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"A man cannot become a hero until he can see the root of his own downfall."

The tragic hero is a longstanding literary concept, a character with a Fatal Flaw (like Pride, for example) who is doomed to fail in search of their Tragic Dream despite their best efforts or good intentions. This trope is rare on television, perhaps because watching someone fail once teaches a lesson, while watching them fail every Tuesday gets boring — though that didn't stop shows like Arrested Development or the so-inappropriately-titled Good Times, no matter how hard they Yank the Dog's Chain. It is more common in Miniseries and Anime dramas, where the program's entire run can be dedicated to one or more Story Arcs that lead to the Tragic Hero's ultimate failure. You'll most likely find this in the Theatre, where the trope was born and codified.

A Tragic Hero can work as an antagonist or a protagonist. As an antagonist, his goals are opposed to the protagonist's, but the audience still feels sympathetic towards him.

By the time a Tragic Hero antagonist is defeated, the protagonist himself feels sympathetic to the Tragic Hero, and a little bad about having to capture him. It is acceptable and common to defeat a Tragic Hero antagonist by stopping him from achieving his goal, but otherwise letting him go free. Tragic Hero antagonists are rarely killed, except when death is seen by the Tragic Hero himself as an honorable end which is preferable to capture. Tragic Hero protagonists die more often than not (except for Shakespeare's, who all died).

Definitely Older Than Feudalism, as the trope was used constantly in Greek tragedies starting in the 5th century BCE. Aristotle analyzed the character in his Poetics.

Compare with Classical Antihero, Protagonist Journey to Villain, Fallen Hero. Compare the Jerkass Woobie, a Jerk with a Heart of Gold whose Fatal Flaw is their mean streak. Compare Tragic Villain and Hoist by His Own Petard for the villainous counterparts. Contrast Byronic Hero, who has numerous, celebrated flaws. Contrast Karma Houdini, a villain who gets away with their evil deeds.

Examples of Tragic Hero include:

Anime and Manga

  • Utena Tenjou of Revolutionary Girl Utena seeks strength and nobility not for her sake, but to save another person whom she cannot even remember. However, the enemy she faces is vastly older, more powerful and more sophisticated than this 14-year-old girl and manipulates her handily, turning her into the Tragic Hero through the final third of the series. And even more, she realises that the person she wanted to save was on the enemy's plans and she didn't even truly want to save her, but to use her to bolster her ego — which made her not much better than the enemy who abuses her "protegée". (Even so, once Utena acknowledges her pros and cons, she manages to pull off a win against him — confusing and puzzling, but a win nonetheless.)
  • The entire cast of Neon Genesis Evangelion (including Gendo), but especially Shinji Ikari, who is fourteen years old, shy, indecisive, reclusive, and has no self-confidence, but must learn to be a warrior — and, in the end, he doesn't even succeed at that.
  • Kikyo and Inuyasha from Inuyasha, in regards to how their insecurity issues allowed Naraku to turn them against each other, kill Kikyo and make Inuyasha sleep for 50 years.
  • Harry McDowell and Brandon Heat from the Gungrave anime are tragic heroes. This is a rare case where both protagonist and antagonist are tragic heroes. Harry McDowell, in his search for power so that he will never have to lose anything, ends up becoming a power-hungry Bloody Harry and kills his best friend Brandon Heat, turning Brandon into Beyond the Grave. The guilt over killing his best friend makes Harry slowly lose his sanity. On the other hand, Brandon Heat, who is loyal to the fault, cannot bring himself to stop Harry even when he knows Harry is obviously going down the wrong path and ends up getting killed. In a way, Brandon is also responsible for the deaths of his other loved ones as Brandon's death causes Harry to hunt down those whom Brandon holds dear (as Harry reasons that those people "took Brandon from him"). At the end of the series, after destroying each other completely, both Brandon and Harry realize that the only time they were truly "free" was when they lived in a slum with three other friends (whose deaths led Brandon and Harry to join the Millenion in the first place) and decide to take the only way out: killing each other.
    • Ends very differently in the videogame-- Harry allows Grave to kill him, and Grave survives the ordeal. His only concern at that point is Mika's protection, so he leaves the city with her.
  • Arguably, Lucy from Elfen Lied. By the end of the anime, she even admits that both Diclonii and humans are too proud to surrender and live peacefully with each other.
  • Interestingly, Kamina fits the concept quite well. His overweening sense of determination & over-the-top Hot-Blooded-ness are integral to his success, yet in the end are what leads to his untimely death. Also, Lordgenome and even Rossiu to a degree.
  • Oskar von Reuenthal from Legend of Galactic Heroes is one of the greatest examples found in anime, even if he's not the protagonist. A Broken Ace who is almost as ambitious and brilliant as Kaiser Reinhard - He could become a great ruler, if he weren't simply outshone by Reinhard. Over the course of the series, his conflicting loyalty, ambition, jealousy, his traumatic past and especially his pride eventually lead to his downfall after he is forced into committing treachery. It should be mentioned that he never really became a villain right until the end, despite it all.
  • Mikael from Tenshi ni Narumon. Overall good-willed, but terribly misguided and with immense issuses of self-denial. His obsession with becoming a full angel blinded him to other people's feelings/opinions and led him to undertake pretty harshful and questionable actions. In the end, he did realize his wrongdoings and although it was implied that he will probably never become such angel as he would like to be, he eventually got recognized as a decent... 1/3 of an angel? Or something like that.
  • Unrequited love was the catalyst – not the cause – of Sayaka's downfall in Puella Magi Madoka Magica; what really pushed her over the edge was her righteousness. As a coping mechanism, she tried to become a hero who would uphold ideals. She believed in justice, but her growing resentment made her shift from protecting the innocent to punishing the wicked. When Sayaka realizes how she had come to contradict her earlier aspirations, all the hatred turns inward. It is precisely because of her unyielding nature that her spirit shatters. Unable to forgive this transgression, she inflicts her own punishment: a curse unto herself. From her Soul Gem hatches a mermaid-knight, a being representing the love and righteousness that she had once valued.
  • Played with, with the eponymous character of Naruto, who faces tragedy after tragedy throughout his life, but he tries his best to avoid this fate.
  • Shu Ouma of Guilty Crown seemingly evolved into this, but it's implied that he's been one all along. His Fatal Flaw is kindness. He went through many betrayals, and completely shattered after Hare's death. And that is his Start of Darkness.
  • Lelouch from Code Geass triggers a massacre by accident and discovers his mother isn't a saint as he had thought. To finally give peace to the world, he conquers it then lets Suzaku kill him to free it as well as avenge his love Euphie.

Comic books

  • Morpheus, or Dream of the Endless, from The Sandman. His pride, his stubbornness and his fanatical devotions to his own duties as the aspect of Dream constantly conspire to make his life(?) an eternal mess. In the end, he has to choose between changing or dying, and as it turns out, he is unable to change himself enough.
  • Watchmen
    • Hollis Mason, aka, the first Nite Owl, is the only decent member of the Minutemen but he suffers the most. Dr. Manhattan's ability to synthesize lithium makes mass produced electric cars possible and puts old fashioned internal combustion engine mechanics like Hollis out of business. He is later murdered when is mistaken as the one who broke Rorschach out of prison.)
    • Rorschach from is heroism distilled into its purest form but his refusal to compromise makes him a threat to the peace Ozymandias created so he is killed.
  • Batman is so eaten up by guilt over the his parent's deaths that he made it his mission to make sure no one else in Gotham will never share his pain, even if it takes the rest of his life. In some titles, it does.
  • The Silver Agent from Astro City was Wrongfully Accused of murder but accepted his execution. The city has never forgotten his sacrifice.


  • Other Father from Coraline,A creation of the Other Mother, the Other Father is used to help trick Coraline into staying in the Other Mother's world,he While the Other Father is a creation of the Other Mother, he is on Coraline's side throughout most of her time in the Other World, as he implied in his song to Coraline: She's a pal of mine... This is because his sole purpose was to love Coraline. Other Father even tried to warn Coraline to leave the Other World and never return through his song, lest she winds up like the three Ghost Children before her,whom he possibly tried to warn as well.

Films — Live-Action

  • Anakin Skywalker from Star Wars was a Tragic Hero in the prequels. He was a hero of the Republic, got the girl, helped win the war, and saved his Master a number of times. His Fatal Flaw was the fear of losing those he cared about, which fed a hunger for power to prevent it from ever happening, and that eventually turned him into the ever-popular Black Knight Darth Vader.
    • His main Fatal Flaw was the desire for control- a concept that had evaded him his entire life. As a slave he had no control over his life and neither did he as a Jedi. His fear of death and the death of his loved ones is a representation of his need to control EVERYTHING even what should be uncontrollable (i.e death). This flaw is tucked away for much of the prequel trilogy with only odd mentions (He mentions a couple of times to Padme how he wants to control the galaxy) but fully reveals itself in the OT where Vader is the eptiome of Tyrrany and Order. With all his loved ones dead or now his enemy all the man has left is his intense need for Control.
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The title character is a barber trying to get revenge on Judge Turpin for raping his wife and taking his daughter away from him. His Fatal Flaw was his tendency to take things at face value and his willingness to trust someone he really shouldn't have regarding his wife, and as a result, he unknowingly kills his wife, who has become a beggar woman, just before finally taking vengeance upon Turpin.
  • Citizen Kane: Kane, all his life was the need to be loved... on his own terms. Lampshaded by Leland.
  • Diego in The Mask of Zorro. His identity is blown on his last day as Zorro, his wife was accidentally killed, his home burned, his daughter Elena taken and raised by his mortal enemy, and he rots in prison for twenty years. He escapes, trains the new Zorro (the outlaw Alejandro, who's hurting deeply after his brother's murder). . . while he is killed in his final duel, but not before Elena before acknowledges him as her real father. Fate was not kind to poor Diego.
  • Maximus from Gladiator avenges his family but fails to perform the task The Emperor left him.
  • Cole from 12 Monkeys is doomed to fail in stopping The Virus and die.
  • Carlito from Carlitos Way has three goals after getting out of jail; Save up enough money, get his girl back and get out of the country alive. He couldn't accomplish the third.
  • The main characters of Cloverfield embark on a mission to rescue one of their own during a Kaiju attack. It goes about as well as one thinks.


  • A Song of Ice and Fire
    • Eddard Stark's coup to install the rightful king is foiled because he refuses to harm innocents. His execution brings about a war that would destroy his family.
    • Robb Stark is killed under the pretense of a broken marriage vow. His enemies work hard to paint him as a foolhardy wannabe conqueror.
    • Jon Snow is assassinated for breaking his vow to keep the Night's Watch out of the war in the realm.
  • Mack Bolan, The Executioner, from the series of novels by the same name. He knows he can't kill every Mafioso, but he sets out to get as many as he can. In the end, he ends up faking his death and going to work for the government.
  • David Eddings considers (Bel)Zedar of his Belgariad to be a tragic hero, although he's really more of an Anti-Villain.
  • In the Harry Potter series, both Sirius Black and Severus Snape can very much be considered tragic heroes.
    • Sirius actually suffers from his fatal flaws several times. His hot headiness is what got him framed for murdering his best friend, causing him to serve several years in Azkaban. Later on, his behavior towards Kreacher ends up playing a pivotal role in the lead up to his death.
    • Also Dumbledore. In his youth, his love for Grindelwald and lust for power made him help with his plans to rule the world, until his sister tragically died/was killed somehow during the duel between Grindelwald and the Dumbledore brothers. And a year before he died, Albus had brought upon himself a curse when, in an act of impulsiveness, he had failed to remember that the Resurrection Stone was a Horcrux when he put the ring on, because he wanted to see his dead sister again.
  • Lily Bart from The House of Mirth. Her fatal flaw is her inability to recognize how vain and materialistic New York high society is.
  • Jake from Animorphs. Being the leader is tough when you need to make decisions that cost you the respect of everyone around you.
  • The Dragon (Rand) from The Wheel of Time series is doomed to eventually fail, as the goal of the Big Bad is to destroy the Pattern and the Wheel of Time, and the Wheel of Time will keep cycling until that happens.
  • The Silmarillion is made of these; though, since it mostly follows characters exiled for rebellion, it's kind of a prerequisite.
    • Húrin and Túrin Turambar may be the Most Glorious Examples. The former defies Morgoth and is punished by having his whole family cursed with bad luck, and is forced to watch their fates. The latter, his son, falls in love with his own sister, whom he had not seen since she was a little kid, is pursued by a powerful dragon, and when he finally manages to kill it, the dragon reveals his sister's identity to him, causing him to commit suicide.
  • Raistlin Majere from the Dragonlance Legends trilogy is even called one of these in the Annotated Legends.
  • Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart is a prime example of this. His father is a titleless debtor, he gets exiled because he accidentally killed a man, his son leaves him for a life as a christian, he gets imprisoned by said christians, and he eventually hangs himself in shame.
  • Fate/Zero's first line really says it all about Kiritsugu: Let us tell the story of a certain man. The tale of a man who, more than anyone else, believed in his ideals, and by them was driven into despair.
  • Don Quixote is humiliated and broken in the second book until he loses a joust against another knight and forced to go home and be himself again. He dies soon after.

Live-Action TV

  • House definitely fits the bill--his addictive personality may make him a genius, but he continues to hit new levels of rock bottom each season.
  • Assuming his eventual downfall or assassination, Tony Soprano is probably the biggest example of a tragic hero in modern television. He actually wants to be a good person, a good father and a good husband, and he tries hard, even getting flashes where you hope he'll improved (such as when he realizes that the stripper Frankie just murdered was the same age as his daughter), but is incapable of overcoming his own narcissism, shortsightedness and lack of empathy. And the fact that he's, you know, a mob boss.
  • Craig Manning from Degrassi the Next Generation is smart, charming, artistic, sensitive, romantic, and a perfect gentleman. But he inevitably breaks the heart of everybody around him, and himself, due to his Fatal Flaw — he is thoughtless, rash, and grandiose (eventually revealed to be due to bipolar disorder).
    • Ashley Kerwin is responsible, hard-working, and the most decent of all the popular kids. She is slowly destroyed by bad luck, unscrupulous rivals — and most importantly, by her own bitterness from all she goes through. (Perhaps inevitably, she and Craig wound up as Star-Crossed Lovers.)
    • In a similar vein, student Rick (who had pushed a fellow student into a rock, leaving her in a coma) underwent anger management before going back to school, and genuinely tried to be a nice person... which failed, because essentially the entire school hated him for what he had done before. It got to the point that, after being dumped on with goo at an event Carrie-style, he took a gun to Degrassi and shot a fellow student in the back, paralyzing him, then threatening to kill one of the main characters before dying in a struggle with another student, Sean, over the gun.
  • Six Feet Under, where characters and plot action alike were primarily defined by the tragedies they encompassed.
  • Pick anyone you like from Supernatural, but the two main characters' flaws are different flavors of desperation (Sam's obsession and Dean's devotion). Or maybe the same flavor--desperation for approval from an absent father--given different focuses based on their roles in the family.
    • Dean's so desperate to have a family that he has no sense of self-worth outside of it. His reason for living is so that he can protect his little brother; his perfect fantasy is a world where he's worthless (but most everyone else is happy and his mother is still alive); he's been Driven to Suicide by guilt and loss from his father sacrificing his soul for him and his brother dying just for starters.

      After dealing with the torments of hell, suffering a serious case of It's All My Fault since he's responsible for breaking the First Seal and initiating the beginning of the Signs of the End Times, and finding out he's The Chosen One to become a Destructive Saviour, it's losing faith in his brother that makes Dean willing to go along with the angels' destructive plan to end the Apocalypse. And in a show of Flaw Exploitation by his own brother, it's Sam's faith in him and the need to not disappoint his brother that keeps Dean from doing it.

      Dean is so focused on his brother that he doesn't want Sam to sacrifice himself even if it's the only way to avert the Apocalypse, and he gets called out on it:

  Bobby: ...What exactly are you afraid of? Losing? Or losing your brother?

  • Londo Mollari in Babylon 5 is a definite example of a tragic hero; while at first he seems to be a self-absorbed drunken buffoon, he is a true patriot who really does want his people to rise up from their malaise. He ultimately does lead the Centauri to glory, but the price he pays is too high, and he dies first.
    • Lennier was a faithful and devoted servant who never seemed to ask anything in return. But his Fatal Flaw was a jealousy he barely admitted to himself.
  • Captain Benteen on the hour long Twilight Zone episode On Thursday We Leave For Home. For years he lead a colony of people stranded on a hot, desolate planet. He helps them survive, holds them together and gives them hope for a rescue. When a spaceship finally arrives to take them home to Earth everyone is overjoyed including him. However Benteen feels the power he once had slipping away. When he learns that many of the colonist don't want to stay together when they return to Earth he becomes angry. He tells them that Earth is a horrible place and tries to destroy the ship. He refuses to go on the spaceship which will not return and chooses to stay. Only when he sees the ship leave does he realize he wants to go back home to Earth.
  • The Wire
    • Frank Sobotka just wants to make sure the Baltimore stevedores are going to stay in business. Unfortunately this means keeping slightly unsavory company...
    • Bunny Colvin is a police commander whose unorthodox methods of crime deterrence keep getting shot down by the higher ups. By series end he has given up on ever making a difference.
    • Dukie is an inner city youth who is advanced into high school before he learns anything useful so he turns to drug dealing but her can't make a go of that either. His only friend Michael abandons him to go on the run from a gangster he used to work for. After failing to get a job, Dukie turns to drugs.
  • Ryubee Sonozaki of Kamen Rider Double. Despite being the lead antagonist, he's a Tragic Hero in true Shakespearean fashion. His Fatal Flaw of ambition ultimately results in the utter destruction of his family's happiness and unity and costs him his mind and his life. As much of a monster as he was, his final moments, which he spends in his burning, crumbling house laughing like a madman and reminiscing about the good times he had with his family before his Fatal Flaw took over drive the tragedy home.
  • In some extent Gaius Baltar in the Battlestar galactica 2003 serie (not in the original ones, where Count Baltar is more of a Manipulative Bastard ): he actually has a LOT of Fatals Flaws , the main of which would be pride and overconfidence. However, he strives to protect humanity (and therefore the fleet) from utter destruction on numerous occasions.
  • Xena in the end cannot let go of the guilt from her villainous past. She refuses to be brought back to life so everyone she's killed can have peace.
  • Game of Thrones: Aside from the A Song of Ice and Fire examples above:
    • Stannis Baratheon sacrifices everything including his daughter for a chance at the Iron Throne. It's implied he's just a pawn to help the real hero, Jon Snow.
    • Doran Martell is killed so Dorne can have its war with House Lannister. He dies knowing his son Trystane will follow him to the grave.
    • Tommen Baratheon strives to make new allies (the Tyrrells, his uncle Kevan, the High Sparrow and even Grand Maester Pycelle) so he can escape his mother Cersei's clutches. She instead kills them all. Knowing he can never be free, he commits suicide.


  • Greek Mythology had too many tragic heroes to count. There is the story of Oedipus who was cursed to marry his mother and kill his father, Prometheus, Orestes.
    • Prometheus accomplished his mission, stealing fire for mortal man. And tricked the Gods as to which parts of animals the humans were to sacrifice. It's just... you know... he pissed off the Jerkass Gods in the process of helping humanity. So Zeus chained him to a rock and had an eagle eat his innards. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Since he's immortal. Hercules breaks him free. Eventually, after centuries. If anything, it counts as a Heroic Sacrifice.
    • Speaking of, Hercules could go on this list as well. Those famous 12 Labors? Penance, for being driven into a berserk rage (by HERA) and murdering his own family. Then he gets another wife, who gets kidnapped by a centaur named Nessus. Herc shoots him with a poison arrow (dipped in the Hydra's blood). Dying, Nessus tells her to rub his blood on Herc's clothes if she ever thinks Herc is being unfaithful, and it will tell the truth. Blood that is now laced with the Hydra's poison. It goes as well as you would think.
  • Karna from The Mahabharata. Abandoned at birth by his mother who later became a queen, mocked often for his common origins by the Princes and for his high origin by his mentor who cursed that he should forgot all the things he learned from him for disguising himself as a brahmin rather than the warrior that he was, the Dragon to the Big Bad Duryodhana and halfbrother to the Heroes, the Pandavas. He dies because he actually had a sense of honor and that killed him in the end.

Tabletop games

  • Warhammer has Aenaerion the Defender who was the greatest elf warrior that defeated Chaos using the Sword of Khaine but lost his life and sowed the seeds of his people's division by fathering Malekith the Witch-King.
  • The Emperor of Mankind from Warhammer 40000 almost succeeded in unifying the universe under human rule but his attitude caused half of his sons to rebel and set off a cataclysmic civil war. In the end, he is interred in the Golden Throne and made to watch as his Imperium slowly collapses.
  • The dreams of General Aleksandr Kerensky from BattleTech eventually come true, but not in the way he expected. See Tragic Dream for details.


  • Many of Shakespeare's protagonists, of course. Some of the best examples are Brutus, Othello, and Hamlet.
    • If fact, if the title is a main character's name they tend to bite it by the end. Tragically.
      • Macbeth potentially being an exception. He comes NEAR the ultimate repentance of the Tragic Hero... but pulls out of his Villainous Breakdown and goes for broke.
    • Importantly, Shakespeare's Tragic Heroes have Fatal Flaws specific to their situation. Put Hamlet in Othello and Desdemona will live. Put Othello in Hamlet and Claudius will be killed in the first act.
  • David Mamet's play Oleanna. A university lecturer about to get his tenure, with a loving wife and a payment on a house going through, decides to help a female student falling behind in his class. He makes a few off-the-cuff, inappropriate comments to the female student (he says "I'm not your father" in response to her wanting to be told want to do, he relates an anecdote about the rich copulating with less clothes on to the student), only to be told by the student in the next act that she's having him done for sexual harassment because of his comments.
  • Arthur Miller intended to create the "modern tragic hero" in his legendary play Death of a Salesman. Previously, it had been generally thought by literary critics, academics et al. that for a character to be a tragic hero he must fall from a great social height- ex. Brutus in Julius Caesar. Miller, however, argued for years that Willy Loman was a tragic hero who fell not from the height of social position but from the height of his aspirations and self-delusions. Eventually, Miller admitted that Loman's character was pathetic, not tragic because he stubbornly failed to learn anything from his fall and thought maybe he would have achieved his goal if he had focused more on Willy Loman's son, Biff.
    • In The Crucible, John Proctor definitely qualifies as a tragic hero, and his fatal flaw would be either his temper or his pride depending on who you ask.
  • If your name is the title of a Greek play that is not a comedy, you fall under this trope and have an high chance of dying.
  • Seymour Krelborn of Little Shop of Horrors is brought down by his desire for Audrey's love; he makes a Faustian Bargain of sorts with the plant to win her love. It turns out to be a Senseless Sacrifice: turns out Audrey loves him all the same, even without the fame brought by the fame.
  • Elphaba from Wicked (theatre). "My road of good intentions lead where such roads always lead..." No matter how hard she tries to do what's right, she cannot win.


  • Kratos of the God of War (series) was tricked into killing the only two people he ever loved and the Olympian gods refused to get rid of his memories of this, even though he killed Ares, which they wanted. He's a total asshole, but still sympathetic - an apt hero for a game based on Greek mythology.
    • Kratos is a Tragic Hero because for all the impressive feats he manages, he himself is never able to get over the trauma of killing his own family. It is his love for his family that prevents Kratos from becoming a heartless monster, but at the same time, it's due to that love that Kratos is unable to get over his feelings of guilt and is slowly driven insane. Kratos starts working for the gods because they promise to free him from his nightmares, but as time goes on, it becomes apparent that 1) the gods do not have the power to take away his guilt and 2) the gods only view him as a pawn. In this regard, his ignorance towards the Gods' anger (or causing the said anger) is rather understandable.
  • The Metal Gear series is all about these characters.
    • The first two Metal Gear games cast protagonist Snake as a tragic hero, who rapidly realises he doesn't actually care about his orders, is being exploited by his bosses and manipulated by the villains, who together constitute his only friends and family.
    • He's press-ganged into doing it all again in Metal Gear Solid, but in the end, he gets to disappear and chase after his own goals.
    • Metal Gear Solid 2 Sons of Liberty casts newcomer Raiden in a similar, but more Shinji-esque exploited hero role.
    • Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater puts Snake's progenitor, Naked Snake, through the wringer to explain his turn to villainy, in an interesting contrast to Snake's own decisions.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 4 Guns of the Patriots, Snake is still a free man, but he has only months left to live.
      • Of course in the end, they do manage to earn a happy ending of sorts. The world is a better place when all is said and done, so they didn't really fail. The main characters get a shot at happiness too: Meryl and Johnny get married, Campbell can finally start to bond with his daughter Meryl, Raiden/Jack is reunited with his lover and their son for a chance to begin anew as a family, Big Boss finally dies in peace knowing that the world will no longer suffer from his mistakes, and though Snake/David will only have months to live he can do so as a free man for the first time in his life. He doesn't have to fight anymore.
  • Sigurd of Chalphy in Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War starts out as an upstanding if not idealistic chap on a mission to rescue his childhood friend, but due to events he had little to no control over he loses the woman he loves, is branded a traitor and forced to flee his homeland. It all culminates in his supposed ally Alvis of Velthomer having stolen said wife for his own and burning Sigurd alive. Alvis himself was being played by an even bigger bastard, but even so. OUCH.
  • Taro Namatame of Persona 4, who started throwing the main characters into the TV out of a misguided belief that he was actually saving them from the true murderer (his Shadow represents his delusions of himself as a savior). If the player manages to convince the others that he's innocent, Namatame will have a My God, What Have I Done? moment upon realizing the consequences of his actions.
  • The Nameless One is a perfect example of a tragic hero. The happy ending for the game ends with him choosing to pay his penance and undergoing torture for eternity.
  • Archer from Fate/stay night. His Fatal Flaw, ironically enough, was his idealism. Eventually, it killed him.
    • To expand upon this one: Archer used to be Shirou, who was eventually the winner of the Fifth Holy Grail War. After the war, he continued to pursue his ideals by becoming a hero, and he continuously saved people. At one point, in order to save a few hundred people, Archer made a contract with the world. Now with his new power, he continued to be a hero. However, he was used as a scapegoat to all the catastrophes that occurred due to the face that he never talked because he had nothing to talk about, and he never asked for a reward because for him, the sole act of saving people was his reward. After dying and becoming a Counter Guardian, he found himself going against his ideals. Instead of saving people, he was forced to kill them because his duty as a Counter Guardian was to end the threat to humanity at the source, which was people. He found himself betrayed by his ideals, and became cynical and bitter, with his only solace the hope to be summoned into the Grail War, and kill his past self so he could end the pain of being betrayed by his ideals. Just like dear old dad, Kiritsugu. So much so that the very sentence in the beginning of Fate/Zero that describes Kiritsugu also describes Archer.
    • Other heroic spirits in the Fifth Grail War are Tragic Heroes in their previous lives. Caster and Saber are some examples.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2 has Ammon Jerro. Originally a kindly, eccentric court magician, once he learned about the King of Shadows, he decided to take it upon himself to combat him in order to protect the world. However, as time went on, his determination to defeat the King of Shadows slowly became a dark obsession, and he gradually began to lose himself, taking more and more extreme measures to defeat the King. These ultimately resulted in him selling his soul to the Abyss in order to gain an army of Demons under his command, and began a rampage throughout Faerun in order to obtain the shards of the only weapon that can harm the King of Shadows, perfectly willing to kill countless people that (knowingly or not) stand in his way. It's not until he accidentally kills Shandra, his own granddaughter, in a blind rage that he realizes how far he's fallen and how much his actions have harmed both the people he had sworn to protect, and most importantly, himself.
    • The expansion Mask Of The Betrayer had Akachi, who led a grand crusade to tear down the Wall of the Faithless, where those who refused to worship a god were assigned to suffer for eternity. He did so to rescue the woman he loved, who died without dedicating herself to a God, and he was almost certainly doomed to fail from the start. As a consequence, he became the spirit eater.
  • Tirion Fordring of Warcraft helps an orc who saved his life, and is in turn branded a traitor, has all his powers taken away, has his family leave him, and generally becomes a classic tragic hero. Also a subversion, because the powers were not theirs to take, leaving him ultimately as the founder of a new and less Jerkass order...
  • Fain in the Backstory of Lusternia. The Elder Gods faced a Hopeless War against The Soulless. Knowing that the Soulless devoured Elders and lesser Soulless alike to increase in power, Fain and his followers pioneered an elixir made from fallen Soulless essence, fighting fire with fire. The side-effects caused the other Elder Gods to reject its use, so Fain and his followers continued drinking it in secret. They turned the war around single-handedly. But as The Dark Side Will Make You Forget, Fain - and his followers - became steadily more monstrous. They were exiled by the other Elders while on the cusp of victory, derailing and dooming the entire war effort. By the time of the game, Fain's twisted in appearance and motivation, and harbors an insane grudge against the world.
  • Harpuia in Mega Man Zero wants a world in which humans and reploids can live in peace. Too bad he's so blinded by pride that he can't see the truth. For extra irony, his goal makes him Not So Different from the leader of the Resistance. Becomes subverted in later games when he's capable of differentiating between a rebel and a psychopath and turns his wrath on the later first.
  • Both mage party-members (besides Bethany) in Dragon Age II.
    • Merrill wants to restore the lost heritage of the Dalish Elves, but is willing to mess around with extremely dangerous Blood Magic and the Eluvian to do so. Her entire clan, including mentor Marethari, considers this a Very Bad Idea and are terrified of what she'll end up doing, but she's convinced that it's worth the risk and they'll understand when it's over. Marethari ends up sacrificing herself to keep Merill from getting possessed, and the rest of the clan may turn on her depending on dialogue choices.
    • Anders wants human mages to be able to live free of Templar oppression, and gets less and less picky about how this happens; by the game's end, he's basically Dragon Age's answer to Redcloak.
  • Jin Kazama has had everything stacked against him ever since he was a teen. He initially lived in peace and solitude with his beloved mother, until she was attacked by Ogre and disappeared - and for all effects, he believes her to be dead. Before going missing, she tells him to go with his grandfather - who happens to be Heihachi Mishima, a Corrupt Corporate Executive and martial artist. After training under him for three years, Jin wins the Iron Fist Tournament against Ogre - and is betrayed by Heihachi, who has him beaten within an inch of his life. THEN a power awakens within him and saves him: it's a mysterious Devil Gene coming from his paternal family, and it starts corrupting Jin like it did to his father Kazuya before him. . .


  • There are a few in Order of the Stick:
    • Redcloak in Start of Darkness. His goal: improve the goblin race's lot in life. Initially merely a Well-Intentioned Extremist, his Fatal Flaw turns out to be the "sunk cost" fallacy, which Xykon ruthlessly exploits. By the end, he's incapable of ever betraying Xykon, because if he does, he'll have to face the fact that he killed his own brother - and allowed many other goblins to die - for no good reason. He does have his moments of "redemption", such as when he reaffirms the value of other goblinoids even if they aren't his race of goblin.
    • Vaarsuvius seems to have recently arrived in this role, partly as a result of fan-diagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. V's Fatal Flaw is Pride in magic, and an increasing inability to admit failure at a task and requiring the help of others. This leads to selling (leasing, technically) Vaarsuvius's soul out to fiends and refusing to give up the resulting power after the rescue of V's threatened mate and children, as "I have so much to do". Vaarsuvius's exact words were actually "I still have to fix everything", but the subsequent attempts to do so have allowed V to realize the mistake made without dying like so many tragic heroes. Sadly, this bit of wisdom is unlikely to be much help with fixing V's family life. The aftermath has cemented V's status; after a severe case of Break the Haughty and his/her mate filing for divorce, V is acting like an elf with not much left to live for.
    • Miko Miyazaki was a self-righteous headcase paladin who was the most powerful paladin in the Sapphire Guard. She was severely anti-social; her only friend was her horse. As a consequence the Sapphire Guard would send her away on long missions so they wouldn't have to put up with her. She believed that she was an incorruptible force of goodness and justice. She could not accept that she may be wrong or have made a mistake, and believed that if she believed something, it had to be true. Then she killed Lord Shojo in a psychotic breakdown, after believing that Lord Shojo betrayed the Sapphire Guard, when he really wanted to protect the sealed rift from the forces of evil. As a result, she had fallen from grace and lost her paladin powers. When she tried to gain redemption by destroying the sealed rift to try and stop Xykon and Redcloak from taking it, she instead destroyed the seal to the rift and was brutally bisected, and told by Soon Kim's ghost that "redemption was not for everyone". The real tragedy with Miko was that she would never find redemption, as she could not accept that she had done something wrong, and so could not atone for her sins.

Web Originals

  • Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: Dr. Horrible manages to be both this AND a Villain Protagonist. His hesitation in killing Captain Hammer allows Hammer to break his death ray and then try to use it. The resulting explosion sends Hammer away whimpering, but kills Penny, causing Horrible to Jump Off the Slippery Slope into complete supervillainy. His Fatal Flaw is that he will do anything to gain fame and approval, even compromise his own beliefs. His hesitation is caused by conflicting influences.

Western Animation

  • The Brain, of Animaniacs spinoff Pinky and The Brain, who is doomed to failure every episode because of his tragic flaw, Genre Blindness. His plans have been shown at points to be purely power-hungry, but he's also shown to be wanting to rule the world because he thinks he can do a far better job (that appears to be Pinky's position at least — and considering the intelligence level of the world as depicted in the show... he could be right). In the Did Not Do Research episode of "Freakazoid" (where he travels back in time), it was shown as much in an alternate time-line where he's president of the U.S.A. and things seem to have worked out pretty well. He is unable to anticipate the wacky hijinks which will inevitably result from the fact that this is a Warner Brothers cartoon, and so inevitably either Pinky's bumbling or his own carelessly chosen reactions end each plan in disappointment. In one episode, a prognosticative observation shows a future elderly Pinky & the Brain still locked in their labmouse cage, still plotting to Take Over the World.
  • Jet of Avatar: The Last Airbender. His parents were killed and his village was destroyed when he was eight. He became the Well-Intentioned Extremist leader of a group of rebels who tried and failed to destroy the village the Fire Nation was occupying. He tried to move on and become a refugee, but was Brainwashed for speaking about the war, and ultimately is killed the instant he breaks free from the brainwashing (see: Redemption Equals Death).
    • Zuko also spends most of Season 2 and late Season 1 as this - until he succeeds in getting his honour back, discovers that he really didn't want it after all, and sets out to join the Gaang.
  • Oddly enough, Danny Phantom becomes one in an alternate universe of the show. Danny Fenton gains ghostly powers and decides to use them to protect his town from the ghosts and menaces threatening it. The twist however, is that his friends and family are killed in an explosion, leading his arch enemy Vlad to take him in. Far MORE twisted is that in a procedure to rip out his humanity from his ghostly half, the ghost half ends merging with Vlad's ghost half, murdering Fenton, and beginning a ten year rampage around the entire world and succeeding. Oh, and it was HIM that caused his family and friends' death! The fact that he's exists outside of his own alternate Bad Future is just a matter of when he will break free from his containment. Or would if not for Executive Meddling.
  • Rusty Venture from the Venture Brothers. In a show that the creators have described as being about failure, Rusty may be a sometimes brilliant scientist, but his flaws- the biggest of which is his inferiority complex regarding his father- often hold him back while his brother manages to attain great successes.