Is Hamlet a Tragedy?

Essay by cappuchica29High School, 10th gradeA+, May 2004

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Is Hamlet a Tragedy?

In the century after Sophocles, the philosopher Aristotle analyzed tragedy. His definition: Tragedy then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not of narrative; through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions. Serious and magnanimous? Certainly true about Hamlet. Artistic? Without a doubt. And if there were no action in Hamlet, I doubt that two films would have been made about the Shakespearean tragedy.

The first element of Aristotle's definition of a tragic hero, a character who is neither wholly good nor wholly evil, can be applied to Prince Hamlet. Hamlet's supposed madness does not indicate any signs of an evil person- rather, when you think about it, madness can be rooted in grief over a loss or negative incidence (among other more scientific explanations).

In this case, Hamlet's grief can somehow be attributed to the loss of Ophelia and King Hamlet; it is human nature to undergo a change in personality when life-altering experiences occur. The theoretically "evil" practices Hamlet carried out, such as the murder of Polonius, were rash and unplanned incidents, which Hamlet did not do for evil purposes. Hamlet's life, on the contrary, is centered for the good of his father, an ultimate quest to avenge the late king's death. One of the main reasons that Hamlet is a tragedy is because Hamlet is a tragic hero, misunderstood in his own time and place, who had the right intentions but the wrong ways.

Hamlet's "tragic flaw" is that he spends too much time thinking and not enough time acting, experiencing a fall due to a...