Critical Lens: Hamlet and Luther
In many novels, plays, and works of literature, the hero is brought falls as a result of error in judgement or some other flaw. The audience feels the appropriate emotions such as pity or fear for the hero. One work I have read that supports this statement is Hamlet by William Shakespeare in which the hero is Hamlet himself. Another character that experiences falls because of flawed judgement is Martin Luther from the drama Luther by John Osborn.
In Hamlet, the main character experiences many falls because of his flaws. This main character is Hamlet. His main flaw is, of course, his inability to act and his obsession with thought and not action. Throughout the play, Hamlet stresses over the death of his father and he concentrates on trying to confirm if his Uncle Claudius really did kill him. The ghost of his late father already explained to Hamlet that Claudius killed him with poison in his ear, but Hamlet continues to investigate to delay the actions that he is destined to do.
Hamlet delays his actions because he is uncomfortable with impulsive action. He claims the need to verify that Claudius was actually the murderer. Hamlet goes so far as to put on a play mirroring the actions of the incident that his father described to him to watch the reaction of Claudius when he sees it. He also delays his actions because he is scared of what he inevitably has to do, which is to kill his uncle.
Hamlet’s flaw, his inability to act, brings falls to himself. One of his falls is that he loses Ophelia. This triggers a feeling of sadness for him from the audience. Another, bigger flaw is that he delays killing his uncle in revenge so long that it leads to his own death. He drops more and more hints as to his knowledge of what really happened that he puts himself in a lot of danger. Finally, Claudius and Laertes plan the murder of Hamlet, which of course, results in the deaths of Hamlet, Claudius, Laertes, and Queen Gertrude. This “fall” triggers an also appropriate sadness from the audience.
In the drama Luther, the main character, Martin Luther, experiences personal spiritual falls because of a character flaw. His flaw is that he is obsessed with perfection. He strives to be a perfect brother in the monastery and to carry out all his vows perfectly. Martin Luther tries to make no mistakes in his speeches and live his life without human sins. The stress this puts on him results in one fall, his problems with constipation. This example of his constipation brings the feelings of sadness to the audience.
Another more dramatic fall is his excommunication from the Church. His preoccupation with perfection is what made him criticize the Church. When he saw the corruption in the Church, he wanted to change it and make it perfect and make it abide by its own rules. Martin Luther saw the indulgences being sold as “tickets to heaven” and forgiveness of sins, in advance, for money. He thought that these indulgences were corrupt and he spoke out against them and many other corrupt things the Church did.
He got excommunicated for speaking out against what he wanted to reform. This fall, his excommunication, brings the appropriate empathy for the character Luther, because he caused it because he is flawed in his pursuit of perfection which led to his fall.
In conclusion, the central figure in many works of literature has a flaw or error in judgement that leads to their personal falls, or reversal of situation, passing from happiness to misery. These falls bring feelings of pity and/or fear to the audience. The two examples I discussed were Luther from Luther and Hamlet from Hamlet (haha). They both had character flaws that brought changes in their life for the worse.