A tragic hero will effectively gain our fear and pity if he is a good mixture of good and evil. Ophelia can be viewed as a tragic hero in this play. We first meet Ophelia in Act 1, Scene 3 where she is warned by her brother Laertes that Hamlet is playing with her and that she should not keep her "chaste treasure open" suggesting that his sister has no 'worth of her own except in her sex'. Ophelia hears her brother but sticks up for herself and defends her relationship with Hamlet. She even turns Laertes' lesson around to focus on him and how he is doing exactly what he is telling Ophelia not to do.
But he does. While Hamlet slowly is driven mad by visits from the ghost of his father and the scheming plots of his uncle Claudius, the one thing that actually keeps Hamlet focused and centered are his feelings for Ophelia. Hamlet’s seemingly unreasonable actions and questionable motives toward her are all part of a ruse to fool everybody at court and actually protect her from being used as leverage by the murderous King Claudius. There are several moments where Hamlet professes his love for Ophelia in moments where he didn’t have to, which in my opinion point to where his heart really lies. Let’s explore the moments within the text where Hamlet actually used his smarts to trick the other conniving characters into thinking that he didn’t love Ophelia and was going insane instead.
Shakespeare carefully stages and dictates the entrance and exit of Hamlet in this scene to optimise the dramatic irony of the situation. The dramatic presentation of the scene amplifies Hamlet’s lost ‘perfect’ opportunity to kill Claudius and fulfil his duty, which is the pivotal point in the play. Hamlet’s inaction in this scene has been interpreted in different ways; however, the reason behind his inaction is doubtlessly dark and questions his moral integrity. As Claudius, in this scene, is utterly defenceless and seems to be doing a good deed by trying to “confront the visage of [his] offense,” Hamlet’s decision to not murder him then and there is dignified. But in Hamlet’s soliloquy, the reason
It is the acquisition and maintenance of this power that shows just how Machiavellian Claudius’ character is in the play. Machiavelli believes that lands are best acquired through ones own arms and virtue rather than through fortune. “Since fortune is variable... I am of the opinion that it is better to be rash than over-cautious, because fortune is a woman and, if you wish to keep her down, you must beat her and pound her.” (Machiavelli p.188) Claudius does not let fortune dictate his destiny but rather takes it into his own hands by killing Hamlets father, who is also his brother. As he states, “O, my offense is rank, it smells to heaven; It hath the primal eldest curse upon’t, A brother’s murder.” (III, iii, 37-39) He continues to emphasize these virtues by marrying the kings wife, Gertrude.
He doesn’t treat justice the same as revenge, like some other characters do (for example how Lear wanted to hang Regan and Goneril for how they treated him). Instead, he sees justice as the truth coming out, everyone knowing he did nothing wrong, and everyone knowing what Edmund did. He also wants the same type of justice for his father; which, shows that he is selfless and has respect for his father. Instead of hurting Gloucester worse, and getting revenge for Gloucester’s mistake, when he sees that Gloucester cannot see, he helps him. This is how he serves as the foil for Edmund.
As an anti hero, Hamlet's good traits, loyalty and intelligence are seen throughout the play. Hamlet shows his loyalty towards his father when he sees his ghost. The ghost tells Hamlet that he was murdered and he requests that Hamlet seeks vengeance for his death. Hamlet agrees. "Haste me to know't, that I with wings as swift As meditation or the thoughts of love May sweep to my revenge."
Laertes and Fortinbras serve as minor characters that parallel Hamlet and give the reader characters to compare and contrast Hamlet’s actions and emotions throughout the play. Hamlet, Laertes, and Fortinbras are seeking to avenge their fathers. Although all three have similar motives to carry out their deeds and become corrupt through their dedication for revenge, there are distinct differences between the characters. Hamlet’s indecision and inability to confront and kill Claudius is sharply contrasted with Laertes’s desire for a quick and unplanned revenge. Through Hamlet’s inaction, he determines that Claudius should not be killed while praying because that would send him to heaven but unlike Hamlet, Laertes is not concerned about eternal retribution but more about a direct repayment for his father’s death: “To this point I stand, / That both the worlds I give to negligence, / Let come what comes; only I'll be revenged / Most thoroughly for my father.” (Act IV, Scene 5: Lines 134-137) Fortinbras on the other hand seeks revenge not through someone’s death but through reclaiming the land his father lost to Hamlet’s father.
It is her report to Claudius that seals his decision to have Hamlet executed. In scene I we learn a lot about Claudius’ character. He is a selfish king who is more concerned with his self preservation than achieving justice. His response to Polonius’ death is to get rid of Hamlet – not to punish Hamlet for his crime but rather to remove the threat Hamlet poses to his
Or was it only a plan to achieve his revenge from his uncle? This question has been debated from a long time. Some agree with the idea that he was faking his madness, others, consider him as truly insane. Joseph C. Allen in his article, was hamlet insane, argues that Hamlet was insane and not pretending. He mentioned that
Hamlet and Laertes are also foils. Such is evident through Laertes’ rage accreted declaration “To cut his throat I’ th’ church,” indicating that he is willing to risk eternal damnation in order to achieve his revenge, whilst Hamlet, the protagonist, who by tradition should be the avenger, refuses to murder Claudius in the Chapel “when he is fit and seasoned for passage”. This demonstrates that revenge is a destructive emotion worthy of perdition. Hamlet, at the end of the play succeeds in his revenge. This is a dramatic irony as it is Laertes’s actions and confession that “the king is to blame,” that catalyzes Hamlet actions, thus enabling the completion of the impending tragedy.