Why Hamlet is a Tragic Hero and the Play a Classic Tragedy

990 Words4 Pages
Dear Kylie, I noticed your submission to Culture Magazine, regarding Shakespeare’s great play “Hamlet”. Having recently studied “Hamlet” in Year 12 English, I think I can help answer one of your questions. You asked why is Hamlet regarded as a tragic hero and the play a classic tragedy? Before I can answer your question, you must first understand the difference between the meaning of tragedy today and what is meant by tragedy in drama. Whereas a tragedy in life may be considered something such as a death or accident, in drama a tragedy in drama is much more. In a tragedy, although the hero may be in conflict with an opposing force, the cause of his downfall falls ultimately on himself. This is usually because of a character defect – a “tragic flaw” which causes him to act in a way which ends up bringing about his own misfortune, suffering and ultimately death. “Hamlet” is very much a tragedy, but it is also different, being a revenge tragedy where the hero is driven by the need for revenge, not unlike a modern day horror movie. Prince Hamlet is a tragedy of character where it is himself that brings his downfall, not fate. Well Kylie, a tragedy is usually a story of one person, with both the hero victims in the play usually of a high standing of society. This is especially the case in “Hamlet”, with his victims being King Claudius, Queen Gertrude, Polonious, Laertes, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, all being linked to the Royal Family of Denmark. A personality fault (the tragic flaw) causes the hero to act in a manner which brings about his own misfortune and eventually death, during which he lets the audience know he is dying by delivering a final speech. In “Hamlet”, it is his tragic flaw of his indecisiveness and inability to act, which brings his own suffering and misfortune. Had he been able to kill King Claudius in the beginning none of the suffering would have occurred. He also delivers his final speech telling the audience of his death, “I am dead Horatio. Wretched queen, adieu!” he exclaims after being poisoned by Laertes envenomed rapier. In a tragedy the pity and fear (known in drama as pathos) is ultimately replaced by an uplifting and suffering (known in drama as catharsis) Hamlet’s acts cause suffering but in the end ultimately achieve learning. Hamlet’s ultimate death teaches the country of Denmark about Claudius’s murder and brings them under the reins of a new ruler Fortinbras of Norway.
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