Hamartia refers to a flaw or error in the protagonist, which leads to a chain of events that ends with the fall of the protagonist. The term hamartia comes from the Greek language and literally means to be wrong or to miss a sign. The term “Hamartia” in relation to literature was first used by Aristotle in his “Poetics”. He states that creating a rich and powerful hero with a mixture of good and bad qualities that gets in trouble because of Gamartya is a powerful plot tool. Hamartia definition literature
For example, imagine a person who is trying to achieve a higher position. But he finds himself in an even worse position because of his attempt. Hamartia in character can be anything from ignorance or fate to excessive anger or arrogance. Errors in judgment, ambition, jealousy, ignorance, fate, stinginess, indecision are some of the common examples of Hamartia found in the literature. It is important to note that at first glance, a character‘s hamartia may seem like the best quality or characteristic of that person. Readers, as well as characters, may not realize that this quality is destructive for the rest of the story.
Examples of Gamartya in literature
Shakespeare’s tragic heroes can be taken as excellent examples of Gamartya.
Macbeth’s blind ambitions that lead to his downfall, Othello’s jealousy prompting him to kill Desdemona, and Hamlet’s indecision and desire to avoid evil can be cited as examples of Gamartya.
“To be or not to be – that is the question:
Be nobler in your mind to suffer The
slings and arrows of an outrageous state
Or take arms against the sea of troubles
And oppose them to the end. Die, sleep …
– Hamlet, Shakespeare
“Ahead are the fatal loins of these two enemies.
A pair of lovers with a starry cross is taking their lives;
Whose unfortunate ones have been overthrown
With their death, bury the strife of their parents. “
In Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day Journey into the Night, it is his parsimony that drives him to hire an incompetent doctor to treat his wife Mary. This leads to Mary’s dependence on morphine, which ultimately leads to the death of the entire family.
In Sophocles’ famous Greek tragedy “Oedipus”, the protagonist is defeated, causing his own ignorance and arrogance (excessive pride and arrogance that acts as a fatal flaw in character) that makes him defy the prophecy of the gods. But in the end, this is his attempt to challenge a prophecy that ironically fulfills prophecy. Hamartia definition literature
Lost in the night, the endless night that fed you!
You cannot hurt me or anyone else who sees the light –
you can never touch me.
TIRESIAS: True, it is not your destiny to
fall into my hands. Apollo is enough,
and he will put some effort into solving it.
EDIPUS: Creon! Is this a conspiracy his or yours?
TIRESIAS: Creon is not your fall, no, you are your own.