Hamlet and the Image of the Tragic Hero

Literature / April 23, 2015 / No Comments /
An analysis of how the character of Hamlet relates to Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero.

This paper compares the qualities of the tragic hero found in Aristotle’s “Poetics” with the character of Hamlet from Shakespeare’s `Hamlet`. The paper explains why Hamlet does not typify Aristotle’s version of a tragic hero and discusses why
Aristotle might not appreciate this play. The paper explains that in Aristotle’s time, a tragedy was determined through the will of the gods, and in `Hamlet` much of the final outcome could have been averted had the characters behaved differently.
Aristotle’s Poetics is often used as the definitive guide to determine the nature of plays. As the Greeks were the first to refine the art of drama, so is Aristotle the first to classify the qualities that go into the drama itself. In terms of a tragic drama, Aristotle outlined the nature of the drama itself and its various components, including the role of tragic characters.
The character of Hamlet in Shakespeare’s tragic play by the same name very nearly fits into Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero. Hamlet, a prince usurped by his father’s brother after his father’s suspicious death, undergoes a period of self-investigation where he tries to come to terms with the act of murder as a necessary means of revenge. Yet even though Hamlet is plotting murder, he is not essentially an evil person. His actions and his inner dialogue indicate that he does not want to commit the crime but must do so in order to avenge his dead father.”


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