ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

What is Hamlet?

Updated on April 15, 2019
profile image

An English teacher who thinks everyone should write poetry and ask questions.

Or, is he really a hero?

I stumbled upon an article from this very site decrying the notion of Hamlet as a tragic hero. Now, I have been teaching a curriculum for about four years that is premised on the notion that our dear friend Hamlet belongs to the tragic hero tradition.

This particular author goes into great detail about Hamlet's corruption, about the specific and staid criteria of a tragic hero, and ultimately concludes that Hamlet does not, can not, and perhaps even should not meet that criteria. According to this article, his thoughts about suicide, for example, are a form of corruption, and therefore count against him. I would suggest that this is a rather callous statement.

The beauty of a play like Hamlet is its urgency. Hundreds have years have gone by and we still understand the sadness, fear, and alienation this character experiences. We can understand the subliminal warfare Hamlet conducts with his words- and he is not the only one. His stepfather, from the moment he is introduced in the play, is insistent that with his words, he can console the inconsolable, consolidate the unconsolidated. Gertrude is his "sometime sister" and his "wife," taken with "delight" and "dole." When Hamlet ironically comments on how the food from his father's funeral was eaten at his mother's second marriage, he is building upon a rhetoric that can't be ignored- it was introduced by the king, after all.

I don't want students to mull over whether or not Hamlet deserves the title of a tragic hero. Hamlet was not written to deserve anything. The text ultimately is about how our status or education or both, can't be enough sometimes to deal with the harshest of realities. What equipped Fortinbras to inherit the throne? And why would a character so active, be relegated to behind the scenes, while a character stymied by his own inaction, takes (literally) center stage?

Hamlet is not comfortable as a Prince, or a murderer. He is not a warrior, though he is deft with foils. He is a scholar, marveling in wonder and in horror at the props and realia at his finger tips for the first time.

At the moment he should take his revenge upon Claudius, he stops. "That would be scanned," he decides, which is the motto (or should be) for any student of the theatre or poetry. This a moment dripping with irony- the body of his uncle, vulnerable, available, and real- is ripe for murder. And yet Hamlet beholds the situation in his mind, ready to analyze and deliberate.

He holds a skull- it is a former caretaker, the court jester, Yorick. And yet his pate symbolizes the fate of every man, even Alexander the Great.

The grave of Ophelia becomes a stage, a moment for Hamlet to express hyperbole, to articulate comparisons between him and Laertes.

Real life and the theatre become one for Hamlet, because the stage is a flattened plane of contrivance of meaning. It is safe, as much as it is artificial. It is fun, as much as it is limiting.

We are limited in our ability to understand ourselves, fully. The tragedy of Hamlet is his confusion, and his inability to act. But we need to be careful here- an inability to act on a Shakespearean stage also means to bleed through the seams- in his inability to be "real," Hamlet is the most human of them all.

Of course he's a tragic hero. But at the dawn of the 17th century, it is not a question of a singular, isolated, flaw that contradicts the tightly-knit and well defined cosmology of Sophocles. No. Shakespeare is interested in systems and networks of corruption and chaos, wheels and pulleys the mimic the exact stage upon which the material is performed.

No, Hamlet is not a tragic hero in classical sense. But he is a tragic hero of the Renaissance, a character acutely aware of his own humanity, frailty (though he claims women are the frail ones), and his own limitations. As a tragic hero of the Renaissance, his humanist education has failed him, and his tragedy comes from the corruption of the times.

Let me know what you think below.

© 2019 jkaiser23

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)