Do you think that Hamlets hesitation can be seen as a tragic flaw or is Shakespeares presentation of his character more complex?

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                Literature AS – Tragedy - Hamlet        

                Word Count: 1,245

Do you think that Hamlet’s hesitation can be seen as a ‘tragic flaw’ or is Shakespeare’s presentation of his character more complex?

A tragic flaw – also known as Hamartia – is a characteristic or error that causes the downfall of a tragic hero. Shakespeare’s portrayal of Hamlet’s downfall it could be argued, agrees with Aristotelian theories on tragedy which sees a protagonist who has enjoyed great prosperity undergoing a reversal of fortune.  Hamlet’s tragic flaw can be seen as procrastination, putting off the revenge of his uncle leads to his demise. Near the beginning of the play, it seems that Hamlet intends to take revenge but never actually does so – “continually resolving to do, yet do nothing but resolve...” S.T. Coleridge. This is not the be all and end all of Hamlet’s character as many other aspects in the play influence his actions; Shakespeare’s presentation of Hamlet is more complex than a “pigeon-livered” man simply “lacking gall”.

Hamlet’s hesitancy can be understood through Shakespeare’s use of language which shows his change from “ignorance to awareness” (Aristotle).  Hamlet’s self-loathing is shown, “Yet I, a dull and muddy-mettled rascal” indicating that he recognises his deferment and philosophical thinking as a burden. “From this time forth my thoughts be bloody”, the word ‘bloody’ implies that Hamlet understands he has not yet stabbed the king. Whilst expressing this anger however he continues to evade the task of revenge; discussing how he should kill his uncle but does not, he is naturally inclined to think rather than act and this hesitancy causes his fall.

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To highlight the impact of Hamlet’s hesitation, Shakespeare includes heroic characters that emphasise this as a tragic flaw. Young Fortinbras is seen in Act 4 Scene 4 marching to Poland to fight for honour which brings to light Hamlet’s idealistic manner and shows that tragedy is inevitable. In a similar way Polonius’ son Laertes demonstrates taking action when he returns to Denmark to avenge his father. Laertes’ spontaneity shows that Hamlet hesitates by thinking too precisely on the revenge, unlike Laertes who acts on impulse and eventually succeeds. These characters show that if Hamlet did not avoid the revenge ...

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