In Elizabethan literature and theatre, a tragic hero is somebody who possesses a critical defect, which imperfection finally leads to his downfall and, normally, calamitous misfortune for others. This dramatic theme, however, predates the Elizabethan period and, actually, originated in writings of the Ancient Greeks; for example:
In Homers Iliad, Achilles defect is his excessive pride, as is that of Odysseus in The Odyssey.In Sophocles Oedipus Rex, Oedipuss shortcoming, paradoxically perhaps, is his hunger for self knowledge.
Like other learned men of his time, William Shakespeare definitely browse the classics, therefore it is not surprising to obtain the theme of tragic hero common in his plays. For example, Othellos defect is envy, while King Lears is conceit.
The Character of Shakespeare’s HamletAs for Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, he’s many character flaws. Actually, Jan Knott, a Shakespearean scholar, said, “Hamlet is like Swiss cheese, with all of the holes” (Epstein, 1993); for example:
He’s still a kid in many ways. He’s at times capricious and unrealistic. He’s incapable of rising above his despair. He’s determined to exact payback. He’s prone to procrastination. He’s generally cruel and haughty. He’s maybe in love with his own mom. Shakespeare’s Hamlet’s Irresponsibility and Childlike Behaviour
Although, he possesses many imperfections, Hamlets immaturity proves to be the critical defect leading to his downfall, for it’s his childishness which makes it impossible for Hamlet to accept liability for his activities; for example:
Instead of behaving responsibly, Hamlet feigns insanity, allowing him to say whatever unkind thing he enjoys to Ophelia, whose emotional state is tenuous at best, and also to stab her daddy so recklessly and without compunction.
Why is Hamlet so immature? Could it be because he’s an adolescent as well as the young are commonly prone to self centeredness and juvenile behaviour?
Granted, yes, when the play starts, Hamlet has interrupted his studies in the University of Wittenberg and returned home because of his dad’s funeral, therefore the crowd presumes Hamlet is a young man around 18-years old. Particular facts, however, are afterwards shown that negate this premise:
In Act 5, Scene I, the audience learns that Yorick expired 23 years before Hamlets return from your university and Hamlet played with Yorick when he, Hamlet, was a young kid. (Harrison, n.d.)Additionally in Act 5, Scene I, the crowd hears the gravedigger’s comment that he started his job 30 years ago on that very day that Hamlet was born.” (Harrison, n.d.)
Clearly then, Hamlet isn’t an teen but, instead, a grown man of 30; and at this age individuals are anticipated to show at least a measure of maturity and the sense of responsibility that accompanies adulthood. Hamlet, however, fails to illustrate either.
Shakespeare’s Hamlet as Peter Pan
Hamlet is incapable of rising above his despair and focusing on anything except retaliation because of his dad’s departure. This nostalgia, nevertheless, is not too much the consequence of any want to see his father alive again as it’s Hamlets longing to come back to some time when the world, at least for him, didn’t just look goodbut was great.
Given Hamlets homesick yearning for the past, many Shakespearian scholars compare the Prince of Denmark to Holden Caulfield in J.D. Salinger’s TheCatcher in the Rye. In the end, Hamlet, like Caulfield, longs to get a time of innocence that’s been lost and lost eternally. Furthermore, some scholars claim, maybe justifiably so, that Hamlet may be viewed as the perennial teen who, like James M. Barries Peter Pan, doesn’t desire to grow up but instead desires to stay in a state of childlike innocence. (Epstein, 1993)
The Tragedy of Hamlet
In the end, as a result of his refusal to grow up and behave just like a guy, Hamlet stays completely focused on his own needs and desires and, hence, experiences no compunction whatsoever for his job in Ophelias insanity and suicide. Nor does he experience any sorrow for the rash slaying of her dad.
Just in the minute of his passing does Hamlet recognize that when one acts, one opens oneself to judgment that’s occasionally unjust but also occasionally warranted; and it’s also just with this specific realization that, possibly, Hamlet at last attains a measure of maturity. Naturally, he attains it too late to modify the results, which will be tragedy for nearly everyone involved in Shakespeares Hamlet.
Abrams, M., ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Firm.Epstein, N. New York. Penguin Novels.Harrison, G. B., ed.