I need help writing an essay about how the play Hamlet is a tragedy.

Expert Answers info

Lynn Ramsson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2017

write759 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

One way to approach the writing of your essay about Shakespeare's Hamlet involves establishing the elements of tragedy that are identifiable in the play. Here are two of the elements of tragedy as established by Aristotle to get you started.

Hamartia: This Greek term means "tragic flaw," or the quality in a tragedy's protagonist that causes his or her downfall. Hamlet's tragic flaw could be his emotional lability, or even his indecisiveness. When arguing this section of your essay, be sure to support your ideas with quotes from the play that prove Hamlet's possession of the tragic flaw on which you decide to focus.

Anagnorisis: This Greek term means "moment of truth," or the moment at which the protagonist in a tragedy comes to an important realization. When in the play do you feel Hamlet arrives at a meaningful discovery? Again, back up your ideas with textual evidence.

Once you have decided on your quotes, be sure to focus your analysis of the tragic elements of Shakespeare's Hamlet as proof of the play's status as a tragedy. Good luck!

check Approved by eNotes Editorial
jmsailer eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2012

write8 answers

starTop subject is Literature

In the Poetics Aristotle describes the ideal tragedy as having a cathartic effect based on fear and pity. An interesting essay would illustrate how these emotions of fear and pity are evoked in the audience through one or more of the characters, most notably Hamlet, and whether their effect is to produce a true catharsis or rather despair. Also, if you use the Aristotelian definition of tragedy, consider whether this play measures up to his standards (e.g. if despair is evoked, can this play be a true Aristotelian tragedy?).


Another essay topic would be what exactly the tragedy of Hamlet was. Most people present as the keynote of the tragedy the appearance of growing insanity in Hamlet which results in his death and the death of many others. You could argue, however, that although this was indeed tragic, it was not merely Hamlet's decline which defined the play as a tragedy; rather, the tragedy was the decline in the social order--the decline in trust, confidence, truth, etc., which perhaps caused Hamlet's deterioration and which at the same time unfolds as he deteriorates.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Unlock This Answer Now