The play Hamlet was written by playwright William Shakespeare around the year 1600. The play begins when the ghost of Prince Hamlet’s deceased father, King Hamlet, appears to Hamlet, asking for Hamlet to take revenge on the King’s brother Claudius who killed the King by pouring poison into the former King’s ear, took King Hamlet’s crown, and married the King’s wife, Gertrude. The play continues with Hamlet in constant struggle about whether or not to kill Claudius or not, and Hamlet begins acting mad in public to ensure that others do not discover his plans to kill the king. Therefore, in the fifth act, every major character except Horatio and a few minor characters are dead as a result of the corruption and madness of characters and the many plots for revenge. In conclusion, in William Shakespeare’s great tragedy Hamlet, Prince Hamlet can be viewed as a tragic hero by the ways in which he poses a threat to society and causes suffering to others through violating the law and how he has a constant struggle between what is right and what is wrong.
Firstly, Prince Hamlet can be seen as a tragic hero in how he poses a threat to society and causes suffering to others through violating the law. For example, he violates the law by committing the murders of Polonius, Claudius, and Laertes. He stabs Polonius to death while Polonius is hiding behind a curtain, which then drives Ophelia to madness and Laertes to revenge. In addition to the loss of her father, Ophelia is also driven to madness and suicide as a result of Hamlet’s madness and verbal abuse of her: “I loved you not… Get thee to a nunnery. Why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners” (Act 3. Scene 1. Lines 129, 131, and 132). It can be seen in this quote that Hamlet verbally abuses Ophelia by telling her that he never loved her and that her unvirtuous self belongs in places lacking in virtue since she can only be a mother of sinners. Moreover, once Laertes returns from France, he hears the news of his father’s murder and his sister’s madness and is moved by the sorrow that Hamlet created. However, Ophelia is not the only character that Hamlet verbally abused; he also verbally abused his mother, Gertrude, in her bedroom one night. He accuses her of incest, and later on in the play, she is killed by poison meant for her son. If not for Hamlet’s plans of revenge on Claudius and the murder of Polonius, Gertrude would never have been accidentally poisoned. Lastly, Hamlet caused Claudius to suffer by stabbing him with a poisoned knife and forcing him to drink poison, thus killing him. Horatio was also a victim to Hamlet’s suffering since Hamlet made him take part in revenge plans for Claudius, such as watching Claudius’s reaction during the play, The Mousetrap. Horatio was also forced to witness the deaths of every other character and recount the tragic story to others. Therefore, Hamlet can be seen as the tragic hero of this play because of how he commits murder and bears suffering on those around him.
In addition to causing others to suffer, Hamlet is shown as a tragic hero because of his constant struggle between what is right and what is wrong. Hamlet’s first internal struggle is whether or not he should kill Claudius. Hamlet delays his revenge because he needs evidence that Claudius murdered Hamlet’s father, and Hamlet also continues to question whether the ghost was truly the spirit of his father. Therefore, Hamlet discovers that the ghost is truly his late father when Claudius proves his guilt by reacting negatively to the play Hamlet stages. Throughout the rest of the play, however, Hamlet delays his revenge on Claudius because he needs time to motivate himself to take someone’s life. He is also worried about the consequences that the crime will bear on him since he will be unable to live a normal life after committing the crime. However, once Hamlet witness young Prince Fortinbras leading an army to avenge King Fortinbras’s death, Hamlet receives the motivation he needs to commit the murder and debates whether he should kill Claudius himself or send someone to kill Claudius in place of himself. In addition to his conflicts about Claudius’ murder, Hamlet also internally struggles between whether or not he should commit suicide. In the beginning of the play after his father’s death and mother’s remarriage to Claudius, Hamlet states that he hates his life since it is vapid and lifeless without joy and virtue in it. Hamlet is then concerned that these depressive thoughts will lead to suicide, and later in the play he does contemplate suicide. Due to the torments of life including his father's death, his mother’s remarriage, the untrustworthiness of everyone around him, and his struggle of committing the murder or not, Hamlet considers the idea of ending all of these troubles: “To be or not to be—that is the question: whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer… or to take arms against a sea of troubles and, by opposing, end them” (Act 3. Scene 1. Lines 64, 65, 67, and 68). In this quote, Hamlet asks himself whether he wants to live or die- to suffer through life or take up arms against his troubles. He sees death as simply a very long sleep; however, he chooses not to commit suicide because he fears an eternal afterlife in hell as a consequence and views suicide as a cowardly solution to his problems. All in all, Hamlet, through his constant struggles concerning murder and suicide, can be seen as the tragic hero in the play.
In conclusion, due to the threat Hamlet poses to society, the sufferings he brings to others through violating the law, and his constant struggle between right and wrong, Prince Hamlet can be viewed as a tragic hero in William Shakespeare's great tragedy Hamlet. For example, Hamlet causes suffering for the other characters around him in the play through his crime of murder. Hamlet also verbally abuses Ophelia and his mother, Gertrude; murders Polonius, Claudius, and Laertes; causes Ophelia to go mad; and burdens Horatio with sharing the tragic story with the rest of the world. In addition, Hamlet can also be seen as a tragic hero due to his constant struggle between right and wrong. Through the play, Hamlet has internal debates regarding whether or not to take revenge for his father’s murder on Claudius and whether or not to commit suicide and end his troubles or not. Therefore, even though Hamlet is sometimes considered to be William Shakespeare's greatest tragedy, Prince Hamlet can be seen as only one of Shakespeare's many tragic heros in a large collection of tragic plays.