The hubris of Hamlet vs. the hubris of MacbethHow does hubris pertain to Hamlet? Does he even have it? and how does Macbeth's hubris contribute to his ultimate downfall?

Expert Answers
litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Of the two, I would consider Macbeth to be having hubris.  Hamlet did have some self-appreciation, but he was in a position where he had to do something.  In Hamlet’s case, his uncle was acting maliciously and with hubris. Hamlet was just trying to protect the kingdom and do what was right.  Macbeth, on the other hand, obviously thought very highly of himself in the first place or the witches would not have been able to convince him so easily.  He acted in his own best interests.

rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't view Hamlet as having hubris. He is given to self-doubt throughout the play, indeed it is one of his defining characteristics. Hubris would be a strong word for Macbeth too, I read him as being simply blinded by ambition, which causes him to take actions which lead to his downfall. By the end of the play, he is overconfident due to the witches' prediction that no man of woman born can kill him, but I don't think he's really arrived at that point through hubris.

just-s | Student

does hamlet have hubris....because i know Macbeth has but i'm not sure if hamlet has!!

quentin1 | Student

Well...the question of hubris in Hamlet's case is a tricky one. I agree that MacBeth is definitely guilty of hubris. I also agree with everyone else that Hamlet displays a lot of self-doubt and skepticism, perhaps too much for a character guilty of hubris. HOWEVER--Jonathan Bate wrote a book called Ovid and Shakespeare (I think that's the title) in which he shows that Shakespeare might have been comparing Hamlet to Phaeton from Book II of the Metamorphoses. Hamlet's comments about "being too much in the son/sun" might be an allusion to this story on Shakespeare's part. Hamlet is confident that his plan to feign madness will help him avenge his father's death, but he is overconfident in his ability to carry it through and disaster ensues--much in the same way Phaeton thought he was ready to lead his father's--Apollo's--sun chariot across the heavens and went down in flames. Good question!

missplum | Student

I don't think hubris pertains to Hamlet. More like bad judgment. He's placed between a rock and a hard spot: his father's demand for revenge, and the Christian imperative against it. He makes a mess of things trying to resolve it.

MacBeth might have a touch of overweening pride. He's a gutsy warrior who kills enemies in brutal hand-to-hand combat. (I get the impression he's something like an over-enthusiastic cop who steps over the law sometimes.) When he employs his talents for treason at the urging of his wife and the witches, his world starts to fall apart and he has to keep murdering just to stay in place. His last thread of hope is some mysterious "charm," and when that is snipped he does what he's always done: he fights, and goes down fighting. Nothing becomes his life like the leaving of it.

Read the study guide:

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question