Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare had gained volumes of criticism and reviews in the world of literature. This essay will emphasize how the essence of tragedy became an important element in the success of Hamlet and what characteristics that makes of a tragic hero. The essay will also briefly discuss the element of “psychological complexity” in the tragedy itself and how it will be inculcated in the persona of a tragic hero such as Prince Hamlet of Denmark.
Hamlet: The “Psychological Complexity”
The Tragical History of Hamlet Prince of Denmark is known for being the longest play written by William Shakespeare. The play “was probably written about 1600” (Encyclopedia Americana, 1995) and considered as one of the most successful tragedies in literary works.
Shakespeare, deemed as the most celebrated poet and dramatist of all time is known for tragic plays where he combines character’s misfortune, conflicting attitudes and “psychological realism,” thus, creating a sense of character that seems to counteract with his own situation in which he really have no control. Few among his successful tragedies are Othello, King Lear, Julius Caesar, Macbeth and the last which are also considered as “problem plays” are The Merchant of Venice and Hamlet.
The play Hamlet is too tiresome to read because aside from the fact that it its literally long, long verses and figurative language used in this play would be quite difficult to understand if you will not refer to a commentary or any kind of interpretation from scholarly articles in literature. However, if one will go through a broad study about Shakespeare and his works, one could probably observe how Shakespeare brilliantly creates tragic heroes and then interpret them through its psychological realms (thought), motives and actions. In this play, he creates a protagonist by the name of Prince Hamlet whose roots came from a monarchial family, unfortunately, his own power eventually falls not because of his pride or weakness, but because he struggles against the situation beyond his control. This context simply defines what tragedy is and what Shakespeare have used to write during the Elizabethan period.
Moreover, he also creates characters with conflicting attitudes or something that could have “psychological complexity.” These complexities drive them to be mad, confused and baffled between the truth and the lie. Take the protagonist himself, Prince Hamlet who initially believes of the ghost that had appeared once again in the platform – that ghost is to be believed that it is the ghost of the late King Hamlet In lines Act III, Scene 2, where Hamlet is ready to showcase a play mimicking a story of his father’s death, he states:
….if his occulted guilt
Do not itself unkennel in one speech,
It is a damned ghost that we have seen..
It seems to me that these lines simply oppose what he have previously learned from an encounter with the ghost. It seems that all may end in doubt, that all may be misinterpreted if he cannot make his uncle (King Claudius) guilty of the actions being enacted on stage. Likewise, Bernardo himself places himself in doubt the very first time he encountered the warlike figure, which resembles of King Hamlet, saying: “In the same figure, like the king that’s dead” and then he eventually marked “Looks it not like the King?”
In their book Shakespeare: Script, Stage, Screen, Bevington, Welsh and Greenwald (2006) notes that “Hamlet represents Shakespeare’s most ambitious attempt to that point in his career to create a psychological complexity in his character through language.” He efficiently uses the language to show how a tragic hero does feels and what motivates him to initiate an action that may be distinct with the rest of the characters. The great poet himself was successful in creating a character that seems to perfectly personify what a tragic hero is, what he does, what he thinks and what would be his actions, these things alone set him apart from other literary figures because it’s as if there is a little Hamlet in all of us and the attribute and the character itself is immortal.
As Bevington et al. (2006) writes, “Shakespeare seems to have so completely entered the mind of his tragic hero that he was forced to create a language known only in Hamlet’s world” (p. 568).
Hamlet. (1995). In Grolier encyclopedia of knowledge (Vol. 9, p. 122). (n.p.): Grolier Incorporated.
Bevington, D., Welsh, A., & Greenwald, M. (2006). Shakespeare: Script, stage, screen. New York: Pearson.