Hamlet as a Tragic Hero


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In Hamlet, Shakespeare uses the tragedies and deaths to make the play a tragedy; Hamlet is a tragic hero because he is a person of high rank who violated a law, and he poses a threat to society and causes suffering to others through violating the law, which are all characteristics of a tragic hero.

Hamlet as a Tragic Hero Why Hamlet a tragic hero? Yes we see Hamlet as a tragic hero. Such a figure is typically defined as "a literary character who makes a judgment error that inevitably leads to his/her own destruction". Often an otherwise admirable character becomes involved with questions of justice and/or revenge. While most scholars have accepted him as a tragic hero they have debated over what is Hamlet’s tragic flaw?

His inability to act is often seen as one and certainly he saw that in himself. Could it be, he asks himself, that “But I am pigeon-livered and lack gall” (Hamlet Act II, line 562). But I think it is the classic problem of hubris. And I think it surfaces when while observing his uncle in prayer over the death of this brother, Hamlet’s father, Hamlet decides that he will not execute justice (which as the rightful king was his duty) and instead pursues vengeance. It’s not enough for Hamlet that his uncle pay for the murder with his life but instead he wants his uncle to be damned for eternity. And so he postpones his action until he is certain of the evil state of his uncle’s soul. But that, of course, is not his role. That belongs to God.

And it is interesting to note that all events after this choice spiral downward towards the play’s conclusion. The fact that the ghost spurs on Hamlet for revenge (not justice although he talks about the throne of Denmark not being a couch for damned incest) that causes me to suspect that the thing may in fact be a demon and not a wholesome ghost after all even if it tells the truth. Evil often tells the truth in a form for its end.

Hamlet as a Tragic Hero

Hamlet as a Tragic Hero

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Hamlet as a Tragic Hero



William Shakespeare, the greatest playwright of the English language, wrote a total of 37 plays in his lifetime, all of which can be categorized under tragedy, comedy, or history. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Shakespeares most popular and greatest tragedy, displays his genius as a playwright, as literary critics and academic commentators have found an unusual number of themes and literary techniques present in Hamlet. Hamlet concerns the murder of the king of Denmark and the murdered kings sons quest for revenge.

Its main character, Hamlet, possesses a tragic flaw which obstructs his desire for revenge and ultimately brings about his death. This tragic flaw makes him a tragic hero, a character who is destroyed because of a major weakness, as his death at the end could possibly have been avoided were it not for his tragic flaw. Hamlets flaw of irresolution, the uncertainty on how to act or proceed, is shown when Hamlet sees a play and the passion the actors had, after Hamlets third soliloquy, in Hamlets fourth soliloquy, and in Hamlets indecisive pursuit in avenging his fathers death.
First, Hamlets flaw of irresolution is shown when he sees a play and the passion one particular actor had. A group of players has arrived and Hamlet arranges a personal viewing of The Murder of Gonzago with a small portion of his own lines inserted. Hamlet then observes one portion of the play in which one of the players put on a great display of emotion. Hamlet, besieged by guilt and self-contempt, remarks in his second soliloquy of Hamlet of the emotion this player showed despite the fact that the player had nothing to be emotional about.

Hamlet observed that he himself had all the reason in the world to react with great emotion and sorrow, yet he failed to show any that could compare with the act of the player. Hamlet calls himself a “rogue and peasant slave” and a “dull and muddy-mettled rascal” who, like a “John-a-dreams”, can take no action. Hamlet continues his fiery speech by degrading himself and resoluting to take some sort of action to revenge his fathers death. Next, Hamlets flaw of irresolution is shown after his third soliloquy, the famed “To be or not to be” lines.
Hamlet directly identifies his own tragic flaw, remarking of his own inability to act. Hamlet, 2 unsure whether or not the his uncle Claudius was responsible for his fathers murder, schemes to have The Murder of Gonzago presented to the royal court, with a few minor changes, so its contents would closely resemble the circumstances behind the murder. Reflecting on his own guilt, he talks of death, referring to it as the undiscovered country, and then continues by riddling his own feelings.

He declares “conscience does make cowards of us all” and that the natural ruddy complexion of one intent, or resolute, on an action is “sicklied” over with the “pale cast of thought”. This makes an individual second guess his own actions and often times take no action at all, due to his own irresolution. These statements not only applied to what had occurred up to that point but also foreshadowed what was to occurr. Next, Hamlets flaw of irresolution is shown during his fourth soliloquy. Fortinbras, the Prince of Norway, and his army have passed by Hamlet and his escorts.
Hamlet sees the action Fortinbras was taking in fighting and then examines Fortinbrass efforts and bravery in an attempt to rekindle his own desire for revenge against Claudius for his fathers death. Hamlet remarks how everything around him attempts to “spur my dull revenge”, yet he takes no action. He notices how he thinks “too precisely on an event” and that he has “cause, and will, and strength, and means” to get revenge and how the evidence pointing to Claudius as his fathers killer is as evident as earth itself.

Hamlet finally decides “my thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth! ” He has finally decided he must take action against Claudius in some form or fashion. Last, Hamlets indecisive pursuit in avenging his fathers death is shown as evidence of his tragic flaw. Hamlet encounters numerous opportunities to kill Claudius, yet he always comes up with some excuse preventing action. After first hearing of the crime from his fathers ghost, Hamlet immediately sets out to take action.
Hamlet then began to think that perhaps his fathers ghost was conjured by the devil in an attempt to make Hamlet become irrational and kill Claudius, who might happen to be innocent, which would forever damn his soul. Hamlet then schemes to determine Claudiuss guilt through the play. Claudius views the play and becomes very uncomfortable with the situation to the point of stopping the play and leaving. This confirms Claudiuss guilt to Hamlet, and Hamlet again sets out to avenge his fathers death. Hamlet then catches Claudius in prayer, a rare time he will find Claudius alone.

Hamlet, again, begins to think how Claudius will have had his sins forgiven and that he wants to damn Claudiuss soul. Hamlet 3 resolves to wait and kill Claudius at another time. Claudius, through all of this, realizes Hamlet knows of his crime and plots to have Hamlet killed by first sending him to England and then having him murdered. Hamlet escapes this ploy and Claudius plots again to have Hamlet killed in a fencing match. At the fencing match, Hamlet is wounded by a poisoned strike with the foil. Hamlet, in a dying act, kills Claudius by making him drink poison.
Hamlets flaw of irresolution essentially destroyed him, as his failure to act in previous situations led to his own death. Hamlets irresolution is obvious in his actions after viewing the emotion of the actors, after his third soliloquy, in his fourth soliloquy, and in his indecisive pursuit of revenge for his fathers death. Hamlet was able to avenge his fathers death, but his own death due to his irresolution labels him as a tragic hero. The Tragedy of Hamlet masterfully shows how the inability to act, however noble the intentions, can be detrimental to character.

Hamlet as a Tragic Hero

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