Hamlet represents a tragic play authored by William Shakespeare between 1599 and 1602. The play provides an account of how Prince Hamlet plots to avenge his father’s death that was caused by his uncle Claudius. Hamlet depicts a tragic hero because of his pursuits of revenge, and his sudden death at the end of the play.
This paper explores the characteristics depicted by a tragic character, and explains why Hamlet is deemed as a tragic character.
A Tragic Hero exudes distinct characteristics to distinct writers. According to Shakespeare, a Tragic Hero displays characteristics such as mattering to people revealing his good individuality, should be highly positioned in society, for instance, a general or a king, and the actions of the tragic hero must possess effects that are far reaching. In addition, Shakespeare denotes his tragic heroes as characters who depict a quality, which in usual circumstances should be a virtue, but proves a fatal flaw because of the special circumstances of the play. The Shakespearean tragic heroes in many cases display the potential of attaining much greatness, despite their status of greatness. Frequent errors in decision-making or judgement are displayed in Shakespearean tragic heroes.
These errors commence the downfall of the character. These errors seem to haunt the tragic characters in Shakespearean classics, as the characters end up being responsible for the errors they make. The issue of making of errors tops the list for the tragic hero characteristics because their first erring seems to drive them back to more errors, and this is detrimental. Blindness to reality forms another characteristic of a Shakespearean tragic hero. This blindness to reality also leads the tragic heroes in Shakespeare’s plays to commit more crimes that promote their downfall. The crowd suffers effect from the tragic hero, as the character elicits fear in them. The tragic hero in Shakespeare seems to suffer both from within, and without. The character suffers from within because of a conscience that is tortured, and suffers from without due to attacks, isolation and alienation. Amazingly, the Shakespearean tragic characters are usually aware of their misdeeds, and this contributes to their deaths, as they must die.
There are several accounts that justify Hamlet as tragic hero. This is depicted earlier in the play, as it begins with Hamlet plotting to avenge his father’s death, a thing that happens although Hamlet himself does not survive to witness his actions outcomes. The death of Hamlet is blamed on his tragic flaw. Hamlet possessed several flaws although the paramount one that resulted to his death is his recognition and knowledge of the power that accompanied words and language. This resulted to his tragic ending. Among the reasons as to why his triumph with words and language led to his death includes basing his perception of reality depending on his knowledge and interpretation of words that motivated him to be emotional with creating meaning. Hamlet’s introspectiveness and verbosity represent his tragic flaw and gift, as well.
The first justification of Hamlet as a tragic hero lies in his possession of a best trait as well as a flaw. These are represented by his knowledge of the prowess of language and words. In addition to this, the motivation of Hamlet’s flaws and actions come from without, which adds a proof to him being a tragic hero. Many of his actions from the play are influenced by his father’s death, as he sought to avenge him. His uncle’s walking out while they watched the play also motivates Hamlet’s actions because it provides proof that Claudius killed his father. Hamlet is depicted as being introspective, a characteristic accepted normally, but due to his royal affiliation, it pushes him to nerve-cracking and negative situations that make him engage with words to a point that he is deemed tragic.
Language is one of Hamlet’s flaws. This is because he employed it in several situations because he realized it would bestow him with power. However, it did not provide him with power as he usually expected, but instead it led to some tragic ends. For instance, his choice of words against Ophelia led her to commit suicide. Hamlet admonished her by telling her that she should become a nun instead of choosing to become a peddler of lies.
Another reason why Hamlet is a tragic hero is the fact that he is familiar with his flaw. Hamlet discovers his power with words, and addresses the audience informing them of his intentions to “…speak daggers”, but not using a dagger. This reveals that Hamlet is convinced of the power that words possess thus making other people to believe the same. Some of the characters who believe in the prowess of language because of Hamlet include Polonius and Claudius.
However, the use of language does not benefit Hamlet throughout the play because, at some point, it seems his worry and introspective nature makes him struggle with the language in order to deduct the reality from the language. For instance, he uses a quote that depicts his wrangles with language. The quote “to be or not to be” proves Hamlets’ wrangle with language because he does not choose to understand the meaning of the words from as they mean; instead, he wants to complicate the meaning of the words through linking both their implied and logical meanings. At some instance from the story, Hamlets use of language also reveals how he does not benefit from it. This appears in a question he utters using his favorite quote of “to be or not…t’is nobler…mind to suffer/…slings and arrows…arms against the sea of troubles.” From this utterance by Hamlet, it can be deducted that he is contemplating death, which proves that language does not fully benefit him, and another reason why he is a tragic hero.
Therefore, Hamlet’s use of language appears to have contributed a great deal to him being a tragic hero, but most importantly because of his introspective nature that requires him to form reality out of the meanings of words, and his internal understanding. In the above quotation, Hamlet understands that it is better death over living because of the associated struggles, but still he ends up questioning death if it is worth it. This depicts how he stalled because words possess a lot of power on him, thus making it difficult to make haste decisions that would have benefited him.
In conclusion, Shakespeare associates several characteristics with his tragic heroes. A tragic hero should matter to people, should possess the ability to move up the rank in society despite their already respected positions, should be blind to reality, and should suffer from within and from without. Hamlet is an example of a tragic character because he suffers from within and without in that he seems to be haunted by his use of language, and belief that language has power. Hamlet has a royal affiliation, which also proves depicts him as tragic hero. In addition, he displays the potential of achieving more and becoming the king of Denmark through his seeking to avenge his father’s death. Hamlet’s use of language contributes greatly to his tragic end. He understands the power that comes with words thus resulting to the death of Ophelia. Thus, it can be concluded that language is Hamlet’s greatest flaw.