tragic flaw

A tragic flaw is the secret weakness of character that brings about a tragic hero’s downfall.

The Greeks had another word for such a character failing, which was hamartia, literally “fault,” failure,” or “guilt.” The term tragic flaw, which originally was used strictly in a literary sense, is now commonly used to refer to anyone whose baser nature gets the better of them. Shakespeare’s plays are full of such unfortunate people, perhaps most famously Othello — who, thanks to his rabid jealousy and a little misunderstanding about a handkerchief, ended up killing the love of his life.

Definitions of tragic flaw
  1. noun

    the character flaw or error of a tragic hero that leads to his downfall

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    type of:


    defect or weakness in a person’s character

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