Hamlet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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Why Is Hamlet A Tragedy

Why is Hamlet called a great tragedy?

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Julianne Hansen, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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A Shakespearean tragedy begins with a tragic hero. In Hamlet, the title character himself is this hero of sorts. His fatal flaw is up for debate, but certainly a strong contender is his inability to act quickly. He ponders killing Claudius to avenge the death of his father for scene after scene, but he can never seem to find just the right moment or just enough courage to carry through. He does, sadly, accidentally kill Polonius in error, which is a tragedy in itself.

Shakespearean tragedies also center around the classic good versus evil battle. Hamlet represents the forces of (fairly) good intentions, seeking to do as the ghost of his father asks. (In fact, there is a good versus evil battle that rages within Hamlet regarding what he should do.) Claudius represents evil, having killed his brother and quickly taken Gertrude, his own former sister-in-law, as his bride. His ambition is his downfall, and eventually he and Hamlet both die, leaving (it seems) Fortinbras to become king.

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"Hamlet" is a great tragedy because nothing seems to be positive in the story.  Hamlet is well written and is a conflicting character.  He changes moods often, speaks to himself in different manners indicative of his anger, depression, and moods.  The story involves murder and betrayal. The story begins with the murder of his father and his father’s ghost calling out for revenge.  Though Hamlet may be a hero to some, he has no friends.  Hamlet does not have a good relationship with women.  Hamlet rejects Ophelia and after her father's death, Ophelia takes her own life.  The story is one of revenge and deep thought and emotion.  Revenge only leads to many deaths of the father's and sons in the book.  There is no one in the story who actually finds any happiness.  Therefore, "Hamlet" is a tragedy.