What characters in "Hamlet" helped lead to Hamlet's downfall? How?I am having trouble writing an essay. I have to choose 3 characters and explain how they lead to hamlets tragic downfall. I was...

What characters in "Hamlet" helped lead to Hamlet's downfall? How?

I am having trouble writing an essay. I have to choose 3 characters and explain how they lead to hamlets tragic downfall. I was going to choose Claudius, Polonius, and either Gertrude or Ophelia. Please help

Asked on by lyssa37

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mstultz72's profile pic

mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Hamlet is the hero in the main plot (against Claudius) and all of the subplots (against Polonius, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Laertes, etc...), but he is the villain in the subplot against Ophelia.  She is an innocent victim caught in the crossfire, so I would not choose her.

You must choose Claudius.  He sets off the entire tragedy by committing the two worst crimes imaginable: regicide and fratricide.  He also commits adultery and incest.  He tries to have Hamlet killed, and he sacrifices all of his pawns (the entire Polonius family) as he wages all-out war to protect the crown.

Polonius is rather innocent in the tragedy.  Yes, he's a gasbag, but he is not malicious against the prince.  The only way he contributes to the tragedy is by dying accidently by Hamlet's hand.  His death causes Laertes to avenge him.  Laertes would be a better choice here.

Gertrude is a major problem in the play for Hamlet.  She leads to much of his psychological confusion.  He was most angry at her before the Ghost, and when the Ghost tells Hamlet to leaver her to heaven, Hamlet represses his anger toward her.  Gertrude I don't think was complicit in the murder of her husband, but I do think she was blind to her son's suffering, and her "o'er hasty marriage" upset Hamlet more than even the murder.

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epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

If you have to choose three characters, I would choose Claudius, the ghost, and Laertes. It is obvious that Claudius is responsible for killing Hamlet's father and sets part of the play into motion with the regicide. Also, thew ghost is the character that tells hamlet that Hamlet has to avenge his father's death, and initially moves the plot along. Finally, Laertes is the one who poisons Hamlet with the rapier, though it is switched later, and this is the final thrust of the play as it is Hamlet's final "nail in the coffin"--so to speak. These three characters, not only move the play along, move the plot along, put Hamlet onto the track of his revenge, but also are the end game to his plan. 

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