Hamlet Tragedy Essay Research Paper William Shakespeare

Hamlet Tragedy Essay, Research Paper

William Shakespeare, the greatest playwright of the English language, wrote a

total of 37 plays in his lifetime, all of which can be categorized under

tragedy, comedy, or history. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Shakespeare?s most popular

and greatest tragedy, displays his genius as a playwright, as literary critics

and academic commentators have found an unusual number of themes and literary

techniques present in Hamlet. Hamlet concerns the murder of the king of Denmark

and the murdered king?s son?s quest for revenge. Its main character, Hamlet,

possesses a tragic flaw which obstructs his desire for revenge and ultimately

brings about his death. This tragic flaw makes him a tragic hero, a character

who is destroyed because of a major weakness, as his death at the end could

possibly have been avoided were it not for his tragic flaw. Hamlet?s flaw of

irresolution, the uncertainty on how to act or proceed, is shown when Hamlet

sees a play and the passion the actors had, after Hamlet?s third soliloquy, in

Hamlet?s fourth soliloquy, and in Hamlet?s indecisive pursuit in avenging

his father?s death. First, Hamlet?s flaw of irresolution is shown when he

sees a play and the passion one particular actor had. A group of players has

arrived and Hamlet arranges a personal viewing of The Murder of Gonzago with a

small portion of his own lines inserted. Hamlet then observes one portion of the

play in which one of the players put on a great display of emotion. Hamlet,

besieged by guilt and self-contempt, remarks in his second soliloquy of Hamlet

of the emotion this player showed despite the fact that the player had nothing

to be emotional about. Hamlet observed that he himself had all the reason in the

world to react with great emotion and sorrow, yet he failed to show any that

could compare with the act of the player. Hamlet calls himself a "rogue and

peasant slave" and a "dull and muddy-mettled rascal" who, like a

"John-a-dreams", can take no action. Hamlet continues his fiery speech

by degrading himself and resoluting to take some sort of action to revenge his

father?s death. Next, Hamlet?s flaw of irresolution is shown after his third

soliloquy, the famed "To be or not to be?" lines. Hamlet directly

identifies his own tragic flaw, remarking of his own inability to act. Hamlet, 2

unsure whether or not the his uncle Claudius was responsible for his father?s

murder, schemes to have The Murder of Gonzago presented to the royal court, with

a few minor changes, so its contents would closely resemble the circumstances

behind the murder. Reflecting on his own guilt, he talks of death, referring to

it as the undiscovered country, and then continues by riddling his own feelings.

He declares "conscience does make cowards of us all" and that the

natural ruddy complexion of one intent, or resolute, on an action is "sicklied"

over with the "pale cast of thought". This makes an individual second

guess his own actions and often times take no action at all, due to his own

irresolution. These statements not only applied to what had occurred up to that

point but also foreshadowed what was to occurr. Next, Hamlet?s flaw of

irresolution is shown during his fourth soliloquy. Fortinbras, the Prince of

Norway, and his army have passed by Hamlet and his escorts. Hamlet sees the

action Fortinbras was taking in fighting and then examines Fortinbras?s

efforts and bravery in an attempt to rekindle his own desire for revenge against

Claudius for his father?s death. Hamlet remarks how everything around him

attempts to "spur my dull revenge", yet he takes no action. He notices

how he thinks "too precisely on an event" and that he has "cause,

and will, and strength, and means" to get revenge and how the evidence

pointing to Claudius as his father?s killer is as evident as earth itself.

Hamlet finally decides "my thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!"

He has finally decided he must take action against Claudius in some form or

fashion. Last, Hamlet?s indecisive pursuit in avenging his father?s death is

shown as evidence of his tragic flaw. Hamlet encounters numerous opportunities

to kill Claudius, yet he always comes up with some excuse preventing action.

After first hearing of the crime from his father?s ghost, Hamlet immediately

sets out to take action. Hamlet then began to think that perhaps his father?s

ghost was conjured by the devil in an attempt to make Hamlet become irrational

and kill Claudius, who might happen to be innocent, which would forever damn his

soul. Hamlet then schemes to determine Claudius?s guilt through the play.

Claudius views the play and becomes very uncomfortable with the situation to the

point of stopping the play and leaving. This confirms Claudius?s guilt to

Hamlet, and Hamlet again sets out to avenge his father?s death. Hamlet then

catches Claudius in prayer, a rare time he will find Claudius alone. Hamlet,

again, begins to think how Claudius will have had his sins forgiven and that he

wants to damn Claudius?s soul. Hamlet 3 resolves to wait and kill Claudius at

another time. Claudius, through all of this, realizes Hamlet knows of his crime

and plots to have Hamlet killed by first sending him to England and then having

him murdered. Hamlet escapes this ploy and Claudius plots again to have Hamlet

killed in a fencing match. At the fencing match, Hamlet is wounded by a poisoned

strike with the foil. Hamlet, in a dying act, kills Claudius by making him drink

poison. Hamlet?s flaw of irresolution essentially destroyed him, as his

failure to act in previous situations led to his own death. Hamlet?s

irresolution is obvious in his actions after viewing the emotion of the actors,

after his third soliloquy, in his fourth soliloquy, and in his indecisive

pursuit of revenge for his father?s death. Hamlet was able to avenge his

father?s death, but his own death due to his irresolution labels him as a

tragic hero. The Tragedy of Hamlet masterfully shows how the inability to act,

however noble the intentions, can be detrimental to character.


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