Which is more tragic Hamlet or King Lear?Which is more tragic Hamlet or King Lear?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have the agree with the previous posts, especially if you think of the word "tragic" in the sense of a classical tragedy. King Lear's downfall is more extreme than is Hamlet's, in part because of his age. He has had a long life to establish relationships with his daughters and others; yet he ultimately throws it all away. Hamlet is young enough that he could have made different choices and actually had a successful reign. Similarly, Lear's tragic realization--the moment when he discovers that he has brought his horrible circumstances upon himself--is always difficult to read or to watch live because Shakespeare fills the scene with hopelessness.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Well, I disagree with #2, because just as Lear has his daughters betraying him, so Hamlet has his lover and his friends and mother betraying him. However, overall, I do believe that Lear is the more tragic play. There is a complete sense of bleakness surrounding what happens in the play that dwarfs the existential angst of Hamlet as he prevaricates about revenging his father. One of the most tragic scenes in literature ever is when the mad Lear cradles his dead daughter in his arms as he has to comprehend his own failures.

vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree that Lear is the more tragic of the two, partly because it raises very fundamental, and very dark, questions about the very nature of the universe -- about whether there is indeed divine justice and divine mercy. The suffering of Gloucester, especially his blinding, has no real parallel in Hamlet; his suffering helps make the play doubly tragic.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What a great discussion. I would have to say that Lear is the more tragic. I am a mother and I could not imagine my daughter turning against me--let alone holding her dead body knowing that I was, ultimately, responsible for for her death. I would say that the answers that are going to be received will be based upon how each individual reader relates to the play.

lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would agree that Lear is more tragic because he brought his troubles down upon himself, whereas Hamlet is thrust into all of his troubles based on the actions of others. At the end of it all, Lear and Lear alone is responsible -- and that is a tragic state of affairs that still offers excellent catharsis for the audience.

rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think Lear as well. Cordelia suffers for her honesty, and really for a more authentic form of love. Lear destroys himself through his own vanity and, one must say, his stupidity. While I think Hamlet is the better play (by a nose), I read King Lear as more bleak, and ultimately more tragic than any of Shakespeare's works.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

King Lear.  Lear actually has his daughters turn on him, which is much more tragic than what has happened to Hamlet.  In addition, Lear has to deal with the knowledge that he was stupid enough to pick the wrong daughters and to reject the one who really loved him.  That would be very hard to deal with.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Since everyone else has chosen Lear, I feel the need to defend Hamlet. I might point out that Hamlet is young, and suffers from inner turmoil. Such potential, so close to being wasted. There's also the fact that the tragedy is within the family, and the closeness of the betrayal of young Hamlet is tragic.
arjun | Student

In my idea,Hamlet is more tragic than king Lear. Hamlet loses his father as murdered by some venomous;he lost his mother'slove because she married without delay to Claudius and this led him to tense and mental conflict.In it,he lost his love,image,reputation and got him delayed that became the cause of tragedy.In entire play, he is in great conflict and inner conflictas well as external conflict.