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Hamlet Complex Character Essay


Hamlet as a Complex Tragic Hero

Hamlet is the center of action in the play. This is a play so dominated by one character that Hamlet without the 'Prince is impossible to imagine. The play deals with his suffering and tragic death. The other characters in the play serve as foils to him. Hamlet's tragedy is a particular example of a universal predicament; action is necessary, but action in a fallen world involves us in evil.


William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

To attempt to shuffle off responsibility by refusing to act, or by shuffling off this mortal coil-by 'handing god back his ticket,' as Dostoevsky puts it involves us equally in guilt.

Like other tragic heroes of Shakespeare, he is also endowed with exceptional qualities like royal birth, graceful and charming personality and popularity among his own countrymen. He is essentially a scholar and a thinker, and his noble brain conceives the finest thoughts. He has a high intellectual quality. He is religious-minded and is very sensitive. In spite of possessing all these higher qualities which rank him above the other characters, but the flaw in his character named as 'tragic flaw' by A.C. Bradley, leads to his downfall and makes him a tragic hero.

The tragic flaw in the character of Hamlet is that he thinks too much and feels too much. He is often disturbed by his own nature of 'self-analysis.' He is forever looking into himself, delving into his own nature to seek an explanation for every action, and giving vent to his own thoughts in soliloquies. Coleridge says that his enormous intellectual activity prevents instant action and the result is delay and irresolution. Bradley gives his own explanation for his delay and irresolution. According to the learned critic, he suffers from melancholia, a pathological state only a step removed from insanity. His thoughts are diseased thoughts. What is required of Hamlet is prompt action, whereas he broods over the moral idealism which leads to his delay in action. When he gets an opportunity to kill Claudius, he puts aside the thought because he cannot strike an enemy while he is at prayer. Again he allows himself to be taken to England, although he knows well that the plan is part and parcel of Claudius's evil intent. Hamlet himself is fully aware of his own irresolution.

There are several causes account for Hamlet's inaction. By nature he is prone to think rather than to act. He is a man of morals and his moral idealism receives a shock when his mother remarries Claudius after his father's death. Chance too plays an important part in shaping his character. Chance places him in such a position in which he is incapable of doing anything. He feels sad at his position and says ''The time is out of joint. 0 cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right.''

He becomes inconsistent and is no longer a person who reaches a conclusion only by reasoning. He cannot quite accept the role that nature has prescribed for him-that of a revenger-and thus he is unable to act quickly.

Like other tragic heroes Hamlet too has to face conflict, both internal and external. The internal conflict is between his moral scruples and the act of revenge, which he is called upon to perform. Love of his father, the dishonor of his mother, and the villainy of his uncle prompt him to take revenge while his nobility, his moral idealism, his principles and his religion revolt against such a brutal act. The result is that, torn within himself, he suffers mental torture.

The external conflict is with Claudius-'the mighty opposer'-and the murderer of Hamlet's father. To Hamlet, Claudius is a smiling, damned villain, a seducer and a usurper of his rights to Denmark's throne; he is one against whom he has to take revenge. The other external conflicts are with Laertes, his friend and the brother of his beloved Ophelia, with Guildenstern and Rosencrantz, his former school fellows and friends but present enemies. Indeed Hamlet succeeds in overcoming his foes, but only at a dreadful cost.

Character is not the only factor that is responsible for the tragedy of Hamlet. External circumstances are also responsible for making Hamlet tragic hero. Shakespeare creates a heeling that there is a mysterious power in this universe, which is responsible for every small -happening. The appearance of the Ghost and its revelation is a manifestation of Fate. Many of the things that take place in Hamlet's life are by chance, but none of these are improbable. He kills Polonius by chance. The ship in which he travels is attacked by pirates, and his return to Denmark is nothing but chance. Gertrude drinks the poisoned wine, by accident, and dies. So fate in the shape of chance shapes the future of all characters including Hamlet. But the sense of fate is never so overwhelming as to cast character in shade; after all, it is Hamlet himself who is responsible for his tragedy.

Hamlet Study Center

Procrastination in Avenging the Murder of Father in Hamlet

Analysis Of Prince Hamlet's Character In William Shakespeare's Play

Analysis of Hamlet in William Shakespeare's Play

Shakespeare's Hamlet is at the outset a typical revenge play. However,
it is possible to see Prince Hamlet as a more complex character as he
can be seen as various combinations of a weak revenger, a tragic hero
and a political misfit. In order to fully understand the world in
which Hamlet finds himself, it is necessary to examine all three of
these roles and either dismiss them or justify Hamlet's behavior as a
revenger.

As a tragic hero, Hamlet displays many typical qualities of a
traditional hero in a Elizabethan revenge tragedy.

Hamlet is the Prince of Denmark and therefore belongs to a social
elite. Hamlet can be described as being too noble to take revenge. As
a very well educated scholar of Wittenberg University in Sweden he has
to think extensively before taking revenge. He feels the need to
question revenge yet he is reluctant to do so rashly without
considerable thought "thus conscience does make cowards of us all". We
see that this happens in the first few moments of the play when Hamlet
doubts the ghost is his father and he needs further prompting and
reassurance throughout the play "So art thou to revenge, when thou
shalt hear". Hamlet constantly rationalises and stops himself from
acting with any degree of passion. This could be seen either as a
weakness or as a personal strength. Hamlet can and is frequently
described, as a man with a tragic flaw, this being that his tendency
to contemplate his actions is not a positive quality but that instead
this brings about his downfall. Hamlet appears to many critics to be
too much of an intellectual to play the role as a typical revenger "O
what a rogue and peasant slave am I! Is it not monstrous that this
player here, but in a fiction, in a dream of passion". Hamlet also
seems to be a victim of bad luck. The accidental killing of Polonius
in this mother's bedroom as well as the interception of Hamlet's ship
by pirates and his subsequent return to Denmark are two such examples.
However this bad luck could also be described as the tragedy of fate
depending on ones personal view.

Shakespeare's own view was that fate existed and that the decisions
that Hamlet makes during the play make little difference to the final
outcome. It seems that as Hamlet is unable to kill Claudius while he
has the chance. Early in the play his fate must be that he dies as a
consequence. Hamlet himself becomes fatalistic, on his return from
exile. "-Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander returneth to
dust the dust is earth". He has either lost heart totally or he has
realised that, in order to take any sort of revenge on his uncle, he
might actually have to die himself. Strangely in keeping with this his
giving up on life his highly self critical and analytical soliloquies
stop during...

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