Tuesday, 13 April 2010

2nd draft of Hamlet coursework

2nd draft – To what extent is Hamlet’s hubris his inaction?

Hamlet is seen as a tragic hero and whilst this title is seemingly admirable according to Aristotle it comes with a chosen path which eventually leads to the demise of the individual. In tragic genre the hubris is what inevitably leads to the characters downfall, it’s their ‘tragic flaw’. In tragedies traditional hubris traits include that of greed, anger, distrust, pride, temperamental emotions, anger and jealousy. In Hamlet it seems that the hero’s tragic flaw is his inability to take action and fulfil his act of revenge, arguably due to his motivational failure, cowardice or perhaps his intentions were never to carry out his claims of revenge. This essay will discuss the extent to which Hamlet’s inaction is the cause of his downfall and will introduce other factors that may contribute considerably to the tragic nature of the play and to why hamlet’s hubris came to be his inaction.

Hamlet is undoubtedly a flawed character but at the same time displays wholly admirable traits. One may see Hamlet as a dislikeable character on account of his cowardice nature and his adamant refusal to never tell people why he acts as he does, instead he simply fires a range of accusations and torments individuals. However while it would be easy to condemn Hamlet for his irrational and erratic behaviour , we would be ignorantly ignoring the redeeming qualities Hamlet possesses, such as his strong mind, his witty way of speech, his seemingly accurate judge of character and his honesty and loyalty to those who deserve it.

It could be noted that Hamlet avoids seeking revenge on account of his insecurity and lack of self confidence. Hamlet admits this to himself, making him seem all the more assured that he feels he is incapable of defending himself, which I would arguably say makes him even more vulnerable. Hamlet is aware of the fact that men possess flaws, in act one scene four he says

“So oft it chances in particular men That – for some vicious mole of nature in them...Shall in the general censure take corruption From that particular fault”.

Hamlet seems to be fully conscious of the hubris concept, and of the tragic flaw, perhaps he is aware that his is of something similar to his inaction, which makes him all the more likely to abide by the rules of the tragic flaw he believes himself to possess, so it inevitably becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. Hamlet also degrades himself, and proposes that he is not the aggressive fighting type of man that he is expected to be. In act two scenes two he says

“Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave, that I, the son of a dear father murdered, Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell, Must like a whore unpack my heart with words”

This not only demonstrates that Hamlet holds little self respect or confidence in himself to commit the act of revenge, but also that he dislikes himself greatly for it. He mocks himself in a sarcastic manner when he says “This is most brave” and he refers to himself as a “whore” comparing himself to the worst type of women, demonstrating his distaste in his own character. He says that he has been told to seek revenge, yet all he has is “words” which may be a big part in his lacking of motivation as being a man of words is seen as very untraditional for a man, he may feel in-capable against the hands of Claudius who could be very skilled. He also refers to his dad “heaven and hell” prompting him to seek revenge, which I would have thought would encourage him to take charge yet still he seems to wallow in self pity and denial of his own potential. The fact that he does this could arguably say that perhaps Hamlet’s hubris is not in fact his inaction; it is his lacking of confidence that perpetuates the laziness he seems to display in accordance with this act of revenge which he is meant to be committing. It could in fact be this self pity that creates an un-certainty in himself which encourages him to stall. It could then be argued that things like that play that Hamlet puts on are merely devices he uses in order to stall his act of revenge and to maybe wait for something that will surge his confidence.

It is not only the audience that notices Hamlets inability to take control of the situation and act quickly, his father’s ghost is also aware of it. He says,

“This visitation is to what thy almost blunted perpose”.

Hamlets dad seems impatient and irritated that Hamlet has as yet failed to do anything of which he asked, and I would have thought that this would have prompted Hamlet to take action, as he looks up to his father, usually referring to him as a god for example in act one scene two he refers to his father as a “hyperion” also known as the god of the son. Hamlet speaks very highly of his father and seems to look up to him so perhaps the fact that his father is becoming impatient does not in fact influence him to do better, and to speed the process up in his favour, but perhaps it puts more pressure on Hamlet, making him feel nervous and trapped.

The event which actually leads to Hamlet’s downfall is seemingly the irrational killing of Polonius. This inevitably leads to Fortinbras wanting to fight Hamlet to avenge his father which leads to the fight in which they are both killed, along with the King and the Queen. The death of polonious was mainly down to Hamlets impulsive and irrational characteristics, therefore it could be argued that these are his tragic flaws. Hamlet is not even sure who he has murdered, he remarks

Nay, I know not. Is it the King?”

This is Hamlet’s first rash act yet seems to be the only one needed to result in his downfall. The fact that Hamlet thrust his sword and killed someone not even knowing who they were makes him seem irrational and distasteful. Irrationality is also a common traditional hubris trait for a tragic hero to possess. However it could also be argued that it is Hamlet’s seemingly mad mind that results in his death. Claudius would not have spiked the weapon if he hadn’t grown so tiresome of Hamlet’s mind games and wild actions. Hamlet also spooked Claudius with the play and instead of taking action, gave Claudius time to construct a plan of Hamlet’s death instead of it resulting in his own.

In conclusion I would argue that Hamlet’s hubris is a mixture of many parts, most of which are due to flaws in Hamlet’s personality and characteristics which do lead to his inaction and his other possessed flaws. I think Hamlet’s downfall is as a result of a mixture of traits to which he possesses such as his impulsiveness which lead to the fight with Fortinbras, his cowardice which prevented him from taking action, his wild arguably fake or true madness which seemed to anger Claudius and fuel him to plot against Hamlet and his lacking self confidence which only made things less desirable.

I do believe however that his inability to take immediate action played a significant part in his downfall.

(sorry i didnt get it to you on the Wednesday we broke up but i forgot i was at my other school on that day so couldnt hand it in so i put it up here )

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