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'The hero in a tragedy must in some sense be superior to the world about him.' Do you find this true of Hamlet? What would the Jacobean audience have felt?

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Introduction

'The hero in a tragedy must in some sense be superior to the world about him.' Do you find this true of Hamlet? What would the Jacobean audience have felt? Helen Williams The tragedy of Hamlet does not lie in the flaw of the hero; the tragedy lies in the nature of the work which is exposed to the hero's contemplation, and the resulting responsibility to the world in which he finds himself. Hamlet is not a man who cannot kill; he is a sensitive man who has a moral outlook onto life. Hamlet towers above other plays of its kind through the nobility of its hero, his superior power of insight and consideration upon his particular situation and his ability to bear the moral anguish that moral responsibility bears. Superiority is of course debatable due to personal preference to reaction or intelligence. To categorise Hamlet as one who delays the action - almost cowardly - is an incorrect understanding of his unusual character. Hamlet's turmoil and indecision are precisely the things which distinguish him from the smooth, sharp plotter Claudius and from the coarse, rash Laertes, as well as from all other common Elizabethan avengers. By delaying his act of revenge, Hamlet is not reckless or imprudent like Laertes, and neither does he stoop to the moral level of Claudius, his opponent. ...read more.

Middle

In a way he is a realist, nevertheless his speech always achieves the desired effect. The sheer magnitude of his ability to manipulate images and language awakens a comparison between himself and other Shakespeare characters such as Othello and Lear who use fantastical imagery and 'flowery' language; however it also distinguishes himself from these men as Hamlet prefers to keep his language within the scope of reality; yet, his images are always effective. He is a man gifted with greater powers of observation than others. The more pessimistic approach of course is that Hamlet uses cheap puns and harsh words to degrade other characters in the play. He uses his ability to create such ambiguous messages to unmask men of their outer appearance, in an endeavour to reveal their true corrupt nature underneath the exterior fa´┐Żade. Nevertheless, Hamlet needs images for his 'antic disposition': he would betray himself if he used open and direct language. Hence, he must speak ambiguously and hide his meaning under images, puns, and parables. This can also be seen as hypocrisy, as he despises the false appearances in court: "one may smile, and smile, and still be a villain" Hamlet's loss of faith in humanity is rooted from the unexpected behaviour from his mother. Now that his only remaining relative (and especially as she is his mother) ...read more.

Conclusion

Hamlet is behaving superior in these examples, almost kingly or even godly, yet because he is so mistaken, he falls heavily in our esteem for him. He is so badly off the mark concerning Ophelia's character that she turns mad as a result of frustration due to his accusations. We see an element of hastiness in Hamlet reflecting Laertes' vicious nature that we do not admire. It is ironic that when Hamlet acts on impulse, he is foolish and destructive. Those that wish Hamlet to 'act,' can see it is not a simple option for him, and thus we wait for his mind to resolve. In my view, a superior hero would be an outsider and so is Hamlet. After the appearance of the ghost, Hamlet puts an antic disposition on and alienates his genuine self from the court. The only exception, of course, is Horatio, who can be regarded as the comparable average man unshook by falsities. Hamlet's alienation or psychological exile is illustrated by the antic disposition, estranging the self from an incomprehensible world. His decision to do this seems to make him superior to those who go along with this corrupt environment, however this can also be seen as a scape-goat, avoiding his act of vengeance. The tragedy ends with the collapse of our idealistic trust in human freedom and humanity. Thus we are relieved that Hamlet could rectify the previous situation in court and bring about a resolve. For this he is a hero. 1 ...read more.

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