What kind of tragic hero is Hamlet?
***SHOULD I JUST ANALYZE according to Aristotelian standards or can I discuss
Elizabethan standards as well?***
There is no doubt that
is a revenge tragedy.
The protagonist Hamlet loses his
beloved father, his mother rashly marries his father’s brother Claudius, all his friends except
Horatio betray him, and he ultimately dies after avenging his father.
However, can Hamlet be
classified as a tragic hero according to Aristotelian standards?
At first glance, Hamlet seems to
fit the model: He is the eloquent, witty prince of Hamlet who suffers immense grief as the people
he loved either die or betray him.
Indeed, he lacks some aspects of the model such as a desire for
glory or selfish ambition, but the lack of conformity to this classical model makes
masterpiece. In fact, he combines Aristotelian and Elizabethan elements of tragedy to create a
tragic hero that not only evokes sympathy but also portrays human nature at its core: struggles
with morality, religion, and one’s own conscience.
In order to fully analyze Hamlet, it is essential to understand the fundamentals and comprehend
what makes Hamlet a typical tragic hero according to the Aristotelian model.
First, the hero is
usually of noble birth.
In Shakespeare’s play, proof of Hamlet’s esteemed station lies in the
diction of other characters.
For example, Hamlet even manages to describe his unhappiness with
mankind in the following passage while keeping his usual high level of diction. In the opening of
the play Hamlet, Hamlet’s title of “Sweet Prince” grants him a “noble mind.” (Horatio, scene 2),
signifying his high-status as the King of Denmark’s son.
In addition, when Hamlet dies, he
quotes, “Bear Hamlet like a soldier to the stage”(Fortinbras, 5.2).
Thinking in the context of 16
century Europe, a common person would never receive a funeral as grand as a soldier’s death,
thus further proving Hamlet’s high status.