Essay, Research Paper: Hamlet Tragedy

Shakespeare: Hamlet

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William Shakespeare, the greatest playwright of the English language, wrote a
total of 37 plays in his lifetime, all of which can be categorized under
tragedy, comedy, or history. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Shakespeareís most popular
and greatest tragedy, displays his genius as a playwright, as literary critics
and academic commentators have found an unusual number of themes and literary
techniques present in Hamlet. Hamlet concerns the murder of the king of Denmark
and the murdered kingís sonís quest for revenge. Its main character, Hamlet,
possesses a tragic flaw which obstructs his desire for revenge and ultimately
brings about his death. This tragic flaw makes him a tragic hero, a character
who is destroyed because of a major weakness, as his death at the end could
possibly have been avoided were it not for his tragic flaw. Hamletís flaw of
irresolution, the uncertainty on how to act or proceed, is shown when Hamlet
sees a play and the passion the actors had, after Hamletís third soliloquy, in
Hamletís fourth soliloquy, and in Hamletís indecisive pursuit in avenging
his fatherís death. First, Hamletís flaw of irresolution is shown when he
sees a play and the passion one particular actor had. A group of players has
arrived and Hamlet arranges a personal viewing of The Murder of Gonzago with a
small portion of his own lines inserted. Hamlet then observes one portion of the
play in which one of the players put on a great display of emotion. Hamlet,
besieged by guilt and self-contempt, remarks in his second soliloquy of Hamlet
of the emotion this player showed despite the fact that the player had nothing
to be emotional about. Hamlet observed that he himself had all the reason in the
world to react with great emotion and sorrow, yet he failed to show any that
could compare with the act of the player. Hamlet calls himself a "rogue and
peasant slave" and a "dull and muddy-mettled rascal" who, like a
"John-a-dreams", can take no action. Hamlet continues his fiery speech
by degrading himself and resoluting to take some sort of action to revenge his
fatherís death. Next, Hamletís flaw of irresolution is shown after his third
soliloquy, the famed "To be or not to beÖ" lines. Hamlet directly
identifies his own tragic flaw, remarking of his own inability to act. Hamlet, 2
unsure whether or not the his uncle Claudius was responsible for his fatherís
murder, schemes to have The Murder of Gonzago presented to the royal court, with
a few minor changes, so its contents would closely resemble the circumstances
behind the murder. Reflecting on his own guilt, he talks of death, referring to
it as the undiscovered country, and then continues by riddling his own feelings.
He declares "conscience does make cowards of us all" and that the
natural ruddy complexion of one intent, or resolute, on an action is "sicklied"
over with the "pale cast of thought". This makes an individual second
guess his own actions and often times take no action at all, due to his own
irresolution. These statements not only applied to what had occurred up to that
point but also foreshadowed what was to occurr. Next, Hamletís flaw of
irresolution is shown during his fourth soliloquy. Fortinbras, the Prince of
Norway, and his army have passed by Hamlet and his escorts. Hamlet sees the
action Fortinbras was taking in fighting and then examines Fortinbrasís
efforts and bravery in an attempt to rekindle his own desire for revenge against
Claudius for his fatherís death. Hamlet remarks how everything around him
attempts to "spur my dull revenge", yet he takes no action. He notices
how he thinks "too precisely on an event" and that he has "cause,
and will, and strength, and means" to get revenge and how the evidence
pointing to Claudius as his fatherís killer is as evident as earth itself.
Hamlet finally decides "my thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!"
He has finally decided he must take action against Claudius in some form or
fashion. Last, Hamletís indecisive pursuit in avenging his fatherís death is
shown as evidence of his tragic flaw. Hamlet encounters numerous opportunities
to kill Claudius, yet he always comes up with some excuse preventing action.
After first hearing of the crime from his fatherís ghost, Hamlet immediately
sets out to take action. Hamlet then began to think that perhaps his fatherís
ghost was conjured by the devil in an attempt to make Hamlet become irrational
and kill Claudius, who might happen to be innocent, which would forever damn his
soul. Hamlet then schemes to determine Claudiusís guilt through the play.
Claudius views the play and becomes very uncomfortable with the situation to the
point of stopping the play and leaving. This confirms Claudiusís guilt to
Hamlet, and Hamlet again sets out to avenge his fatherís death. Hamlet then
catches Claudius in prayer, a rare time he will find Claudius alone. Hamlet,
again, begins to think how Claudius will have had his sins forgiven and that he
wants to damn Claudiusís soul. Hamlet 3 resolves to wait and kill Claudius at
another time. Claudius, through all of this, realizes Hamlet knows of his crime
and plots to have Hamlet killed by first sending him to England and then having
him murdered. Hamlet escapes this ploy and Claudius plots again to have Hamlet
killed in a fencing match. At the fencing match, Hamlet is wounded by a poisoned
strike with the foil. Hamlet, in a dying act, kills Claudius by making him drink
poison. Hamletís flaw of irresolution essentially destroyed him, as his
failure to act in previous situations led to his own death. Hamletís
irresolution is obvious in his actions after viewing the emotion of the actors,
after his third soliloquy, in his fourth soliloquy, and in his indecisive
pursuit of revenge for his fatherís death. Hamlet was able to avenge his
fatherís death, but his own death due to his irresolution labels him as a
tragic hero. The Tragedy of Hamlet masterfully shows how the inability to act,
however noble the intentions, can be detrimental to character.
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