimately into the

darkness of death

1.1 Objective of the Study

To explore the characteristics of Shakespearean characters.

To investigate the Shakespearean concept of tragedy.

To explore the fatal flaws in the characters of Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, Othello.

1.2 Research Questions

1. What are the major flaws in the Shakespeare’s protagonists?

2. Why Shakespeare’s leading characters cause of their own downfall?

3. How Shakespeare’s characters create their own worst circumstances to change the

entire phenomena?

1.3 Significance of the Study

The purpose this research study is to investigate the characteristics of Shakespeare’s tragic

heroes mainly focus on the four major characters Macbeth, Hamlet, King Lear, Othello.

Highlighting their errors of human nature and explore the concept of Shakespeare’s concept

of tragedy. Shakespeare’s characters are famous to construct their own situation through their

lapses in decision and overthinking they met in the end with the tragic downfall. This article

covers and explore all the wide area of Shakespeare’s Heroes and their fatal flaws.

1.4 Limitation of Research

The work of Shakespeare can’t be handle in one span so researcher only focus Shakespeare’s

four major tragedies Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, Othello. With the references of these four

tragedies research will explore the central point of the article.


Chapter # 2

2-Review of Literature

We are all familiar with the theory of fatal flaw as it is customary applied to tragedy

including the tragic plays of Shakespeare. Shakespeare protagonists are an exemplary

individuals admired by all but one thing is very common in Shakespeare’s protagonists that a

disabling imperfection or weakness of characters which leads them towards tragic situation.

Applied to Shakespeare tragedies this neat formulation offers a key for interpreting each

tragedy in terms of the hero’s particular shortcoming and these heroes create their own state

in which they damage their high level as being a noble personalities they destructed their


Othello ‘s jealousy , Hamlet’s indecisiveness and Macbeth’s ambition

Antony’s irresponsibility all these fatal create their own state of mind in which they construct

their own realities on conditions there is no distinct or dramatic downfall but a their own

lapse in judgement and state of mind build a barriers of their own .

As (Graham Holderness ,1989: p53 ).there is combination of circumstances which join with

ideal tragic pattern the change in fortune will be not from misery to prosperity but the reverse

from prosperity to misery and it will be due not to depravity but to some great error .Aristotle

also talk about the fatal flaw which consider as fatal error a mistake a misunderstanding a

wrong decision which could presumably have as much to do with circumstances as with

character, the tragic hero must by inference have something wrong with him so that he can in

some way take responsibility for his tragedy. Aristotle emphasis on the tragic protagonist and

unfolding dramatic action. (On the Art of Poetry, p51).

Tragedy is the representation of an action and is it chiefly on account of the

action that is also a representation of persons (On the Art of Poetry, p.40).

In the circumstances where we see the hero placed, his tragic trait, which is also his greatness

is fatal to him. To meet these situations something is required which smaller man might have

given, but which the hero cannot give. He errs by action or omission and his errors joining

with other cause brings on him ruin. This is always so Shakespeare Bradley also said : A

tragic hero cannot be destroy simply by “external forces” so the tragic action must come from

within (A.C.Bradely ,p23).

So we can say that Shakespeare protagonist not destroying himself by the

exercise of his virtue but it is his own imperfection or error which turn his situation into a

blasted circumstances. Because of their Errors Shakespeare’s protagonists fabricated in

trounce. In Shakespeare’s major tragedies, the hero is the central figure and the heroine fades

in the twilight. As in Macbeth, the heroine appears only for a while and then she is pushed

into the background. Some of the history plays of Shakespeare can also be called tragedies.

C. Bradley (2007) says that a Shakespearean tragedy may be called “a story of exceptional

calamity of hero and heroine”. When we discuss Shakespeare four major tragic characters

Hamlet. Macbeth, King Lear, and Othello these all consider with the tragedy and true

repetition of Shakespearean serious tragedy without discussing these characters

Shakespeare’s tragedy incomprehensible.

The action in tragedy should be the outcome of the conflict of will

or will with circumstances. Shakespearean tragedy is always the outcome of conflict and

conflict is always between new and his external world. The reason of this conflict is that man

is not a paragon of perfection. Everyman has a tragic flaw as Cassius believes that everyman

is responsible for his downfall although chances, accidents and fate are important to a g

reat extent. Shakespeare’s heroes possess errors which bring their doom. Lear is violent,

drastic effect, serious minded, Macbeth is too ambitious, Othello is jealous and Hamlet

indulges in the procrastination, his mother’s incestuous marriage shuns we can say

that Shakespeare tragedy compile the situations with in the protagonist of the play so the

protagonist can make their own circumstances in which they deal with their own false

mystery like: King Lear is one of the tragedies of character and the cause of his tragedy lies

in Lear himself because he divides his kingdom between his two wicked daughters and

ignores the sincere one.

Lear’s vanity is punished and readers feel that he suffers more than his sin.

His tragedy is deepened by the storm scene and one feels that King Lear is a cosmic tragedy.

Researcher analysis that king Lear himself become the cause of his own tragic expiration.

Another problem of Hamlet’s tragedy is his madness which is not real. As A.C. Bradley says

if Hamlet were really mad at any time in the story he would cease a tragic character. Hamlet

himself tells Horatio that he is going to put on an antic disposition. The most vexed question

of Hamlet is his delay in taking revenge. His moral scruple nature intensifies his tragedy

because he wants to know the fact of murder before doing something else, though he hates

the marriage of his mother with his uncle Claudius. Hamlet is also a tragedy of character.

Othello is a tragedy of intrigue.

(A.C. Bradley, 2007, P89). Expresses that Othello would have

destroyed Iago’s plot and ended his life but chance played a game and then both Othello and

Desdemona were dead. In Macbeth’s character, the only tragic flaw is his inordinate ambition

which brings his downfall.(Haseeb Nasir,2014 ,p7). Shakespeare’s protagonists are the best

example of the human nature but one thing is most common in his four tragedies that all

heroes of Shakespeare have flaws which turned play into a new direction and because their

overthinking and scattered thoughts and exertion circumstances changed in a distinct way.

With their mental state and own judgements their brought to ruin and suffer a lot. This ability

to make them separate among other tragic heroes.


Chapter # 3

3-Research Methodology

This research is a qualitative research. The qualitative data analysis method has been used.

Qualitative research is a mythological approach that inculcates in it many research methods

that are part of qualitative research. Textual Analysis techniques has been used in this

specific research article. Shakespeare is great play writer his writing style has impresses and

evoking a new perspective of human nature. Shakespeare major characters Hamlet. Macbeth,

King Lear, Othello, compile with the switching of action and situation. Textual analysis

techniques has been used for this research article as methodology the content is the

Shakespeare’s novel “Hamlet” “Macbeth” “Othello ”characters move back in action and

constructed their own situations.


Chapter # 4

4-Data Analysis

1. What are the major flaws in the Shakespeare’s protagonists?

2. Why Shakespeare’s leading characters cause of their own downfall?

3. How Shakespeare’s characters create their own worst circumstances to change the

entire phenomena?

Hamlet‘s major flaw is his inability to take action which cause of his own tragic death along

with the death of his mother and lover Ophelia. Hamlet tragic flaw is the main cause to turn

the circumstances in out of the way in which he suffers a lot.

Macbeth greed of power and ambition lead him his own down fall. His ambition is the main

reason to create a defective situation

Othello suffers a lot because of his false jealousy and killed his own wife

another crucial example of burst the normal situation. And because of his false jealousy he

lost his royal and noble image of great warrior

Shakespearean protagonist best known for fatal flaws theory of fatal flaws

implies on his tragic heroes all Shakespearean heroes have fatal flaws, jealousy, indecisions,

greed of power, over thinking all these elements included n Shakespearean central characters

knows the protagonist of the play and just for the sake of the reader’s sympathy which made

them tragic hero these element implies and acted in Shakespeare’s four tragedies

There exist an amalgamation of lapses and errors in Shakespearean characters and with those

errors they able to create unwantedly their own abominable circumstances and with the

ineffectual actions they become their own enemies and lost their life just because their wrong

deeds Shakespearean protagonist lost the glory of noble man.


Chapter # 5


I would like to sum up the whole article in few words that indeed Shakespeare’s protagonists

are not the ordinary characters they are noble, intelligent, courageous but still all the

characters have errors and these errors destructed their nobility by their own mental states.

The Lapses in their characters made them tragic and worst and evil minded they become their

own villain by making wrong decisions. Hamlet defeated by his own indecisions, and

overthinking, Othello make circumstances worst because of his false jealousy, may be the

circumstances not such terrible in such a way they lost their lives but their over thinking and

flaws forced them to turn out their situation which lead their own tragic death.

Shakespearean, central characters fails to face the realities and they conduct their own way

and made their own choices by follow their false, and erotically attempt wrong actions at the

wrong place and wrong decisions all these dimensions leads to in captivate them to

understand the real situation. They defamed or destabilized by their own phenomena.

Shakespearean protagonists fail to control over errors In spite of so many noble qualities they

unsuccessfully achieving any great purpose in their life and destroy their own glory by

subjugating and follow dark deceptive realities.


Work citied

HOLDERNESS, GRAHAM. “Are Shakespeare's Tragic Heroes 'Fatally Flawed'?

Discuss.” Critical Survey, vol. 1, no. 1, 1989, pp. 53–62. JSTOR, JSTOR,

DURST, JEFF. "The Fatal Flaws of Shakespeare’s Most Famous Tragic

Characters". Owlcation, 2016,
of-Shakespeares-Most-Famous-Tragic-Characters. Accessed 16 Sept 2016...(Durst)

LEBY, BART. "Comparison of the Tragic Characters in Othello and King Lear In
Accordance With Aspects Of A Tragic Character." N.p., 2016. Web. 2 Dec.

SIPRA, MUHAMMAD, and MUHAMMAD NASIR. "Comparative Analysis of the Concept

of Shakespearean Tragedies." N.p., 2014. Web. 1 Feb. 2014.

BRITTON, JOHN. "A. C. Bradley As A Critic Of Shakespearean

Tragedy." N.p., 1960. Web. 11 June 1960.

BRADLEY, A.C. "Shakespearean Tragedy." N.p., 1995. Web. 11 Sept. 1995.