Hamartia is the notion that the main character in a book or play falls due to his or her tragic flaw or failure of his or her character. Although the effects are inarguably lethal, hamartia is such a giant that it drives most great men and women into their graves both in the past and present. Hamlet is indeed a great man, that is, the Prince of Denmark; what does cause his downfall? And how and why does his downfall happen? In this discussion, I am going to look at what flaws Hamlet has that rendered him a hamartia candidate, how the flaw influences his words, actions and conflicts throughout the play, whether or not Hamlet is a tragic hero and if Hamlet rises above (overcomes) his flaws by the end of the play. I will lay emphasis and draw evidence for my arguments from the play Hamlet by Shakespeare for clarity of thought and authority of the evidence.

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Arguably, Hamlet has many flaws that combine to bring about his downfall, but his inability to act stands out amongst all his flaws. He is constantly thinking about what effects his actions will have on himself beforehand, rendering him short of judgement freedom and losing opportunities where he could have revenge the death of his father. He ponders a long way to kill his uncles by pretending to be mad, which draws much attention and debate. Hamlet himself says about his flaw in his “To be or not to be” soliloquy (iii.i.64). His indecisiveness causes him to use people like Ophelia to drive his agenda without considering their feelings and whether they will get hurt. Apart from his indecisiveness that causes his inability to act, he doesn’t want anything bad to happen to him drives his line of action. This selfish and self-centredness rounds up the whole equation of his character throughout the play, and it dictates how he carries out his activities and moves.

Somewhat, Hamlet is acting sensibly in not hurrying off to murder his uncle on the expression of an apparition. He is judicious to check his data, particularly as an individual’s life is in question. Nonetheless, when he confirms that Claudius is the killer, he wonders whether or not to act, and when he acts, he acts imprudently and murders some unacceptable individual. He recognizes that his conscience prevents him from making rapid advancements in preventing his father, King Hamlet. He says that he has a “Pale cast of thought.” (iii.i.93).

Indeed, even Hamlet scolds himself as the play continues for his loss of motion by saying that the pale cast of thought obliterates his purpose to do what he needs to do. He would not like to murder, and he is loaded up with outrage, which he goes internal to sadness and self-destructive ideation. We can comprehend not needing an obligation push onto us, yet Hamlet’s wavering prompts more passings, including his own.

Following Hamlet’s collaboration with his father’s ghost, he starts to consider his vengeance. He says, “So uncle, there you are. Now to my word” (i.v.80).  Notwithstanding, Hamlet is a delicate, savvy, insightful person who battles to act fiercely. Despite the way that Hamlet hates Claudius—and his mom’s choice to wed his dad’s executioner—he can’t force himself to kill Claudius. Not at all like his foil Fortinbras, Hamlet postpones making a move until he can demonstrate that Claudius killed his dad. Even in the wake of seeing Claudius’ response to the play, Hamlet doesn’t kill him while supplicating. Hamlet convinces himself not to murder Claudius by saying, “Now he is a-praying. And now I’ll do ‘t. And so he goes to heaven. And so am I revenged.—That would be scanned. A villain kills my father, and, for that, I, his sole son, do this same villain send To heaven” (iii.iii.69)

Hamlet likewise examines committing suicide multiple times; however, he rules against it out of dread that his spirit would be damned. Hamlet’s uncertainty—straightforwardly and by implication—prompts the deaths of Ophelia, Laertes, Gertrude, and Claudius. Eventually, Hamlet’s retribution doesn’t go as arranged, and virtually every one of the significant characters in the play deplorably pass on. The crowd can feel for Hamlet’s hamartia, which makes him quite possibly the most balanced, confounding, and complex character on the whole of writing. Hamlet says, “our conscience doth make cowards of us all” (iii.i.64). This implies that his faithfulness to following his instincts is what delays his actions and, at the same time, becomes his hamartia.

Hamlet is an anti-hero character with many flaws that fall within the category of an average citizen without forgetting that Hamlet is the Prince of Denmark. He is very cautious with his actions, and when misfortunes happen, it helps build the conflict of the play and help identify Hamlet with the audience. His distinctive style of handling issues in a delayed manner causes all his misfortunes in his quest to avenge his father’s death and free him to go to heaven.

The indecisiveness character of Hamlet causes his action to be inconsistent throughout the play. He is hesitant to take very important actions. For example, he is hesitant to declare his love for Ophelia. In the end, it comes out that his affection for Ophelia was just a decoy “you should not have believed me” (iii.i.127). Another instance is when he meets Claudius praying.  He could have avenged his father right then, but he had the assertion that he would kill him when Claudius was doing an evil thing. “And that his soul may be damned and black As hell, whereto it goes.” (iii.iii.100).

He jumped from one feeling to another when around his companions, from being very despairing to being furious and energetic to being upbeat. It is because of this “bipolarism” that drove the King and Polonius to resolve to constantly spy on him, saying that “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.” (iii. i. 203) This played a great role in contributing to Hamlet’s downfall.

In the end, the revenge does not happen as planned and instead,  all the most important characters in the play die. We can only sympathize with Hamlet for what has befallen him. If he had maintained a single focus and formulated a clear line of an informed plan of action, he would have been the next King of Denmark, but this doesn’t happen. Therefore, it is correct to say and conclude that Hamlet doesn’t master or rise above his flaws by the finale of the play.

Categories: Reviews

Moses Wangai

I am a content writer; I have been in the field for more than 6 years writing for both commercial clients and agencies. Sharing what I've learnt is what I've purposed to do!


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