It is part of daily living to experience tragedy; whether as an individual or to those around you; tragedy is a part of life. For some, tragedy happens for no apparent reason; one may be in the wrong place at the wrong time. For others, tragedy is the consequence of choices an individual makes. Tragedy is a common genre of writing. It involves a drastic change in fortune that is caused by a horrible mistake by a character. The character has the desire to change the present situation. A tragic hero, therefore, is the character who experiences a conflict and suffers catastrophically as a result of his choices and dies.
One of the essential elements of a tragic hero is the tragic flaw – a set of inherent personality traits that inevitably dooms the character to destruction. Hamlet is an example of Shakespeare’s tragic hero. His tragic flaws are his indecisive nature, his inability to act, and his misogyny, mistrusting of women, all of which lead to his demise. Hamlet’s indecisive nature makes him delay his plan for revenge, which give others opportunities to prepare and eventually strike back on him. He thinks, rather than taking action.
When Hamlet meets the ghost of his dead father King Hamlet, the ghost reveals to Hamlet that his Uncle Claudius is “The serpent that did sting thy father’s life, now wears his crown”, but Hamlet is reluctant to believe it. Even though Hamlet promises that he will revenge for his father “O cursed spite/ that ever I was born to set it right”. Yet, Hamlet does not take action after the meeting with ghost; instead, he plans a play “The Mouse Trap,” in order to expose Claudius. Hamlet wants to prove the credibility of the story that the ghost has told him. After the play is performed, Hamlet is certain of the fact that his father was murdered.
But he is still unsure about his decision to kill Claudius, as shown in the quotation “To be, or not to be”. When Hamlet hesitates to make his decision, it gives Claudius opportunities to plan the killing of Hamlet. Hamlet’s indecisive nature eventually brings his downfall and leads him to death. Hamlet’s inability to act causes him to lose his best chance to kill Claudius. This is seen when Hamlet does not kill Claudius in the chapel. Claudius is confessing his sin of murder to God, “Of those effects for which I did the murder,” Claudius admits to the murder of Hamlet’s father.
Instead of taking action, Hamlet thinks, “now he is praying/ And now I will do it/ And so he goes to heaven/ To take him in the purging of his soul/ when he is fit and seasoned for his passage? / NO! ”. Claudius’s reaction to “ The Mouse Trap” shows Hamlet that Claudius is guilty. With this proof, Hamlet is justified in taking Claudius’s life, as requested by his ghost father. When Hamlet is finally in the position to take action, he hesitantly draws his sword back because Claudius is praying. Hamlet fears killing at that moment will allow Claudius to escape Hell.
Hamlet is one step away from succeeding. As a result of this inaction, he moves away from his initial goal of revenging his father’s death. He has motivation to kill Claudius but his inability to consolidate his thoughts and actions bring his downfall. Hamlet’s rejection of his mother’s decision to marry Claudius causes him to mistrust the important women in his life. In a soliloquy, he says “Frailty, thy name is woman – A little month, or ere those shoes were old. ” He sees the marriage of his mother and his uncle as a fraud. This quotation shows his mistrust of women.
His mother Gertrude is the most powerful woman in Denmark. Rather than being disgusted by her behavior, Hamlet’s life may have being saved with her help. Instead, he accuses her being a “hypocrite”. Surely with the assistance of the Queen of Denmark, a different and fair resolution would have been possible. His distrust of his mother does not allow this scenario to develop. Another example showing his misogyny of women is in his love to Ophelia. After he finds that Ophelia is part of Claudius’s and Polonius’s spying plan, he abuses Ophelia, “Get thee to a nunnery”.
Ophelia is confused and hurt. If Hamlet trusts Ophelia’s love of him, none of these tragedies would have happened. Hamlet’s tragic flaw is not due to external difficulties or his motivation to ambition. His indecisive nature and his inability to act cause him to over-think, rather than taking actions. He is adamant about avenging his father’s murder and his mother’s incestuous marriage; yet, he is so enveloped by his inner conflicts that he allows the actions of other characters to dictate his fate.