- May 24, 2020
Asstated by Aristotle, “Aman does not become a hero until he can see the root of his downfall”(Smith 89). Aristotle defines tragedy as a spectacle in which a hero,typically an honorable individual of a high class, is brought to acatastrophic end (90). Consistent with Aristotle’s poetics, thereare five characteristics of a tragic hero: the character must be aperson of noble stature (mostly by birth) the character must be agood person, but not necessarily a saint the hero should have atragic character flaw that eventually leads to his downfall(expressed as an error in judgment) the character must acceptresponsibility for his actions and the character must bravely sufferthe consequences of his actions (Williams). is one ofShakespeare’s plays that have a storyline featuring the ultimateannihilation of a high-ranking character. So is anAristotelian tragedy? Contingent on Aristotle’s poetic criteria,this paper will argue in favor of the idea that is a tragichero because the chronicle of his life as depicted in the play meetsall the five characteristics of an Aristotelian protagonist.
Inthe beginning of the play, the nobility of is brought to lightwhen he is granted the title sweet prince. is the son of theKing of Denmark, which inevitably grants him a high-rank in thesociety (Williams). Shortly before dies, he says: “Bear like a soldier to the stage. Be careful not to break a nobleheart” (Smith 91). What’s more, ’s nobility is confirmedby other characters in the play. For instance, Ophelia regards as “a mold of form a glass of noble fashion” (92).Correspondingly, Claudius acknowledges the nobility of saying:“The Queen, his mother, lives almost by ’s noble looks”(92). is a tragic protagonist because he is born into ahigh-rank and respectable position in the society and experiences anincredible downfall at the end of it all.
InShakespeare’s drama, is identified as a charming andgraceful character that is popular among his countrymen (Akhter 114).’s admiration partly emanates from the fact that he is amember of the governing family. Additionally, is highlyregarded by his fellow countrymen because of his noble brains thatconceive the finest thoughts and ideas (115). In the play, Opheliasays: , what an admirable character it is you possess” (115).What’s more, is admired by the natives of Denmark because ofhis resilient beliefs on matters concerning religious issues(Williams). From time to time, has the opportunity to choosebetween doing good and evil, but ultimately falls from the path ofgoodness because of his wicked plan of avenging the death of hisbeloved father (Smith 94). In as much as is bent on revengingthe murder of the King of Denmark, he is a good person but certainlynot a saint. He is a good person that does evil things but only withthe intention to revenge (95). Probably ’s narrative would beslightly different if his father died a natural death. Therefore, itis benign to argue that is an Aristotelian hero because hemeets the second characteristic of Aristotle’s poetic criteria,which suggests that a tragic protagonist must be good, but not asaint (Williams).
is a tragic hero because he fulfills the third distinguishing traitof a tragic hero in line with Aristotle’s poetic criteria, whichstates that a hero’s fall from elegance must be caused by a seriouscharacter flaw (tragic flaw) (Williams). This is true withShakespeare’s drama because ’s downfall is occasioned by aserious flaw in his character. The tragic flaw in ’scharacter emanates from the fact that he likes to think and feel toomuch (Smith 98). He is engrossed with his language and power of wordsthat they ultimately bring his catastrophic ending. The constantself-analysis of the language and power of his words renders ’sintellectual inactive, resulting in delay and indecisiveness inarriving at definite conclusions (98). Sometimes, is rash(like when he stabs Polonius), occasionally introspective, andsometimes vengeful (for the murder of his beloved father) (Williams).This character flaw drives into making irrational decisionslike accidentally killing Polonius a concern that infuriates Ophelia(Polonius’ daughter) to a point of committing suicide (Williams).Clearly, is a tragic hero because his character flaw ofindecisiveness drives him from glory meeting Aristotle’s trait ofa tragic protagonist (Hamartia).
Accordingto Aristotle’s poetic criteria, the fourth trait of a tragicprotagonist is that a character must accept and shelterresponsibility for their actions (Anagnorisis)(Williams). ’s moment of truth transpires when heunexpectedly returns to Denmark shortly after his ship iscommandeered by pirates on his way to England. Upon arrival at hisroyal residence, discovers that his wife, Ophelia, hascommitted suicide (Akhter 116). learns the bitter truth thatOphelia has killed herself because of his rash and irrationaldecision of erroneously murdering her father, Polonius (118). It isat this point that discerns the definitive consequences of hisirrationality and inconsistency in making conclusive decisions(tragic flaw) (119). also realizes that failing to declare hislove for Ophelia by occasionally insisting that she goes to a nunnerymight have contributed to his wife’s suicide (Williams). Clearly, upholds Aristotle’s fourth characteristic of a tragicprotagonist because he accepts and shelters the responsibility oftragic flaw when he deals with the deaths of his wife by carrying onwith life as if nothing had transpired.
Thefifth and final characteristic of a tragic hero, consistent withAristotle’s poetic criteria, is reversal or turning point(Peripeteia)(Williams). After the death of Ophelia, which he indirectly concoctswith his words and actions, experiences a swift characterreversal (Akhter 121). This can be seen when engages Laertesin a swordfight. Owing to the reversal in character, becomesmore decisive and rational in his life challenges (Smith 99). Thisturnaround helps avoid his own fatality several times inswordfights, eventually earning his revenge against Claudius in spiteof his shameful downfall (101). Arguments come up as to whether should be given a royal burial because the final moments ofhis life were disgraceful. Horatio comes to ’s aid, likeningthe story of his life to that of the legend Fortinbras (Williams). Atthis fortunate moment, regains his initial honor andreputation, which is closely followed by an honorable burial overseenby his statesmen. Therefore, it is correct to argue that is anAristotelian hero because he experiences a turning point afteracknowledging his downfall meeting Aristotle’s poetic criteria ofa tragic protagonist.
Aristotledefined tragedy as a spectacle in which a protagonist,stereotypically an honorable individual of a high class, is broughtto a catastrophic end. Consistent with Aristotle’s poetic criteria,there are five characteristics of a tragic hero: the character mustbe a person of noble stature (mostly by birth) the character must bea good person, but not necessarily a saint the hero should have atragic character flaw that eventually leads to his downfall(expressed as an error in judgment) the character must acceptresponsibility for his actions and the character must bravely sufferthe consequences of his actions. As this paper has exemplified, is a tragic hero for the simple reason that his life story inShakespeare’s play meets all the five characteristics of anAristotelian hero. is born in a good person born in a loyalfamily. He is a good person but not a saint because he engages inevil plots exclusively for the purpose of revenging the murder ofhis father. has a character flaw that eventually leads to hisdownfall, a fact he acknowledges and deals with without sniveling orwhining. In light of all these facts, is a tragic hero becausehis chronicles in the play meet all the five characteristics of anAristotelian protagonist.
Akhter,Javed. " as a Superfluous Hero." InternationalJournal of Literature and Arts IJLA3.5 (2015): 114-23. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.
Smith,Tommy. "Hero, Villain, Fool : The Character Of ’sRevenge." : Character Studies(2016): 89-101. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.
Williams,Meg Harris. in Analysis: Horatio`s Story-A Trial of Faith.N.p.: Harris Meltzer Trust, 2014. Print.