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Is Hamlet a tragic hero, a weak revenger or a political misfit?

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Introduction

Is Hamlet a tragic hero, a weak revenger or a political misfit? Shakespeare's Hamlet is at the outset a typical revenge play. However, it is possible to see Prince Hamlet as a more complex character as he can be seen as various combinations of a weak revenger, a tragic hero and a political misfit. In order to fully understand the world in which Hamlet finds himself, it is necessary to examine all three of these roles and either dismiss them or justify Hamlet's behaviour as a revenger. As a tragic hero, Hamlet displays many typical qualities of a traditional hero in a Elizabethan revenge tragedy. Hamlet is the Prince of Denmark and therefore belongs to a social elite. Hamlet can be described as being too noble to take revenge. As a very well educated scholar of Wittenberg University in Sweden he has to think extensively before taking revenge. He feels the need to question revenge yet he is reluctant to do so rashly without considerable thought "thus conscience does make cowards of us all". We see that this happens in the first few moments of the play when Hamlet doubts the ghost is his father and he needs further prompting and reassurance throughout the play "So art thou to revenge, when thou shalt hear". ...read more.

Middle

The traditional hero in revenge plays comprised most of the qualities that Hamlet possesses. The question that Shakespeare asks in this play is whether Hamlet's inaction is a quality to be admired or criticised. Shakespeare uses an old legend and changes it so that it is suitable for the purpose he requires. If Shakespeare is questioning the idea of taking revenge, it is ironic that his story is far from original and that it is based around the convention of the revenge play. Hamlet is many ways is typical of a traditional revenger. As all plays of the time the central character would have been a member of the aristocracy and usually of the court too. As a Prince who is well educated, hamlet fits the traditional role of a revenger. However due to his interest in philosophy and his studious nature, intellectually and morally he does not fit in with the traditional role of a revenger. His education could be seen as either a blessing or a curse. Hamlet can be categorised as either a morally strong man for not taking revenge or as a failure. If Hamlet is shown as strong then we can see him as a `modern thinker' and a positive role model. ...read more.

Conclusion

We also see Hamlet and his mother being spied on by Polonius. This is an example of the unbalanced political situation and a justification for Hamlet's paranoia. The death of Polonius is unfortunate and it is obvious that Hamlet is being cold and uncaring which is unsurprising. Hamlet's situation is made worse as no-one else in the court apart from Horatio is aware of the murder Claudius has committed. Claudius is a popular leader which makes Hamlet's position more dangerous and lead to a great deal of isolation with his native Denmark. Apart from Horatio, Hamlet cannot trust anyone, which increases his sense of isolation. My view is that Hamlet fits all the three categories well and that not one of the views: weak revenger, tragic, hero or political misfit, classifies him accurately. He is a combination of all three and at times vacillates between weak revenger and tragic hero, making him particularly venerable and open to attack. The political problems in Denmark are a contributing factor which simply lead Hamlet to his death but have no bearing on his ability to be either a tragic hero or a weak revenger. I think that Hamlet is a tragic hero with a fatal flaw that he think to much, and is too introspective that ultimately leads to his own and other friends and family members' death. ...read more.

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