Hamlet’s Tragic Flaws

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Hamlet's Tragic Flaws

Thesis Statement

Hamlet is an endearing character with his own remarkable qualities; however his inability to act upon his convictions leads him to his tragic demise.

Introduction and Background of Tragic Flaw

In Aristotle the "tragic flaw" is hamartia, and critics continue to debate what precisely he means by it. Technically it should mean a mistake of judgment, "missing the mark." However, the way he uses it and the fact that he uses it of Oedipus in Sophocles' play suggests rather that it is an aspect of character-that certain men characteristically make certain mistakes. Hamlet is then thinking about the hidden flaws in men, and especially about Claudius, since he is the one who called for the drunken revel, when the Ghost appears to reveal the hidden truth of his death: Claudius seduced his wife and killed him. The act ends with Hamlet's assumption of an "antic disposition." He has realized that one may "smile and smile and be a villain." He has also corrected his friend's skepticism: "There are more things, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy" (174-75). Claudius is a villain but a hypocrite; to seek his vengeance, Hamlet himself will have to pretend to be what he is not: mad.

What does the act break here signify? Most obviously it marks the passage of time: "Laertes has time to settle in Paris, Hamlet to show in full his antic disposition, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to be recalled to Elsinore and the ambassadors to go and return from Norway" (Brown, 2001). We certainly see the shape of the first act: the Ghost appears in the first and last scenes to make his demand. He has risen up from the earth to confirm his son's worst suspicions and to demand of him action. It is not unlike the plague in Sophocles ' Oedipus Tyrannos: the murderer of Laios has gone unpunished all these years, but the plague now demands that he be found. The irony that Oedipus, as king, takes on the responsibility of punishing the murderer, who is he himself, is not without parallel in Hamlet.

In pursuing -- and not pursuing --vengeance for his father's murder, Hamlet "finds himself." His last thought in Act I is characterizing: "The time is out of joint. O cursed spite, / That ever I was born to set it right" (196-97). Circumstances beyond his control will force him to act in an uncharacteristic manner. Nothing could be more dramatic, more tragic. The conflict is not between two individuals but within one, or between what he knows of himself in the private world of his own meditation and the public role he must now assume. The assumption of the role of a madman is metaphorical as well as an aspect of the plot: it suggests Shakespeare's primary philosophical concern, which is the nature of individual identity and how it is and is not manifest in behavior with others.

Hamlet is the epitome of his own statement that, "there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in...philosophy" (I, v, 187-188) In his first appearance King Claudius describes the educated prince as "sweet and commendable" and declares that he loves him "with no less nobility of love than that which dearest father bears his son" (I, ii, 90-115). He is eventually trapped by his inability to act on his own convictions. Hamlet is the tragic hero of William Shakespeare's timeless play as a fatal flaw leads the commendable character to commit his hamartia and cause his untimely demise.

The prince is introduced as a brooding and loyal son who discovers the murder of his father and makes a passionate oath to avenge him at all costs. His promise to the ghost of his father, King Hamlet, "I, with wings as swift as meditation, or the thoughts of love, May sweep to my revenge" (I, v, 35-37), show his deep sense of allegiance and respect for family. Hamlet's initial zeal reveals his good intentions. He is truly convinced that the murder of Claudius is the only way to preserve his honor. His obsession with honor carries him...
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