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Is Hamlet a hero?
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I like to call him a valiant soldier of the spirit fighting a desperate internal battle for the sovereignty of his soul. Throughout the play he is torn between being loyal to his father's medieval warlike values and being true to himself, the rational humanist scholar from Wittenberg.
His (and Laertes') "elder masters" have defined the "terms of honor" by which Fortinbras is a "hero" for sending twenty thousand men to their graves for his "honor." Hamlet is not that kind of hero. But " virtue cannot so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it." It's no easy thing to reject the "terms of honor" of your "elder masters."
While "Hamlet was from himself taken away," under the influence of his warlike father, he murdered Polonius. So he was a very flawed hero.
I think that is the best enotes description of Hamlet that I have read.
I believe Hamlet is a hero. Not a 2D, big muscled, idiotic hero that you see in movies with Swarzenegger or Bruce Willis. He doesn't charge around the castle killing everyone, somehow knowing exactly what to do and when to do it. If Hamlet was a 'Hero' hero, he would just fight all the guards, Kill Claudius, make a few jokes, punch Polonius, sleep with Ophelia, get an army, crush the Norweigan invasion, fight a cliff-hanger duel with Fortinbras, then be king, happy ever after. Easy. The End
But Hamlet is a 'real-life' hero. He has doubts. He has grief. He's not perfect or simple, but he tries to protect his faith in a world of high values and morality. He longs for beauty, truth and reason. He is paralysed by the adult brutality and corruption which surrounds him. In the end, his world of inner-beauty collapses under the weight of 'the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune' and he gives up and 'grows up' and lets himself be killed in the storm of fatal violence raging at Elsinor.
So he is not victorious in his medieval revenge quest, but he was heroic in his longing for truth, meaning, beauty, love, reason. He was heroic for rejecting the brutal definitions of manhood imposed on him by his society. He is heroic because he represents the troubled birth of The Renaissance, fighting for dominance over the violent, superstitious middle-ages.
Posted by frizzyperm on February 11, 2009 at 5:00 AM (Answer #3)
High School Teacher
Hamlet is a hero...I agree with both posts 1 and 2, and would add that he is also crippled by the welter of emotions that bombard him after finding out that his dad is dead and his mother married his Uncle. Upon returning home, he is faced with the news from beyond (delivered by a supernatural form of his father) that Uncle Claudius is the murderer. This is on top of the war with Fortinbras, the theft of his birthright, and the normal grieving that day-to-day life brings to us all.
In the end, he did what he said he would do...he found the truth, squashed Claudius' hopes of a posh life, and honorably passed on the crown to Fortinbras with the help of Horatio, his steadfast friend.
Posted by amy-lepore on February 11, 2009 at 8:17 AM (Answer #4)
High School Teacher
I'm going to play devil's advocate and go against the hero thing. He acts impulsively and kills people and then bemoans it in soliloquies of self doubt. Admittedly Polonius probably did deserve it because of his meddling but really, one should check curtains before stabbing them willy nilly.
He values honesty and loyalty and yet is totally dishonest, sly and sneaky. He has no loyalty for Ophelia and is so cruel to her that she kills herself. The things he hates about Claudius are faults that he displays himself at times.
And really! If your father's ghost rocks up demanding revenge do you really need three hours of proof before doing it?
I am being a little flippant because Hamlet does have some incredibly heroic qualities but a little dissention always helps a discussion, I think.
Posted by pippin1313 on February 11, 2009 at 4:56 PM (Answer #5)
I am going to have to take a similar stance to Pippin's. Hamlet is not a hero. He is a man who has been presented with a task bigger than he is. When I think of the character, I think of an average person given the assignment of a hero and buckling under the weight of it all. He hesitates just as any of us would hesitate if presented with the same task.
I honestly don't think Shakespeare intended for Hamlet to be considered a hero. On the same token, I honestly don't think he intended for any of the other characters to be viewed as true villains. They are all believable everyday people who have been placed in a complicated situation.
Posted by jryan1027 on March 1, 2009 at 11:56 AM (Answer #6)
High School Teacher
Of course he is! A tragic hero, anyway. He's basically good, . . . a good boy trying to avenge his father and woo an innocent virgin. However he, of course, has a tragic flaw that many contest, but my opinion is that his main flaw is inaction. Quite a mild flaw, I would say, as compared to someone like Macbeth. Doesn't "vaulted ambition" sound worse to you?
I've got to say, though, isn't post #5 so much more interesting?!? There's something really attractive about a "sly and sneaky" Hamlet as well. : )
Posted by ms-charleston-yawp on May 6, 2009 at 5:33 PM (Answer #7)
I dont think Hamlet is a hero, i go with all the tragic flaw stuff but essentially he showed a callous disregard for Polonius, no real qualms about killing him for all his introspection and doubts about what life is stuff. Polonius was someone's father too, thing was he wasnt Hamlet's so did not matter. Also i find it hard to get over his treatment of Ophelia; having berated her and told her to go to a nunnery he cavorts with her and makes very unbecoming sexual remarks to 'play' at being mad whilst he watches Claudius' reaction to the play. No wonder Ophelia was distraught. No sorry not heroic conduct.
Posted by thucydides on March 28, 2010 at 11:34 AM (Answer #8)
High School Teacher
First, Hamlet did not intend to kill Polonius. He thought it was Claudius behind the curtain--hence, “Sir, I mistook you for your better.” Hamlet cannot simply be considered a hero because of his angst. What we need to look at is his indecision and his failure to consider what might have been more suitable alternatives.
Posted by ask996 on June 22, 2010 at 5:55 PM (Answer #9)
I agree with the previous posts. Hamlet is so not a hero. He might have presented some noble virtues at the beginning, but that does not make him a hero. Also, I would like to point out that, although the fact of his mother's marriage with his uncle only a few days after his father's death might be devastating, he should have at least tried to be a little bit happy for the happiness of his mother. Wasn't he supposed to be 'a noble guy who values other people's happiness after his own'? And treating Ophelia that rudely just to prove that he was a nut-case does seem excessive- there are thousands of better ways to do this, as far as I am concerned. ;)
Posted by i-am-urmi on November 24, 2010 at 7:51 AM (Answer #10)
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