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What is Hamlet's character flaw?What is Hamlet's character flaw? Including examples and...

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chelseamp | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 7, 2011 at 7:01 AM via web

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What is Hamlet's character flaw?

What is Hamlet's character flaw? Including examples and quotes from the play.

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dtarver1003 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Honors

Posted June 8, 2011 at 5:14 AM (Answer #3)

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What is Hamlet's character flaw?

What is Hamlet's character flaw? Including examples and quotes from the play.

A tragic hero has the potential for greatness but is doomed to fail. He is trapped in a situation where he cannot win. He makes some sort of tragic flaw, and this causes his fall from greatness. Even though he is a fallen hero, he still wins a moral victory, and his spirit lives on.  In my opinion, Hamlet's tragic flaw would be his inability to balance reason and passion (rational vs. irrational).  His rational side makes him overthink his plans, his irrational side leads him to commit unnecessary crimes (murdering Polonius), and this flaw ultimately leads to his downfall. Hamlet's famous soliloquy (Hamlet, act III, scene 1) shows his depth and ability in thinking, and shows Shakespeare's ability to manipulate language. Throughout the play, Hamlet stops to think before acting on anything. The more he thinks, the less he does. Therefore, thinking led him to doubt, which led to inaction. "Thus conscience does make cowards of us all." Hamlet's "tragic flaw" is his inability to act on impulse. Stopping to think before acting cost Hamlet numerous opportunities to get revenge. He ironically passed up his most obvious opportunity when Claudius was praying in the church. He wanted to wait until Claudius was doing something that had "no relish of salvation in 't."  It is better not to put off till tomorrow what you can do today. Many consequences can arise when one procrastinates.

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dtarver1003 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Honors

Posted June 8, 2011 at 5:15 AM (Answer #4)

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What is Hamlet's character flaw?

What is Hamlet's character flaw? Including examples and quotes from the play.

An example of this is found in Shakespeare's Hamlet through the depiction of the central character. Although Hamlet is characterized as daring, brave, loyal, and intelligent, he is overwhelmed by his own conscience. The tragic hero is defined as one whose downfall is brought about due to their tragic flaw. Hamlet's inability to act on his father's murder, his mother's marriage, and his uncle assuming of the thrown are all evidence of his tragic flaw of procrastination. 'Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder'; demands the ghost in (Act I, Scene 5, line 23). The fact that his own uncle could kill his father leaves Hamlet enraged and confused. Although Hamlet knows something is wrong in Denmark, he begins to question everything that the ghost has told him. In this scenario that calls for quick decisive behavior, Hamlet is too busy thinking. An example of this is seen in Act III, when Hamlet has his knife over the head of Claudius, prepared to murder him, and talks himself out of it.

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dtarver1003 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Honors

Posted June 8, 2011 at 5:15 AM (Answer #5)

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What is Hamlet's character flaw?

What is Hamlet's character flaw? Including examples and quotes from the play.

Instead, Hamlet writes a play in which the actors play out the same story the ghost tells Hamlet. His plan is to study Claudius's reaction to the play to determine his guilt. Even after Hamlet decides his uncle is guilty, Hamlet fails to take immediate action. This would have been a prime opportunity to confront Claudius, but Hamlet seems more interested in patting himself on the back than seeking revenge.  In conclusion, Hamlet's tragic flaw is neither external difficulties nor his motivation by ambition. Because of his inconsistent approach to problem solving, Hamlet is responsible for his own downfall.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 7, 2011 at 8:08 AM (Answer #2)

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Hamlet's character flaw, in my opinion, is his lack of decisiveness.  You can see this in how long it takes him to decide what to do about the fact that his uncle has killed his father.  He doesn't act like Fortinbras and others who are much more able to act on their feelings.

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rienzi | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted June 9, 2011 at 12:22 AM (Answer #6)

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One of the big myths in Hamlet is this notion that Hamlet suffers from some sort of tragic flaw. There is is no tragic flaw. If there was 400 years of analysis and interpretation would have revealed it. It just isn't there. The tragic flaw meme descends from misinterpretation of Aristotle's Poetics. In the Poetics the concept of the tragic flaw or hamartia is a plot device not a character trait. For Aristotle plot was of prime importance. It occupies most of the chapters on tragedy including chapter 13 where hamartia is referenced.

The idea of tragedy having a component of character is a more modern view such as provided by A.C. Bradley in his book Shakespearean Tragedy. Bradley gave us a character based tragic flaw that he called a tragic virtue. But, back to Hamlet. Hamlet is a universal character and as such he is subject to the human qualities and frailties of us all. To claim that Hamlet's flaw is that he thinks too much (or some variant)is not only absurd, it gives support to the misconception that revenge is a just pursuit. The play is clear that revenge is not a worthy endeavor.

Neither is it a flaw that Hamlet procrastinates. As I have posted before a number of the characters delay, again, as do we all. It's human nature for us to act rashly or to think too much or to procrastinate. Hamlet is a character drawn from life not some Aristotilian framework.

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ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted June 9, 2011 at 12:33 AM (Answer #7)

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We cannot judge Hamlet on the basis of modern conventionality. In today's world, it would seem suspicious that a woman married so soon after her husbands death. This would not have been unusual in Hamlet's time. Hamlet struggles with irrational thoughts and behaviors, so he is enraged at the marriage of his mother and Claudius, even before the appearance of King Hamlet. Hamlet, however, is the only one who imagines a great and passionate affair between Gertrude and Claudius. In fact, Claudius puts Gertrude third on his list of importance: 1)My country, my crown, my queen.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 11, 2011 at 1:16 AM (Answer #8)

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I think above all, although clearly the situation was obviously suspicious and Hamlet should have been asking questions, we see Hamlet's biggest character failure is the way he is obsessed by existential questions regarding whether it is worth living, whether he should commit suicide, can he believe the ghost, should he kill his uncle now etc etc etc. There are so many questions that he debates at great length, and he promises to be resolved to action, yet fails to do so. He is a character who is more in love with philosophical internal debates than just getting on with the job.

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 24, 2011 at 12:36 AM (Answer #9)

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Hamlet's biggest flaw is indecisiveness. He is not a take action kind of guy. While it's important not to act too hastily, things often get worse while you wait around to do something about a problem. This is definitely true in the play. Hamlet was given information by his father's ghost, information of a dire and serious nature, not just for Hamlet personally but for the kingdom. It was his responsibility to investigate and do something! Perhaps the ghost should have chosen someone else to tell.

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