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Activity Overview

The Tragedy of Richard III is full of common literary elements that are important for students to explore. One of these elements is the tragic hero, a protagonist who seems to be ill­-fated, and destined for doom. In this play, while Richard himself admits he is a villain and commits evil acts, he does fit all of the standard attributes of a tragic hero. The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, first articulated the specific attributes or principles of a tragic hero. For the storyboard above, students can use a template to storyboard the qualities that make Richard a tragic hero. The finished product outlines each of Aristotle's principles with a detailed explanation of the specific attributes.

King Richard III as a Tragic Hero

HamartiaHero's Flaw that Causes Downfall Richard is driven by his ambition to become king, regardless of any cost.
HubrisExcessive Pride Richard thinks he is invincible; he is arrogant and believes that he will successfully sway Lady Anne to marry him, and he will kill everyone in his way to get the crown.
PeripeteiaReversal of Fortune Buckingham flees to Wales and raises an army against Richard; Richard discovers that the Earl of Richmond is bringing an army against him in a final challenge to the throne. Richard realizes that most of his allies are dead or turned against him.
AnagnorisisMoment of Critical Discovery Richard is visited by the ghosts of those he’s murdered, and discovers that he is an evil villain who hates himself. For the first time, he is afraid.
NemesisFate that Cannot be Avoided The ghosts predict Richard’s defeat and Richmond’s victory, and the sun refuses to rise. Richard and Richmond meet on the battlefield, where Richard is killed.
CatharsisAudience's Feeling of Pity or Fear After the Hero's Fall The audience feels a slight pang of pity when Richard realizes how badly he has sinned by killing so many people. He also shows fear at his impending defeat and doom.

Lesson Plan Reference

Grade Level 9-10

Difficulty Level 4 (Difficult / Complex)

Type of Assignment Individual

Type of Activity: Tragic Hero

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/9-10/3] Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme
  • [ELA-Literacy/W/9-10/6] Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically
  • [ELA-Literacy/L/9-10/6] Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Use This Assignment With My Students", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows how Richard can be considered a tragic hero.

  1. Identify events of the play or characteristics of Richard that fit into Aristotelian attributes of a tragic hero.
  2. Illustrate examples for Hamartia, Hubris, Peripeteia, Anagnorisis, Nemesis, and Catharsis.
  3. Write a short description below each cell that specifically relates Richard as a tragic hero.
  4. Save and submit the assignment.


(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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The Tragedy of Richard III

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