English Literature Lesson Plan: Tragedy and the Tragic Flaw in Literature

Lesson Plan Objectives

1. Having begun an English Literature Unit on tragedy, students will analyze their conceptions about tragic flaws and will be able to reconcile preconceptions with the literary devices and methods discussed through journaling and a brief paper.

2. After the lesson students will be able to relate the literary texts and terms to their daily lives through discussions, journaling and a brief paper.

3. After reading a tragic text, the students will be able to apply the definitions of tragedy, tragic hero, and tragic flaw to the text, create meaning within the text, and make judgments about the text.

Lesson Plan Materials Needed

Writing assignment (below)
Overhead (or Power Point) with definitions

Lesson Plan Procedure

1. The teacher will begin class by asking all students to take out a piece of paper and a pencil and writing the phrase “tragic flaw” on the board.

2. The teacher will then say, “Based upon what you have already learned about tragedy and tragic heroes, free write for the next 5 minutes about what you think this word might possibly mean.

3. The teacher will then hold a brief discussion asking students what they think the definition might be and how they think it might relate to the study of tragedy; during this discussion the teacher will write key or reoccurring phrases on the board for the students to see.

4. The teacher will then show the overhead reviewing Aristotle’s definitions of tragedy and tragic hero and Bradley’s definitions of tragedy and tragic hero and remind the students of those previously studied definitions.

5. The teacher will then briefly explain to students the literary concept of tragic flaw.

6. After explaining the tragic flaw and relating the actual definition to the ones created by the students, the teacher will ask the students to get in groups of 4 and, in 5 minutes, come up with 1 example of a tragic hero from literature and 1 example from real life. The teacher will ask the students also to identify the possible tragic flaws of that character using specific and detailed examples.

7. Now the teacher will ask the students to take out their free writes from the beginning of class and write for 5 minutes about how their understanding of tragic flaw has changed throughout the course of the lesson.

8. After collecting the free writes, the teacher will hand out the writing assignment to the students and tell them that their assignment is to do a 1-2 page writing that identifies one tragic hero in real life and, using specific, detailed examples, identify that heroes tragic flaw.

Lesson Plan Assessment

Using the 6 traits +1 writing rubric, the students’ writing assignments will be evaluated. The students free writes will serve as the most valuable assessment tool for the teacher as they will give the teacher a better idea of how effective the lesson was. Changes or modifications to the lesson will be based upon these free writes and the students’ understanding as noted during the class discussions.

Key Concepts/Definitions


According to Aristotle: “the imitation of an action that is serious and also, as having magnitude, complete in itself; in language with pleasurable accessories, each kind brought in separately in the parts of the work; in a dramatic not narrative form; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its catharsis of such emotions” (135)

According to Bradley: “A Shakespearean tragedy âÂ?¦ may be called a story of exceptional calamity leading to the death of a man in high estate” (151). The center of tragedy lies in an action issuing from a character.

Tragic Hero

According to Aristotle: “the intermediate kind of personage, a man not pre-eminently virtuous and just whose misfortune is brought upon him not by vice and depravity but by some error in judgment, of the number of those in the enjoyment of great prosperity” Must experience a “change in fortune âÂ?¦ not from misery to happiness, but on the contrary from happiness to misery”

According to Bradley: Tragic Hero does not have to be good but rather, possess much greatness (Whitman’s heroic arÃ?ªte or valor)

Tragic Flaw

According to Bradley: “Tragic trait which is his greatness, is also fatal to him” – Whitman: coined phrase hamartia. Often one of two: quest for knowledge or pride (hubris).

Lesson Plan Resources

Definitions come from Tragedy: Plays, Theory, and Criticism edited by Richard Levin (Harcourt Brace 1960); Poetics by Aristotle; The Substance of Shakespearean Tragedy by Andrew Cecil Bradley; Sophocles: A Study of Heroic Humanism by Cedric H. Whitman.

The 6 + 1 Trait Writing Rubric and a description of its use can be found at http://www.webenglishteacher.com/6traits.html

Tragic Flaw Writing Assignment

Write a 1-2 page paper in which you pick a person from real life and prove that he/she is a tragic hero. You may NOT use any of the people that were discussed in class today.

Some things to keep in mind:
� You must use specific, detailed evidence to support your point. Anecdotes, quotes, descriptions etc. are not only helpful but also mandatory.

� If you pick someone you know personally, you do not need to have a works cited page since your evidence will all be from first-hand knowledge; however, if you pick a famous person and do any research be sure to cite your sources appropriately. Any evidence that you use that did not come straight from your head MUST be cited!!

âÂ?¢ You also must use the definitions of tragic hero and tragic flaw that were discussed in class – you need to cite these but you do not need to put them into a works cited page.

� If you have any questions or have trouble getting started please come see me!

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