Hamlet's Hamartia

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Engberg 1
Zach Engberg
Molly Fenn
HP English ¾
28 October 2012
Tragic Flaw of a Man Named Hamlet
Aristotle described a tragic hero as being "a [great] man who is neither a paragon of virtue and justice nor undergoes the change to misfortune through any real badness or wickedness but because of some mistake." The Tragedy of Hamlet: Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare, in being a tragedy, displays its main character, Hamlet, as said tragic hero. He is by no means a “paragon of virtue and justice,” as he schemes throughout the play to murder his uncle. He was, though, a “great man”, being the Prince of Denmark. The main issue, to me, was what exactly his “mistake” was that caused his “misfortune”. I could not determine whether his flaw was his lack of action, or his recklessness; but I eventually came to the conclusion: it is all of the above. Hamlet’s hamartia is his inconsistency in actions and thinking; changing his process for making decisions, and his emotional state around other characters, many times throughout the story.

Hamlet was plagued throughout the play by indecision, and was often too thoughtful and calculating before acting; which resulted in continuously prolonging his revenge. He even, in his famous “To be or not to be” (iii.i. 64) soliloquy, recognizes this fault, proclaiming to himself, “thus conscience doth make cowards of us all, And thus the native hue of resolution Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought, And enterprise of great pitch and moment With this regard their currents turn awry And lose the name of action.” (iii.i. 91-96) He realizes that his action is being barricaded by his “pale cast of thought” (iii.i. 93), and that he will get nothing done because his conscience is preventing him from fulfilling his revenge. He is too thoughtful before acting, which causes him to be solicitous and afraid; thus, his conscience making a coward of himself. A perfect example of this is after his staging of the play, when he saw...
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