In many works of literature—especially classical tragedy—no character ever achieves perfection. Something that a character has done in the past, a defective personality trait, or even something as simple as a physical quality keeps them from succeeding. In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, no major character really wins in the end because one imperfection keeps them from doing so. Polonius’s spying leads to his demise, while Laertes’s lust for revenge turns back on him and actually kills him. In Hamlet, every character’s “tragic flaw” contributes to a decay of the overall solidity of the entire scene play, ultimately leading to an archetypal tragic ending.
This effect is similar to a dying tree. A tree may look healthy, but on the inside it is being decayed by a group of insects. The tree will continue to stand upright until at one point there is almost no fiber on the inside holding it up and it will fall over and die. In Hamlet, the “decaying” Danish court functions properly until the last scene in which everything falls apart, leading to the demise of several major characters. In fact, the entire kingdom is taken over by Fortinbras, the rival King of the adjacent country of Norway. There is no clear winner besides Fortinbras, as both the antagonist and protagonist are killed by their fatal flaws.
The decaying of the Danish court started at the beginning of the...
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...racter really “won” in the end. The ending was a sum of every character’s tragic fault. It almost seems as the court of Denmark was designed to fail, as everything that was set in motion during the play was broken down by the end. For example, Hamlet’s love with Ophelia was destroyed, and the entire kingdom was taken over by the enemy, King Fortinbras of Norway.
In conclusion, the play Hamlet constantly decays over time, leading to a tragic ending. The use of disease and decay imagery throughout the play illustrates the slow decay of the court of Denmark. The “disease” of corruption, lying, and spying spreads slowly, but causes a huge collapse at the end. The collapse is so sudden that almost every character dies within a matter of fifty spoken lines. William Shakespeare redefines the tragedy and really leaves the reader or listener with a shocking, yet fated ending.
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