Saturday, August 6, 2011


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The search for justice causes one to act blindly through anger, rather than through reason. Everyday we are confronted with a problem that requires us to make a decision. In most cases, the decisions are made without much thought, and therefore result to catastrophic consequences. In the play, Hamlet, William Shakespeare creates an elegant hero, which our modern society can relate to the individual as a deterioration of human character. Disillusionment, depression, and despair are the burning emotions churning in Hamlet's soul as he attempts to come to terms with his fathers death and his mothers incestuous marriage. Unquestionably, there are many elements that compile a tragedy, which consist of everything from the murderous villain to the fallen hero. However, for a play to encompass a tragic hero, there must be a few essential components within the hero. Most importantly, the main character must be of noble birth, acquire heroic attributes, and possess a moral flaw, which leads to his own demise. Furthermore, the hero must be placed in a position beyond his control but have the ability to choose his own destiny by acting pertinently. Therefore, it is evident that Hamlet demonstrates characteristics of a tragic hero when confronting his dilemma to gain revenge upon his father’s death, however, it ultimately leads to his own demise.

Like most tragic heroes, Hamlet’s nobility and valiant qualities are the main characteristics of a Shakespearean tragic hero. Specifically, his significance in the play as the Prince of Denmark, shown when Horatio says, “Hail to your lordship!” This announcement clearly shows that Hamlet has Horatio’s full respect when he calls Hamlet, “lordship.” Horatio’s welcoming statement illustrates how Hamlet has met the requirement of royalty. In addition, it appears that Hamlet has the authority to direct his friends to perform duties for him, such as looking out for the ghost in the beginning of the play, when Hamlet asks, “Indeed, indeed, sirs, but this troubles me. Hold you the watch tonight?” Hamlet’s friends respond by agreeing to watch for the ghost and leave Hamlet’s presence by saying, “ Our duty to your honor.” Other than Hamlet’s noble birth, his heroic quality such as his bravery also allows him to be a tragic figure in Shakespeare’s play. Primarily, his bravery can be shown when he takes the chance in following the ghost, when he tells his friends, “Why, what should be the fear?” This bold remark demonstrates even through dangerous times, Hamlet still chooses to settle his curiosity rather than backing away. Without doubt, these assertions display Hamlet’s figure of high royalty and bravery. Therefore, these initial qualities make Hamlet fall from grace even greater than projected.

As we see the play progress, Hamlet’s destiny begins to unravel by his own actions. In the beginning of the play, we see Hamlet suffering from the loss of his father. He expresses his sorrow in the soliloquy, “O that this too too sullied flesh would melt…”  This important soliloquy displays Hamlet’s feelings after his father’s death and that he wish he could die to escape this excruciating pain. Shortly thereafter, Hamlet is disillusioned by witnessing the appearance of the ghost, King Hamlet. The ghost arouses Hamlet to revenge his death when he says, “foul and most unnatural murder. This distraught proclamation appalls Hamlet at the revelation that his father has been murdered by his Uncle Claudius and vows vengeance upon his father’s death. While Hamlet tries to pick up the pieces of his shattered idealism, he consciously embarks on a quest to seek the truth. Hamlet’s destiny is now determined once he has seen the ghost because he will not allow Claudius to get away with such a sinful act. With this in mind, Hamlet devises a plan to ensure that the ghost is telling the truth and not lying to him. Hamlet resolves to devise a trap for Claudius, forcing the king to watch a play in which the plot closely resembles the murder of Hamlets father; if the king is guilty, he will surely show some visible sign of guilt when he sees his sin reenacted on stage. By doing so, Hamlet will then obtain definitive proof of Claudiuss guilt. The plays the thing…wherein Ill catch the conscience of the king. The king reacts by standing up and in shock of seeing his actions take place before his eyes, it is clearly evident that Claudius did murder Hamlet’s father. By analyzing these conclusive actions, it is clear that Hamlet’s destiny starts to unfold while learning the truth about his father’s death. With this newfound knowledge, he dedicates himself entirely to seek revenge for his father’s unnatural death.

Once Hamlet has received confirmation that the ghost is telling the truth, he begins to lust for revenge and the deterioration of his once noble character begins. In particular, this is illustrated when he observes the king’s reaction to the play and proclaims, “When the churchyards yawn, and hell itself breathes out Contagion to this world. Now could I drink hot blood.” This outrageous statement now shows that Hamlet can now kill Claudius after the confirmation from the reaction of Claudius towards the reenacted murder. Hamlet begins to display his dismantled character soon after he witnesses the king’s reaction toward the play. Throughout the play from this point onward, it is apparent that his character starts to deteriorate. For example, Hamlet’s rudeness to Ophelia and how she says, “O what a noble mind is here o’erthrown! The courtier’s, soldier’s, scholar’s eye, tongue, sword, Th’ expectancy and rose of the fair state…” With this distressing statement, Ophelia describes how Hamlet use to be loved by the towns people and how he had a noble mind. Now Hamlet has changed from the scholar she once knew into athe insane person that now stand before her. Ophelia is lost and confused because he once loved her and now all of a sudden, he begins to criticize women and saying how they behave like monsters. In addition, Hamlet turns all of this corruption and decay into a big joke after he kills Polonius. When Claudius asks where he has hidden Polonius’ body, Hamlet quips; “At supper.” Hamlet’s deterioration in character is through his insensitive response towards killing Polonius and by a mocking comment on the whereabouts of his dead body. These undignified actions cause him to fall from his heroic figure into a character of lustful revenge. Finally, by killing Claudius, it ends the bloody cycle of revenge.

For one to be a tragic hero in the Elizabethan era, the main character must be of royalty, obtain of heroic attributes, and possess a moral flaw, which leads to his own downfall. Furthermore, a tragic hero is one who is presented with an inescapable situation against unbelievable and constant opposition, despite his heroic strengths, he is manipulated or toyed with by forces beyond his control. In Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, Hamlet faces a very difficult decision, a decision that may change his life and after-life forever. Throughout the play, Hamlet struggles with his own destiny as a tragic figure because he must die to be able to restore the moral order. As a result, we can identify Hamlet as a tragic hero because of his matching characteristics with the ideal Shakespearean tragic hero. With this said, William Shakespeare uses the tragic hero as a device to shed light onto a variety of different human flaws that the reader can relate and as well to sympathize for Hamlet. This device acts as a constant reminder of how destructive our society can be and the consequences of doing vengeful actions. In fact, the daunting thing of human nature is to accept ourselves and know ourselves. Our destiny, our stories are sometimes tragedies; we all fall like Hamlet if we do not reflect and learn from his lesson. Hamlet is like the inner person of all mankind and sometimes tragedies cannot be avoided without divine intervention.

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