What is a tragedy? A tragedy can be defined as a form of drama that depicts the suffering of a heroic individual who is often overcome by the very obstacles he is struggling to remove (Tragedy 1). Shakespeare's play, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, is considered a tragedy in literature and the character of Hamlet in the play is considered to be a tragic hero. In addition, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is considered to be a type of tragedy called revenge tragedy. Basically, this type of play consists of a murder that has to be avenged by a relative of the victim (DiYanni 1394). Ultimately, the play is about a son that is called upon by the ghost of his father to avenge his death.
On the surface, the play about Hamlet may appear to be a typical revenge tragedy. However, crime, madness, ghostly anguish, poison, overheard conversations, conspiracies, and a final scene littered with corpses: Hamlet subscribes to the basic ingredients of the formula, but it also transcends the conventions of revenge tragedy because Hamlet contemplates not merely revenge but suicide and the meaning of life itself (DiYanni 1394). There are three crucial points in the plot in which Hamlet expresses his particular thoughts and positions. In each of these scenes, Hamlet displays his character in and through the manner in which he chooses to act in the situations in which he finds himself, and provides information about his stance on life as a whole. In addition, in each of the scenes there are reoccurring themes of revenge and appearance versus reality. As mentioned before, the major theme of the novel is revenge and this can be seen because Hamlet must avenge his father's murder by killing Claudius. The second major theme of the play is the theme of appearance versus reality. The play makes several references to how things appear versus the truth (Hamlet 6). For example, King Hamlet's death appears to be a snakebite in the beginning of the play, but it turns out to be a calculated murder (Hamlet 6).
The first crucial point in the plot where Hamlet's thought and character are displayed takes place during the first scene during Act III, Scene 1. In this act, some of the most famous and most important lines in the play are spoken. In Hamlet's soliloquy during Act III, Scene 1, Hamlet asks a question concerning the nature of being. When Hamlet says, "To be, or not to be: that is the question" he is questioning whether it is better for him to live or die (1438). It becomes even more apparent that Hamlet is contemplating suicide during his soliloquy when he says, "Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them" (1438-1439). When Hamlet speaks these lines the thoughts and positions held by Hamlet at this point in the play become very apparent. At this point in the play, Hamlet is wondering whether it would not be better to end his life than to face the trials and tribulations ahead (Hamlet 19).
Hamlet is perplexed between life and death at this point because Hamlet knows that he must seek revenge, yet he is still uncertain of murdering Claudius. Hamlet contemplates suicide because he is miserable over heisting the murder of Claudius. In this scene, the two main themes of the story become apparent. In his heart, Hamlet wants to seek revenge on Claudius, but on the outside, Hamlet wants to make sure that he is not being misled or tricked into thinking that Claudius is his father's murderer. Hamlet believes his own hesitation comes from a fear of the consequences; yet he is miserable and filled with guilt and shame over his failure to act in killing either Claudius or himself (Hamlet 20). Also, it is apparent that Hamlet is debating over whether to seek revenge or not when he says, "Thus conscience does make cowards of us all" (1439). When Hamlet speaks this line, he is providing insight into his character. As much as Hamlet wants to avenge...
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