Hamlet: The Flaws of the Main Protagonist and Anti-Hero of the Play

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Hamlet: The Flaws of the Main Protagonist and Anti-Hero of the Play essay
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An anti-hero is the protagonist of a story that lacks heroic characteristics, they have some good qualities as well as some bad qualities. On the other hand, a tragic hero is, as described by Aristotle, “a person who must evoke a sense of pity and fear in the audience. He is considered a man of misfortune that comes to him through error of judgment.” The character, Hamlet, in Shakespeare's Hamlet: The Prince of Denmark better fits the definition of a tragic hero rather than an anti-hero as his character’s behavior and personality better matches the characteristics of a tragic hero. A key component of a tragic hero is that they often have a fatal flaw that leads to their demise, in Hamlet’s case, his flaw is hesitation and overthinking problems. These flaws not only hinder him from achieving his goals but lead to his death. Another common trait of a tragic hero is that they have excessive pride and they disrespect the natural order of things, also known as hubris, and Hamlet’s hubris comes from his pride for his father. As Aristotle said, a tragic hero must invoke feelings of fear and pity in the audience, known as catharsis, and Hamlet invokes these feelings through his maturity near the end of the play. When looking at the characteristics of tragic heroes, it is clear that Hamlet better matches the description of a tragic hero rather than those of an anti-hero, and having a fatal flaw is one of Hamlet’s most visible traits.

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Hamlet, like other tragic heroes, has a fatal flaw leading to his death, and in Hamlet’s case, his fatal flaw is hesitation and overthinking. In the first act, King Claudius and Queen Gertrude are questioning Hamlet’s depressed state. Instead of opening up to his mother about his feelings towards her swift marriage, he answers Claudius’ questions in the form of puns, such as his response “Not so, my lord. I am too much in the sun.”2 Rather than giving a direct reply, he masks his true feelings about his mother’s remarriage through wordplay. This hesitation causes him to develop feelings of anger towards his mother, that would later cause him to stray away from his main goal of revenge for his father’s murder. Afterward, in the first act, Hamlet comes across the ghost of his late father. The ghost explains the true events of his death, revealing that he was murdered his brother Claudius, “Murder most foul, as in the best it is. But his most foul, strange and unnatural… The serpent that did sting thy father’s life now wears his crown.”4 Hamlet swears to get revenge but hesitates to act upon it right away as he does not initially trust the ghost. Instead, he tells Horatio and Marcellus that he will fake madness to test the validity of the ghost when he says, “As I perchance hereafter shall think meet, To put an antic disposition on.”5 In the third act, Hamlet made the players reenact the murder of King Hamlet to get a reaction from Claudius. Claudius visibly reacts to the play due to his guilty conscience, and before fleeing to the church says, “Give me some light. Away!” Eventually, Hamlet finds Claudius praying, and decides that it would be the perfect chance to enact his revenge for his father’s murder. He hesitates almost immediately, and then starts to overthink the scenario, “Now might I do it pat. Now he is a-praying. And now I’ll do ’t. And so he goes to heaven. And so am I revenged.—That would be scanned. A villain kills my father, and, for that, I, his sole son, do this same villain send, To heaven. Oh, this is hire and salary, not revenge.”7 A tragic hero’s fatal flaw causes their downfall, and Hamlet’s hesitation allowed Claudius to have time to plot against him, and that plotting would lead to the end of Hamlet’s life. Hamlet’s fatal flaw had a large impact on his downfall, however, his hubris was also a factor.

Hamlet’s hubris would create complications between him and many of those close to him. Hamlet’s hubris is the result of his pride in his father, and that pride leads to arrogant behavior. Early on in the first act, Hamlet’s pride in his father stops him from accepting his mother’s remarriage to his uncle. This, along with the loss of his father, puts him into a depressed state, “Oh, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt... Or that the Everlasting had not fixed his canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God, God! How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world!”8 He demonstrates his depressed state by revealing his suicidal thoughts about how pointless he finds life to be. His mother’s remarriage also enforces a hatred towards women, stating “Frailty, thy name is woman!” This leads to him never marrying Ophelia and displaying arrogant behavior towards her. For example, in the third act, he realizes that Polonius and Claudius are watching him. Instead of secretly telling Ophelia about his fake madness, he continues his facade in a cruel manner, even stating, “If thou dost marry... Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny. Get thee to a nunnery, go. Farewell. Or, if thou wilt needs marry, marry a fool, for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them.”10 With this remark, Ophelia believes that the man she loves no longer loves her back, and then, later on, that same man kills her father. She had no men to turn to and went mad, which eventually leads to her own death. The accidental murder of Ophelia’s father, Polonius, was committed by Hamlet, when he did so, Hamlet felt very little guilt and that lack of guilt and his arrogance would quickly cause problems for him. Polonius’ son, Laertes would swear revenge for his father’s murder, by killing Hamlet in a duel with a sharpened sword that had some poison on the tip instead of using a dull sword, this was planned before Laertes’ duel with Hamlet, as he described to Claudius, “And for that purpose I’ll anoint my sword... That is but scratched withal. I’ll touch my point, With this contagion, that if I gall him slightly, It may be death.”11 Having too much pride is a common trait for a tragic hero, and Hamlet clearly shows his hubris throughout the play. Hamlet’s arrogant behavior creates tensions and problems with his family, his lover, and would eventually create tensions with the man who would take his life, however, he is able to redeem himself and regain sympathy from the audience.

Hamlet is able to create catharsis near the end of the play through his development and maturity as a character throughout the play. Early on in the play, Hamlet was an egocentric character after vowing to take revenge for his father and he hesitated too much. This would invoke feelings of anger and a lack sympathy towards him, however, in his conversation with Horatio before his duel with Laertes, he told Horatio that “There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will” At this point in the play, he understands that he cannot control his fate and shortly after saying that he says, “If it be now, ’tis not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come—the readiness is all.”, demonstrating that he was ready for death as it was inevitable in the first place. At this point, the audience’s old feelings of anger towards him turns into sympathy for him as well as fear for what is to become of Hamlet after the duel. Another example of when Hamlet created catharsis in the play was through his personality before he was committed to his father’s revenge. Hamlet was seen as a character who was sensitive to evil acts through his conscience, he was also seen as a kind and noble man, “Why to a public count I might not go, is the great love the general gender bear him, who, dipping all his faults in their affection, would, like the spring that turneth wood to stone,”. After vowing to take revenge on his father’s murder, he knew it was not likely that he would be able to successfully avenge his father, “The time is out of joint. O cursèd spite, that ever I was born to set it right!”, it is clear that this heavily affects Hamlet emotionally and mentally, and the audience would be compelled to feel sympathy for him in his tragic state. At the end of the play, the strongest feelings of catharsis are invoked in the audience with Hamlet’s death. After finally getting his revenge on Claudius, Laertes tells Hamlet before he dies, “Exchange forgiveness with me, noble Hamlet. Mine and my father’s death come not upon thee, nor thine on me.”, and Hamlet responds, “Heaven make thee free of it. I follow thee.” Here both Laertes and Hamlet forgive each other for what they have done to each other. The audience feels very sympathetic towards the two characters who have lost many of those around them and were both driven to their deaths through their anger, and the audience also feels relief that both characters can die peacefully, free from any guilt that they feel. Hamlet’s ability to create catharsis, feelings of sympathy and fear from the audience for the protagonist, further reinforces the argument that he is more of a tragic hero rather than an anti-hero.

Although Hamlet does have attributes that can arguably belong to an anti-hero, he better fits the description of a tragic hero as faces danger with courage and audacity while confronting his own demise. This is evidently shown through his fatal flaw of indecisiveness and hesitation, his hubris caused by his great pride in his father, and his ability to create catharsis throughout the play. His hubris and his fatal flaw lead to internal conflicts like depression and external conflicts, such as his arrogant behavior towards Gertrude and Ophelia. On the other hand, he was able to redeem himself and regain some sympathy from the audience before his death through the creation of catharsis. Through his fatal flaw, his hubris and the catharsis he creates, it is evident that Hamlet unmistakably matches the description of a tragic hero rather than that of an anti-hero.

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Expert Review
This essay offers a comprehensive analysis of Hamlet's character in Shakespeare's play, dissecting whether he aligns more with the traits of a tragic hero or an anti-hero. The writer effectively delineates the distinctions between these two archetypes while illustrating how Hamlet fits into the tragic hero mold. The essay presents a well-structured argument, with distinct sections discussing Hamlet's fatal flaw, hubris, and ability to evoke catharsis. The incorporation of quotes from the play enhances the essay's credibility and strengthens its analytical depth. The author demonstrates a keen understanding of Hamlet's complexities and evolution throughout the story. However, while the essay is strong overall, it could benefit from deeper exploration of Hamlet's anti-heroic attributes and perhaps offer counterarguments to create a more nuanced discussion.
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What can be improved
Counterarguments: Introduce counterarguments or alternate viewpoints to create a more balanced analysis. Anti-Hero Traits: Provide a more in-depth exploration of the anti-heroic attributes Hamlet displays to fully illustrate the complexities of his character. Clarity in Transitions: Improve transition sentences between paragraphs to enhance the essay's flow and cohesiveness. Expanded Conclusion: Expand the conclusion to succinctly recap the main points and reiterate Hamlet's positioning as a tragic hero, offering a sense of closure to the argument.
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Hamlet: The Flaws of the Main Protagonist and Anti-Hero of the Play. (2020, October 20). WritingBros. Retrieved June 18, 2024, from https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/hamlet-the-flaws-of-the-main-protagonist-and-anti-hero-of-the-play/
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Hamlet: The Flaws of the Main Protagonist and Anti-Hero of the Play [Internet]. WritingBros. 2020 Oct 20 [cited 2024 Jun 18]. Available from: https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/hamlet-the-flaws-of-the-main-protagonist-and-anti-hero-of-the-play/
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Hamlet: The Flaws of the Main Protagonist and Anti-Hero of the Play essay

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