Hamlet as a Tragic Hero

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As we know, there are different types of tragedies; Aristotle spoke about a certain type which involves what was once called Peripeteia, Hamartia and Anagnorisis. He said a tragedy is characterized by a tragic hero or heroine who experiences a change or reversal in fortune (peripeteia) which is caused by a personal flaw or mistake (hamartia). The downfall of the hero in a tragedy should not be, however, caused by an external force such as a higher power, whether in the form of gods, fate or even society; it should be the result of an action—or lack of action—carried out by the hero. Finally, the hero must achieve a kind of revelation or recognition (anagnorisis) about destiny or the will of the gods, what Aristotle called "a change from ignorance to awareness of a bond of love or hate." These are all characteristics that make an ideal Greek tragedy. However, our purpose is to analyze William Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’, a Renaissance tragedy; therefore, the question at hand is, could Hamlet, prince of Denmark, possibly be called and defined as a tragic hero? Our first instinct is to say no, but once we start questioning ourselves and really exploring the character and all that he goes through throughout the play, our answers may change. In ‘Hamlet’ the three defining moments in Greek tragedy mentioned above, if truly present, are intertwined and closely linked together. We will attempt to translate those key aspects present in Aristotle’s description into a completely different type of tragedy such as ´Hamlet’ and see how they would portray themselves in Shakespeare’s words. Afterwards, we will analyze this English writer’s work in terms of the imagery found in the play at hand. We must begin at the core of the play: the apparition of the ghost. Before the ghost of the former king of Denmark, Hamlet senior, makes his appearance, all we know is that Hamlet’s father has passed away, that his uncle has taken the throne and has married his late brother’s wife. Once we...
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