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Discuss how Hamlet by Shakespeare is a tragedy.

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riya1989 | Student, Undergraduate | Honors

Posted July 27, 2011 at 2:50 PM via web

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Discuss how Hamlet by Shakespeare is a tragedy.

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lsumner | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted July 28, 2011 at 3:42 AM (Answer #1)

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In Hamlet, the young character Hamlet struggles with a decision on if and when and how to avenge his father's death. Likewise, Hamlet struggles with his mother's marriage to his Uncle Claudius. Hamlet cannot understand how his mother could marry so soon, less than two months, after his father's death. Clearly, Hamlet is a character with whom the audience is able to sympathize, thus making Hamlet a tragedy.

Likewise, as in a great tragedy, Hamlet is himself a flawed yet admirable protagonist:

The protagonist must be an admirable but flawed character, with the audience able to understand and sympathize with the character. Certainly, all of Shakespeare's tragic protagonists are capable of both good and evil.

Truly, Hamlet is one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies:

The tragedy is a milestone in Shakespeare's dramatic development; the playwright achieved artistic maturity in this work through his brilliant depiction of the hero’s struggle with two opposing forces: moral integrity and the need to avenge his father’s murder.

Indeed, Hamlet does question himself on whether or not he should kill his Uncle Claudius or should he just suffer in silence, knowing his father was murdered by his Uncle Claudius. In his most memorable soliloquy, he questions whether it is to be or not to be:

To be, or not to be, that is the question.
Is it nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to fight against a sea of troubles,
And end them by fighting?

Truly, Hamlet is a tragedy in that young Hamlet is filled with such suffering until he questions whether it is more noble to suffer in the mind or retaliate. Should he murder his Uncle Claudius is a question that plagues him. Young Hamlet is indecisive and this creates bouts of depression for the young prince, making the tragedy even more memorable:

Hamlet is also a melancholy figure, given to depression, who is victimized by a cruel fate and compelled to undertake a revenge mission for which he is not prepared. Not only are Hamlet's musings about life extensive, they are uniformly dark. Seen in this light, Hamlet does not act because he lacks the emotional fortitude to do so, depression and courage being difficult to reconcile.

In the end, Shakespeare's Hamlet is a great tragedy because too many people die. Polonius is killed by Hamlet. Ophelia drowns herself. Laertes strikes Hamlet with his poisonous sword. Gertrude, Hamlet's mother, drinks the poisoned drink meant for Hamlet, and she dies. Hamlet strikes Laertes with the poisonous sword and he dies. Hamlet forces Claudius to drink the poisoned drink and then stabs Claudius. Finally, Hamlet dies. NO doubt, Hamlet is one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies:

Hamlet is without question the most famous play in the English language.

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted July 28, 2011 at 3:46 AM (Answer #2)

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This topic has been dealt with many times here on eNotes.  Here is a comprehensive link for you:  http://www.enotes.com/hamlet/q-and-a/tags/Tragedy

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nandini289 | Student, Undergraduate | Valedictorian

Posted August 2, 2011 at 3:14 AM (Answer #3)

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A Shakespearean tragedy is a house of many mansion. It is built up of five stories, the exposition, the rising action, the climax, the falling action and the catastrophe. It has a hero who rises from scene to scene on the waves of passion and imagination till at last, having reached the heights of tragedy, he disappears through death and lives immortally in the hearts of the audience.

Traits and Humours of Tragedy

Faith /Destiny in Tragedy

Conflict of Good and involving Tragic Waste

These are the main headings which highlights in the Shakespearean tragedy.As Character, said to be destiny, in Shakespearean tragedy. That is the hero's character determines his fate and destiny. As one of the characters puts it

" Our deeds are ours, but not their ends "

Also the scene of fate is present in the from of visits from the supernatural world. The Ghost in Shakespearean tragedies is a symbol of such divine manifestations. As Hamlet puts it to his friend Horatio, the sceptic,

"There is a divinity that shapes our ends,

Rough hew them, how you will."

Thus Fate and Free Will , Freedom and Necessity are both present in a Shakespearean tragedy.

Again, the Shakespearean tragedy arise out of the conflict of good and evil. It is a conflict which involves a terrible waste of good in the destruction of evil.Hamlet, sweet prince of Denmark, Ophelia, flower like and fragile, Polonius, harmless old bore, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, young school fellows of Prince Hamlet - all these are mercilessly killed in the mighty rush of tragic action whose source is the fatal flaw in the hero's character, though it is fed by many contributory streams of chance and change and circumstance.The molehill of Hamlet's fatal delay is turned into a mountain of devastating woes and sufferings.

Final Impression of Tragedy

The final impression left by witnessing a Shakespearean tragedy is not an unmixed terror and tragic waste. It is relieved by a since of exaltation and admiration for the nobility of character which fights while it falls, and which redeems human nature by its flights of imagination, will and emotion.We are reminded by Hamlet's soliloquy, is a piece of work, infinitely wonderful, pitiful, grand and sublime. It is the poetry Shakespeare which relieves the tension of the tragic feelings, and which sings the sweetest songs out of the saddest thoughts.The memories of the hero and his associates, who reassure us out of our shaken and shocked feeling, into a joyful acceptance of life which with all its veils of tears is yet potentially rich in possibilities that become actualities in a Hamlet, and his other tragedies.It feels that it is better to have loved and lost them than never to have had the opportunity of loving them, which the Shakespearean tragedy offers.

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