How can we explain Hamlet's heroic deeds as a cause of his tragic downfall?

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lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hamlet explains why he must kill King Claudius:

Doesn’t it, do you think, become my responsibility to kill
He that has killed my king, and whored my mother,
Pushed himself in between the election and my hope to be King, tried to kill me,
And with such knowledge, isn’t it perfect duty
To kill him with this arm? and isn’t it to be damned
To let this canker [King Claudius] of our nature do
Further evil?

No doubt, Hamlet has good reason to kill King Claudius and to prove his heroic deeds to the people. Sadly, Hamlet, the main character, has a tragic downfall due to his heroic deeds. Young Hamlet faces his death while heroically trying to avenge his father's death. Hamlet dies while trying to do the right thing. He tried to avenge not only his father's death but also his mother's death. While King Claudius is to blame for the deaths of Hamlet's parents, Hamlet does get his revenge. Hamlet kills King Claudius. The tragedy is that Hamlet who has been poisoned by Laertes sword is dying as he punishes King Claudius by death:

O, I’m dying, Horatio,
The potent poison quite conquers my soul.
I cannot live to hear the news from England,
But I do predict that the throne belongs
To Fortinbras. He has my dying vote,
Tell him so, with the news, more and less,
Which has been asked for. The rest is silence.

Even in death, Hamlet behaves as a respectful hero. He gives his vote to have Fortinbras take over his father's kingdom. Hamlet is a tragic hero. His life ends in a tragic scene. Hamlet too was a victim of King Claudius' murderous deeds. Nevertheless, Hamlet dies a hero's death, albeit a tragic one.

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