Hamlet's Character Flaws in William Shakespeare's Hamlet
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Hamlet's Character Flaws in William Shakespeare's Hamlet
In every play or book that a person reads the characters are never perfect. They always have a flaw that causes a problem or conflict within the storyline. This is true for Hamlet's character in William Shakespeare's Hamlet. In several of Hamlet's speeches he discloses many flaws in his character to the readers throughout the play. These are aspects that have thus far only been able to be seen as fragments in other speeches.
One of Hamlet's most renowned traits is his over-analysis of conversational topics and situations in which action must be taken. This is a major flaw in his character. In Hamlet's speech in act three, scene three he reveals himself to be an over-analytical man when he is about to kill Claudius, stops and says," And so he goes to heaven" (III, 3, 74). He also shows that he does not really want to kill Claudius but feels compelled to out of a sense of duty to his dead father. Hamlet demonstrates his over-analytical nature in line seventy-five of the speech when he says, "That would be scanned:" meaning that he should examine his situation more closely. Instead of simply killing Claudius while he had the chance, he over-analyzes and eventually decides to postpone Claudius' murder. By doing this Hamlet is missing the best chance he will obtain in the play. An example of his over-analytical nature is also apparent in his speech in act one, scene four, line 15. He begins his speech quite normally, replying with a simple answer to Horatio's inquiry but then his thoughts begin to wander and he starts to analyze and philosophize about topics unrelated to Horatio's question. Hamlet's over-analytical nature causes a flaw in his character and helps lead to many others.
Not only is Hamlet an over-analytical character but he is also a procrastinator and this is demonstrated many times in the play. He knows that he must kill Claudius but he postpones when he says "Why, this is hire and salary, not revenge" (III, 3, 79). This almost suggests that Hamlet does not really want to kill Claudius, but feels obligated to do so. Through his over-analysis he seems to be almost talking himself out of doing his job.
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Hamlet also procrastinates in act two-scene two, line 594 when he convinces himself that his plan to add lines to the play and watch Claudius' reaction, rather than completing his task, is the best plan of action. Although in the end he postpones the murder of Claudius, " like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of [his] cause" (II, 2, 576), Hamlet acknowledges his lack of action. This also shows two main plot points. One that Hamlet does not really want to kill the king and two, that he will go to great lengths to postpone his duty. In fact, Hamlet reveals to us about his unwillingness to kill Claudius early in the play when he says "O cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right!" (I, 5, 193), meaning that he is angry that he is now put in the position of having to kill the king and he is sorry that he was born with this destiny. Hamlet's procrastination flaw is one that cannot be overlooked due to its serious concern with Hamlet's actions and thought process.
Hamlet's character flaws may be a small factor, but they play a big part in the plot. They show the style in which William Shakespeare writes and the direction in which he was trying to develop the story. The flaws in Hamlet's character were developed rather well in the terms of his tragic life story.
Hamlet as a Complex Tragic HeroHamlet is the center of action in the play. This is a play so dominated by one character that Hamlet without the 'Prince is impossible to imagine. The play deals with his suffering and tragic death. The other characters in the play serve as foils to him. Hamlet's tragedy is a particular example of a universal predicament; action is necessary, but action in a fallen world involves us in evil.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
To attempt to shuffle off responsibility by refusing to act, or by shuffling off this mortal coil-by 'handing god back his ticket,' as Dostoevsky puts it involves us equally in guilt.
Like other tragic heroes of Shakespeare, he is also endowed with exceptional qualities like royal birth, graceful and charming personality and popularity among his own countrymen. He is essentially a scholar and a thinker, and his noble brain conceives the finest thoughts. He has a high intellectual quality. He is religious-minded and is very sensitive. In spite of possessing all these higher qualities which rank him above the other characters, but the flaw in his character named as 'tragic flaw' by A.C. Bradley, leads to his downfall and makes him a tragic hero.
The tragic flaw in the character of Hamlet is that he thinks too much and feels too much. He is often disturbed by his own nature of 'self-analysis.' He is forever looking into himself, delving into his own nature to seek an explanation for every action, and giving vent to his own thoughts in soliloquies. Coleridge says that his enormous intellectual activity prevents instant action and the result is delay and irresolution. Bradley gives his own explanation for his delay and irresolution. According to the learned critic, he suffers from melancholia, a pathological state only a step removed from insanity. His thoughts are diseased thoughts. What is required of Hamlet is prompt action, whereas he broods over the moral idealism which leads to his delay in action. When he gets an opportunity to kill Claudius, he puts aside the thought because he cannot strike an enemy while he is at prayer. Again he allows himself to be taken to England, although he knows well that the plan is part and parcel of Claudius's evil intent. Hamlet himself is fully aware of his own irresolution.
There are several causes account for Hamlet's inaction. By nature he is prone to think rather than to act. He is a man of morals and his moral idealism receives a shock when his mother remarries Claudius after his father's death. Chance too plays an important part in shaping his character. Chance places him in such a position in which he is incapable of doing anything. He feels sad at his position and says ''The time is out of joint. 0 cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right.''
He becomes inconsistent and is no longer a person who reaches a conclusion only by reasoning. He cannot quite accept the role that nature has prescribed for him-that of a revenger-and thus he is unable to act quickly.
Like other tragic heroes Hamlet too has to face conflict, both internal and external. The internal conflict is between his moral scruples and the act of revenge, which he is called upon to perform. Love of his father, the dishonor of his mother, and the villainy of his uncle prompt him to take revenge while his nobility, his moral idealism, his principles and his religion revolt against such a brutal act. The result is that, torn within himself, he suffers mental torture.
The external conflict is with Claudius-'the mighty opposer'-and the murderer of Hamlet's father. To Hamlet, Claudius is a smiling, damned villain, a seducer and a usurper of his rights to Denmark's throne; he is one against whom he has to take revenge. The other external conflicts are with Laertes, his friend and the brother of his beloved Ophelia, with Guildenstern and Rosencrantz, his former school fellows and friends but present enemies. Indeed Hamlet succeeds in overcoming his foes, but only at a dreadful cost.
Character is not the only factor that is responsible for the tragedy of Hamlet. External circumstances are also responsible for making Hamlet tragic hero. Shakespeare creates a heeling that there is a mysterious power in this universe, which is responsible for every small -happening. The appearance of the Ghost and its revelation is a manifestation of Fate. Many of the things that take place in Hamlet's life are by chance, but none of these are improbable. He kills Polonius by chance. The ship in which he travels is attacked by pirates, and his return to Denmark is nothing but chance. Gertrude drinks the poisoned wine, by accident, and dies. So fate in the shape of chance shapes the future of all characters including Hamlet. But the sense of fate is never so overwhelming as to cast character in shade; after all, it is Hamlet himself who is responsible for his tragedy.
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