An Analysis of Hamlet Under Aristotle’s Theory on Tragedy

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An Analysis of Hamlet under Aristotle’s Theory on Tragedy
Aristotle, as a world famous philosopher, gives a clear definition of tragedy in his influential masterpiece Poetics, a well-known Greek technical handbook of literary criticism. In Aristotle’s words, a tragedy is “an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude, language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play, the form of action, not of narrative, through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions”(Aristotle 12). He believes that a tragedy should be serious and complete in appropriate and pleasurable language; the plot of tragedy should be dramatic, whose incidents will arouse pity and fear, and finally accomplish a catharsis of emotions. His theory of tragedy has been exerting great influence on the tragedy theories in the past two thousand years. Shakespeare, as the greatest dramatist in western literature, also learnt from this theory. Hamlet is one of the most influential tragedies written by Shakespeare. The play vividly focuses on the theme of moral corruption, treachery, revenge, and incest. This essay will first analyze Shakespeare’s Hamlet under Aristotle’s tragedy theory. Then this essay will express personal opinion on Aristotle’s tragedy theory. The purpose of this essay is to help the reader better understand Aristotle’s theory of tragedy and Shakespeare’s masterpiece Hamlet.
In Poetics, Aristotle defines plot as “the arrangement of the incidents” (Aristotle 12). He indicates that there are six elements in every tragic play, which are plot, character, thought, diction, melody and spectacle, among these plot is placed in the foremost positi...

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...n Aristotle’s view of characters. Aristotle also suggests that a tragedy should have the power to provoke audience’s emotion of pity and fear. The suffering and behavior of each character in Hamlet possess that power. The author agrees with the Aristotelian analysis of Hamlet, the story of Hamlet was perfectly based on Aristotle’s tragedy theory. However, the author thinks that the tragedy doesn’t always have to end up in misery. A tragic story can also have some hidden happiness in the suffering, misery of tragic hero(s), in which way can audience realize that there is still hopeful when your life is tragic and encourage people to strive hard to create a better life.

Works Cited
Aristotle. Poetics. Ed. Stephen Halliwell. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ., 2005. Print.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2003. Print.
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