Is Hamlet a hero?

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ask996 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Hamlet did not intend to kill Polonius. If he thought at all in his heightened state of rage and fear, he thought it was Claudius behind the curtain; hence he says, “Sir, I mistook you for your better.”

Hamlet, however, cannot simply be considered a hero because of his despair. What we need to look at is his indecision and his failure to find a way to act either in accord with his father's Ghost's demands for a revenge killing or with his Protestant beliefs that forbid revenge killing.

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Of course Hamlet is a hero.  A tragic hero, anyway.  He's basically good: a good son trying to avenge his father (even when his religious beliefs forbid revenge) and to woo an innocent virgin.  However, he, of course, has a tragic flaw the nature of which many contest.  My opinion is that his tragic flaw is inaction.  Quite a mild flaw, I would say, as compared to someone like Macbeth.  Doesn't "vaulted ambition" sound worse to you?

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pippin1313 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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It is possible to make a case against Hamlet being a hero. He acts impulsively and kills people, then bemoans his actions in soliloquies of self-doubt. Admittedly, Polonius was meddling, but one should check curtains before stabbing them willy-nilly.

Hamlet values honesty and loyalty, yet is totally dishonest, sly and sneaky. He has no loyalty for Ophelia and is so cruel to her that, ultimately, she dies by her own confused actions.

Hamlet does have some incredibly heroic qualities, but a little dissension always helps a discussion, I think.

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amy-lepore eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Hamlet is a hero. He is also crippled by the welter of emotions that bombard him after finding out that his father is dead and his mother is married to his uncle.  Upon returning home from university at Wittenberg, he is confronted with the news, delivered by a supernatural form of his father's ghost, that Uncle Claudius is his father's murderer.  This comes on top of Claudius's theft of his birthright, the royal monarchy, passed down by direct bloodline; war with Fortinbras; grieving that death brings to us all. 

In the end, Hamlet did what he said he would do: He found the truth and crushed Claudius's hopes of a kingly life. He then, since his life was the price of vengeance, honorably passed on the crown to Fortinbras with the help of Horatio, his steadfast friend.

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gabirangel | Student

I'm writting for my uni about Hamlet and it was helpful to read people's thoughts about it :) However, i think the biggest problem lies on the fact of our concept of hero. I don't think that due to the fact that Hamlet was unfaithful to Ophelia he is not loyal. He is only priorizing his father and what he needed to do to complete the task. Being able to be rational and not let his emotions as love interrupt him, maybe it makes him a hero. Just being the centre of the play probably would make Hamlet a hero. The character is a tipical tragic hero, but if he wasn't he was still going to be a hero.  Some people would prefer that super hero thing, but I stay with Hamlet, he's probably just ordinary but yet his bravery is just important.

i-am-urmi | Student

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. ;)

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thucydides | Student

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.

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jryan1027 | Student

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.

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