Influential and timeless, the Ancient Greeks created a base for much of the tragedies since their time. Even today, their much anticipated storylines are still used in many movies and novels. Even Shakespeare, the forever famous play writer and poet, followed after the Ancient Greeks and Aristotle, who had practically written out the rules of a successful tragedy. However, the Greeks' way of making a tragedy's storyline progress a certain way didn't come over night or out of thin air. It came from their basic premises of life – their culture and civilization.

The Ancient Greek would view can be simplified down to one, very understandable term: religion. Their entire existence was based on their religion. To start if off, the Gods were at the top. No one was allowed to surpass the Gods and if they did, punishment would befall to them. Their hierarchy was the most important thing, and that was evident in their myths and plays. For instance, the Greek myth Arachne is a perfect example. Arachne was a young, mortal girl who was the best weaver in the world. She thought she was so incredible, that she could best a god in weaving. Athena, the goddess of wisdom, war and crafts, was also a weaver. She took notice of the girl's confidence and went to her, being challenged by Arachne into a contest. Their pieces of art were equal in quality and outraged that a mere mortal girl could even come close to her skill; Athena struck the girl and turned her into a spider. Even though Arachne might have been as good as a god, it would not be tolerated either way.

In Greek culture, the hierarchy is absolute. The hierarchy could not be broken. One cannot stress the full importance of the hierarchy. There were the Gods, then the Titans, who were immortal, and then the humans, and among the humans you would have the kings, nobles, and then the common people. A common person could not change his stars and become a king. That's breaking the hierarchy, and if that was to happen in a Greek tragedy, bad would be the only outcome of the story at the end, also known as a Reversal of Fortune.

Not only could the hierarchy not be broken, but destiny couldn't either. The Ancient Greeks believed that your destiny was already planned out. Your path in life had already been decided by the gods and no matter how hard you tried to change it, you always ended up fulfilling your destiny. Before you were born, they had already chosen what you were going to be in life, what you were going to do, and how you were going to do it. It seemed that the gods were playing only a game with the lives of mortals. They would map out their path and decide what was going to happen to them. There was no such thing as free will in the Greeks' culture, for everything was decided by them and only them.

Tiresias once said to Oedipus in the play Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, "What is to come will come, even if I shroud it in silence." This is an example of how the Greeks showed their way of life; how they believe that everything has been pre-determined, in their plays. Tiresias was a prophet sent by Apollo to tell Oedipus of his fate. It was destined to be that Oedipus was to kill his father and marry his mother. Because the gods had already decided their fate, the Greeks often turned to Augury, which is an attempt to figure out the future.

In the Shakespearean/ Elizabethan/ Renaissance time period, things were similar. In the age of the Renaissance, there was something called the "Great Chain of Being." This chain basically said that every existing thing in the universe had its set "place." An object's 'place,' as if was referred to, was determined by the amount of 'spirit' and 'matter' it had. The more spirit it had, the higher in the chain it would be and the more matter it had, the lower it would be. Like the Ancient Greeks believed, everything was planned, though not so much by God himself. Many rulers used the Great Chain of Being as reasoning for their rule. Because he was king, he ruled and he had been placed upon the throne for a reason and it could not be questioned.

However, some Renaissance writers, including Shakespeare, often had their characters go above and beyond even though the Great Chain of Being restricted that. So, in the Renaissance age, the idea that everything had its 'place' was not so much enforced as it was in Ancient Greece.

The idea of Humanism put emphasis on the dignity of man and the possibilities of man. It said that humans could create active and meaningful lives. This suggests that humans had the gift of free will. If they have the opportunity to create meaningful lives, then they have a choice of what they do in life. The Renaissance was a shift from the Middle Ages to the Modern Ages. Because of that, many ideas and people were split into two different sets of thinking. However, the idea that things were planned out by a higher being was still there, though it was not as dominant as it was with the Ancient Greeks.

In a culture's literature, their way of life is often depicted.

Aristotle explained what qualified as a tragic hero. First off, one of the key elements of a tragic hero was the presence of Hamartia. Hamartia was a flaw, or something wrong, something lapsed, a mistake, an error, a problem in the character. For a character to be a tragic hero, they cannot be perfect. They have to have some form of a flaw, and sometimes that flaw could have been Hubris. Hubris was something a lot of characters had in Greek mythology and also in Shakespeare's plays. It's a cocky attitude, an ego. It was very evident in Sophocles' play Oedipus Rex.

When Tiresias was trying to tell Oedipus of his destiny, Oedipus was naturally in denial despite how the Gods ruled. Trying to defend his case, Oedipus said, "No, I came, know-nothing Oedipus, I stopped the Sphinx. I answered the riddle with my own intelligence." This is a perfect example of Hubris.

In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, however, the supposed tragic hero, Brutus, does not so much possess the trait Hubris. He did, on the other hand, show examples of Hamartia. Brutus's flaw was how he was so gullible. He believed Cassius when he was told that Julius was hated by the people and that he wasn't fit to rule over Rome. That wasn't his only flaw though, for some can argue the fact that another one of Brutus' flaws was honor. He killed his dear friend because he believed that it was right for Rome and the people wanted it. He believed he was honoring Rome and all her glory by ridding the world of someone who might make her crumble to the ground.

Another important element of a tragic hero is that they should go through something called Anagnonisis. Anagnonisis is when the main character goes through realization, and a person watching the play then knows that at that moment, the character is in for it; they are bound for punishment and terrible greetings, and so does the character.

In the play Oedipus Rex, when the truth becomes clear and he finds out that he did in fact kill his father and he did in fact marry his own mother, Oedipus says, "It has all come true. Light, let this be the last time I see you. I stand revealed – born in shame, married in shame, an unnatural murderer." This is when Oedipus comes to realize that all the prophecies he tried to deny were in fact true. He did kill his own father, and he did marry his own mother. After all his attempts to avoid doing such things, he ended up doing them anyway.

Not only does Oedipus go through Anagnonisis, but Brutus does as well. After he killed Caesar, the people turned against him and though he might have convinced them to be on his side for a short time, it quickly changed when Antony makes them see the truth to the murder of Julius. Brutus, in the end, comes to realize his gigantic mistake before his demise by his own hand.

There are other elements to a tragic hero that Aristotle mentioned. A tragic hero must be important. They must have some kind of social status to be considered a tragic hero. Oedipus was a king, and that is certainly an important position, and Brutus was the right-hand-man of Julius Caesar and in fact his most trusted friend. A tragic hero must also be good. They must be a good person with good morals and standards. They cannot be evil. Oedipus, though cocky and full of himself, was a good person. He saved the city of Thebes from the dreadful Sphinx. Though Brutus did murder his dear friend, he was still a good person with good intentions. He killed Julius because he believed he was doing something good for Rome. Even though he was wrong and fooled, he still wanted to do something good.

Not only did Aristotle cover what makes a tragic hero, but he also described what makes a tragic play. There are key elements a play needs to be considered a tragedy. First there's Pathos. Pathos is whatever gets you to feel something, something in the play that gets you to feel a strong emotion let it be fear, pity, sadness, etc.

After Caesar's death, Antony, a loyal friend of Caesar, spoke to the people of Rome about his death. He said, "If you have tears, prepare to shed them now." That is an excellent example of Pathos, for in front of an audience; the watchers would then feel the dread of knowing that something terrible was going to be told. In Oedipus Rex, the Chorus said to Oedipus, "My heart is racked with pain…" The Chorus is basically the audience in the play. They are the people and the citizens of the play, but whatever the Chorus is feeling, the audience should be feeling as well.

After Pathos, when one gains that feeling, one normally goes through Catharsis, another key ingredient to a tragedy. Catharsis is when you get rid of that feeling you gained. You feel better. You held that feeling in and then you were able to let it all out at a certain point in the tragedy. In Oedipus Rex, when he is finally banished from Thebes is where one would normally go through Catharsis. It's all over then, and the end is there. In Julius Caesar, the point when you go through Catharsis is after Brutus kills himself and Antony celebrates the victory with his men. You get the feeling that Caesar had been avenged even though, sadly, the tragic hero died. However, something bad is generally what is supposed to happen to the tragic hero, for tragedy happens to the tragic hero.

That leads in the final point in a tragedy – reversal of fortune. Reversal of Fortune is when everything is going well and then the tragic hero generally makes a bad decision and a big change happens for the worse. In Oedipus Rex, the reversal of fortune was when he stabbed his eyes out after his wife/ mother killed herself. In Julius Caesar, Brutus goes through reversal of fortune when he is on the battle field, fighting. He decides to try and exploit the opposing army's weakness, but in fact the tide turns against him and they lose the battle. He then orders his men to retreat, telling one to stay behind and hold his sword for him. He then thrusts himself upon the sword, killing himself.

After observation, one can come to the conclusion that the reversal of fortune generally appears at the climax of the tragedy. In Oedipus Rex, the climax is when he finds Jocasta, his wife/ mother dead because she hung herself, and in Julius Caesar, the climax was the battle.

Those climaxes are also the pivotal moments in the plays. Everything changes, and everything turns in on itself.

A society's idea of tragedy most often reflects in its plays and storylines – how they display themselves. In Greek mythology, the hierarchy is the most important thing, and your life had already been determined. In Oedipus Rex, he tried to avoid his destiny by taking so many turns, but in fact he ended up where he didn't want to be. He ended up being the murderer of his father and the husband of his mother. The Greeks believed that no matter what, you were destined to go through certain events in a particular matter. There was no changing that.

With the idea of the Great Chain of Being and Humanism put together, one can come to conclude that there is a path that a person can take, but they also have the chance to avoid it and make another path. Julius Caesar had opportunity after opportunity to avoid his death, but he didn't. He once said after hearing of the premonitions, "Yet Caesar shall go forth." He knew of what people were predicting, but he ignored the signs. He had the chance to change his fate, but he believed that if it was meant to be, than it would be so.

The culture of a society plays a major role in how the people view tragedies and the tragic heroes within them. Forever society will continue to do that, for people base their stories mostly on their lives and how they live them and in what they believe.