Webster's dictionary defines tragedy as, "a serious drama typically describing a conflict between the protagonist and a superior force (such as destiny) and having a sorrowful or disastrous conclusion that excites pity or terror." A tragic hero, therefore, is the character who experiences such a conflict and suffers catastrophically as a result of his choices and related actions. The character of Hamlet is a clear representation of Shakespeare's tragic hero, as he possesses all the necessary characteristics of such a hero. Hamlet is seen as a tragic hero as he has doomed others because of a serious error in judgment, also Hamlet is responsible for his own fate and Hamlet has been endowed with a tragic flaw. These character traits and distinctiveness make Hamlet a Tragic Hero.
Firstly, one of the defining traits of a tragic hero is that he or she is responsible for their own fate. Hamlet has chosen to believe the Ghost and attempt to prove that Claudius did, in fact, murder King Hamlet. Hamlet has chosen to invite danger and he has chosen to put on an antic disposition. To begin, Hamlet was not totally convinced about what the Ghost had described to him so Hamlet took it upon himself to prove Claudius's guilt. For example, "I'll have these players play something like the murder of my father before mine uncle: I'll observe his looks; I'll tent him to the quick; if he but the blench, I know my coarse. The spirit that I have seen may be the devil: and the devil hath power to assume a pleasing shape / The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king." (Hamlet II.ii 592-603) Hamlet schemes to determine Claudius's 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 Claudius's guilt to Hamlet, and Hamlet again sets out to avenge his father's death. Hamlet could have prevented much suffering by exacting his revenge earlier on in the play but Hamlet is too educated to be persuaded by a Ghost. As hamlet said "The spirit that I have seen may be the devil: and the devil hath power to assume a pleasing shape." (II.ii 596-597) Next, Hamlet continues to invite danger as he is in his mother's room and he stabs blindly into the curtains and kills Polonius. (Conversation between King and Hamlet) "Now Hamlet, where's Polonius? / At supper / At supper! Where? / Not where he eats, but where he is eaten: a certain convocation of politic worms are e'en at him. Your worm is your only emperor for diet: well fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for maggots: your fat king and your lean begat is but variable service, two dishes, but to one table: that's the end." (IV.iii 17-26) Hamlet has chosen this fate for himself. It was his choice to hide the body from Laertes as well as the king. Hamlet knows that Laertes will be looking for him, seeking revenge for the death of his father. In addition to that, Hamlet insults the king in front of a room of people. Hamlet has chosen to walk the path of danger just as Macbeth did. Macbeth was already king but he believed in the prophecy so much that he had to send three mercenaries out to kill Banquo. Macbeth also sent murders to kill Macduff's wife and child. These actions were unnecessary they only draw more attention to ones wrong doings and just as Macbeth doomed himself to demise, Hamlet is walking the same path. Lastly, Hamlet realizes that he cannot fulfill the wish of the Ghost unless he has evidence of his own. To do that Hamlet must devise a way where he can act in a manner in which he can investigate the king without drawing too much attention to himself. For example, "Here, as before, never, so help you mercy, How strange or odd soe'er I bear myself, As I perchance hereafter shall think meet to put an antic disposition on, That you, at such times seeing me, never shall, with arms encumber'd thus, or this head shack, or by pronouncing of some doubtful...
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