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Hamlet's Tragic Flaws as The Causes of His Downfall

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Words: 949 |

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5 min read

Published: Feb 12, 2022

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Words: 949|Page: 1|5 min read

Published: Feb 12, 2022

Tragic Flaw in Shakespeare’s Hamlet
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The essay discusses the tragic flaw of the character Hamlet in Shakespeare's play "Hamlet." Hamlet is portrayed as a tragic hero with the potential for greatness, but his downfall is attributed to his personality flaw of overthinking and complicating situations, leading to his inability to take decisive action.

The essay highlights three main aspects of Hamlet's tragic flaw. Firstly, Hamlet's tendency to overthink every situation is emphasized. Despite learning that Claudius is the murderer of his father, Hamlet procrastinates seeking vengeance due to his excessive contemplation and indecisiveness. His inability to act results in self-doubt and a gradual loss of sanity.

Secondly, the essay explores Hamlet's idealism and fatalism. Hamlet's desire for an ideal revenge and belief in predestination contribute to his procrastination. He waits for the perfect moment to avenge his father's death, even when an opportunity presents itself, leading to further delays.

Lastly, Hamlet's over-analytical nature is discussed as a significant tragic flaw. While analyzing situations can be intelligent and cautious, Hamlet's excessive scrutiny leads to excuses for procrastination. His dissatisfaction with his own hesitation eventually traps him in a sequence of events that culminate in his demise.

Table of contents

  1. Hook Examples for "Hamlet" Essay
  2. "Hamlet" Essay Example
  3. Works Cited

Hook Examples for "Hamlet" Essay

  • A Shakespearean Tragedy: Enter the world of William Shakespeare's "Hamlet," where ambition, revenge, and tragedy intertwine. Join me as we unravel the intricacies of Hamlet's character and the tragic flaws that lead to his ultimate downfall.
  • An Intriguing Quote: Shakespeare wrote, "This above all: to thine own self be true." Let's explore how Hamlet's inability to heed this advice and his internal conflicts pave the path to his tragic end.
  • A Character Analysis: Delve into the depths of Hamlet's psyche as we dissect his procrastination, indecision, and obsession with revenge. Together, we'll uncover how these flaws contribute to his tragic fate.
  • A Closer Look at Relationships: Hamlet's interactions with Ophelia, Claudius, and Gertrude are central to the play's unfolding tragedy. Join me in examining how his flawed relationships and trust issues play a pivotal role in his downfall.
  • A Timeless Tragedy: Hamlet's story transcends centuries and cultures. Explore with me why this Shakespearean character continues to captivate audiences and how his tragic flaws serve as cautionary elements in our own lives.

"Hamlet" Essay Example

One must be able to balance between reason and passion as reason falls towards rational thinking while passion leads towards making irrational decisions. Hamlet in Shakespeare’s play is known as a tragic hero due the fact that he was bound for greatness, but his fall came as a result of his personality flaw of over thinking and complicating each situation and not being able to act in desperate times.

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The first Hamlet’s tragic flaw to be discussed in this essay is overthinking. Throughout the play, Hamlet is seen to over think every situation which shows his rational side while his irrational side is shown when he murders Polonius without any legitimate reason to it. Early in the play through the ghost of King Hamlet, Hamlet finds out Claudius is the one who slaughtered his father. Even after conforming that Claudius is the guilty one, he procrastinated on getting vengeance for his father’s death due to over thinking and lack of decisiveness as he had a knife to Claudius’ back yet still managed to talk himself out of getting revenge for his father. Due to his lack of determination, Hamlet starts to reevaluate himself as a coward as slowly he starts to lose sanity due to his failures and the depressing feeling of self-pity.

Hamlet’s tragic flaw is his inability to avenge his father’s death because he hasn’t been able to conquer himself in his internal conflict. This recalls the cliche – “One’s greatest enemy is no other than oneself”. I think procrastination is the inaction that leads to Hamlet’s downfall and behind the inaction, there were three main flaws: being idealistic, fatalistic and over analytical. Idealism stops Hamlet from avenging the murder of his father, when he has the opportunity to kill Claudius (his uncle, the murderer of his father ) when he is praying. It is in 3.3.89-91: “Am I then……horrid hent”. Here, Hamlet wants an ideal revenge, that his opponent will suffer damnation in hell.

Since Claudius is praying, Hamlet can’t bear to kill him because of his belief that Claudius’s soul will be purified and sent to heaven, hence he decides to kill Claudius at a more appropriate moment, like his father (King Hamlet ) was killed. The time Claudius was praying was the only time in the whole play, where he is left unguarded, which means Hamlet has let go of the best chance to kill Claudius just for the sake of waiting for the perfect moment. Therefore, Hamlet’s idealism causes him to procrastinate.

Besides from his idealism, Hamlet’s fatalism also leads him to his tragic flaw. Hamlet shows signs of being fatalistic by making the claim: “cannot choose his own origin”. According to Hamlet, a person is not to be stated guilty of having a vicious nature or a natural flaw that he is born with, because it isn’t in the hands of the person to choose where he came from. Furthermore, Hamlet comments that most people would rather bear those ills we have rather than fly to others that we not know of: Since he would rather choose to suffer from the torment of fate that he believes in, he cares not to change. As a result, he commits nothing.

Moreover, before his duel with Laertes, Horatio asked Hamlet if he wanted to stop the duel, making him aware that the King might have set up a scheme for him. Nevertheless, Hamlet replies: “There’s a special providence in the fall of sparrow”. Since Hamlet believes in predestination, he walks into Claudius’s trap even if he knows it, because he believes that if he is destined to die then he will die, and there is no way he can figure a way out of it. This is how fatalism becomes deadly for Hamlet.

Above all the reasons, the most important tragic flaw Hamlet possesses is being over analytical. He refers to it as: “craven scruple Of thinking too precisely”. Further in the same speech, he says “which quartered has but one part wisdom and three parts coward”. In this, he is simply criticising his own hesitation. It is intelligent to analyse the situation and be cautious, however too much of it makes him see of himself as a coward. Due to this tragic flaw, Hamlet has been unable to make important decisions. By considering so many different alternatives and point of views, Hamlet is always kind of finding himself an excuse to procrastinate. None other than dissatisfaction over took him. As a result, he is passively taken up in the sequence of events as the play unfolds, which lead him to death.

Near the end of the play, Hamlet is seen to losing his sanity due to regret. Due to this, he gets emotionally weak leading to tragic mistakes, for example, his irrational act of killing Polonious. This fatal error leads to the death of Ophelia as she commits suicide. Hamlet is seen to get revenge for his father at the cost of his mother and his own life which directly relates to Hamlet’s tragic flaw of procrastination and over thinking. All of this could have been avoided if he took a shot he had at Claudius while he was praying. Unfortunately, Hamlet could not find balance between reason and passion which led to his own death along with his loved ones even though he avenged his father making him a tragic hero.

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In conclusion, as heroic and refined as Hamlet is, he still suffers a downfall which leads to the tragic flaw. By the end, when he finally decides to take action, its too late. In short, Hamlet’s flaws illustrate the vulnerability of mankind especially those men with a romantic or philosophical bent, as he himself was.

Works Cited

  1. Bloom, H. (1981). Hamlet: Poem Unlimited. Chelsea House Publishers.
  2. De Grazia, M. (2007). Hamlet without Hamlet. Cambridge University Press.
  3. Gristwood, S. (2010). Death and the Virgin: Elizabeth, Dudley and the Mysterious Fate of Amy Robsart. HarperPress.
  4. Harbage, A. (1947). As They Liked It: An Essay on Shakespeare and Morality. University of Illinois Press.
  5. Honigmann, E. A. J. (1985). Shakespeare: The ‘Lost Years’. Manchester University Press.
  6. Jones, E. (1949). Hamlet and Oedipus. Random House.
  7. Kastan, D. S. (1999). Shakespeare After Theory. Routledge.
  8. Kiernan, P. (2008). Filthy Shakespeare: Shakespeare’s Most Outrageous Sexual Puns. Michael O’Mara Books.
  9. Knight, G. W. (2001). The Wheel of Fire: Interpretation of Shakespeare's Tragedy. Routledge.
  10. Richmond, H. M. (2001). Shakespeare's Sexual Language: A Glossary. Athlone Press.
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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Tragic Flaw in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. (2022, February 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 17, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/hamlet-tragic-flaw/
“Tragic Flaw in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.” GradesFixer, 12 Feb. 2022, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/hamlet-tragic-flaw/
Tragic Flaw in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/hamlet-tragic-flaw/> [Accessed 17 Apr. 2024].
Tragic Flaw in Shakespeare’s Hamlet [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Feb 12 [cited 2024 Apr 17]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/hamlet-tragic-flaw/
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