The Tragedy of “Hamlet”
Aristotle gave one of the most influential definitions of a tragedy in Poetics. Aristotle states that a tragedy should contain a conflict between a protagonist and a superior force. He says a character should change from ignorance to knowledge. Aristotle believes the hero should have a tragic flaw. He claims the plot should be complex and should involve a reversal of actions. He thinks it should have sorrowful or disastrous ending and the story should arouse pity or fear. Lastly, Aristotle believes that the plot should have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Hamlet by Shakespeare, is a tragedy because it contains all of these characteristics that Aristotle acknowledges as a tragedy.
One of Aristotle’s indicators of a tragedy is a conflict between the protagonist and a superior force. In Hamlet, this conflict occurs between Hamlet and King Claudius. Hamlet wants to kill Claudius because he found out that Claudius murdered the late King Hamlet, Hamlet’s father. When Hamlet is informed of the murder of his father, he seeks revenge against Claudius. The ghost of Hamlet’s father encourages him to avenge his murder, “Revenge his foul most unnatural murder!” ( I, v, 25). When Claudius learns about Hamlet’s plan to murder him, Claudius then devises his own plan to murder Hamlet. First, the King sends Hamlet to England to have him beheaded, “Our sovereign process, which imports at full, By letters conjuring to that effect, the present death of Hamlet, Do it, England” ( IV, iv, 74-76). That plan, however, does not work out and Hamlet outsmarts the King. Then the King appoints Laertes to kill Hamlet by staging and accidentally fatal sword fight,
“Most generous, and free from all contriving,
Will not peruse the foils; so that with ease,
Or with a little shuffling, you may choose
A sword unbated, and, in a pass of practice
Requite him for your father” ( IV, vii, 137-141).
Ultimately, this conflict results in both of their deaths and the...