What is Hamlet’s tragic flaw?
It has long been observed that almost all the Shakespeare’s characters are more inclined to meditation than to action. To the greatest extent it relates to Hamlet, whose inner world is steadily crumbling under the double onslaught: the painful emotional distress caused by external circumstances (a horrible death of his father, his uncle’s meanness, treachery of his mother and friends), compounded by destructive thoughts that lead him to reassess all that had value and meaning before. Honor, love, loyalty – these ideals are ruthlessly trampled by rough reality.
Hamlet understands that he must fight the evil that he is required to act, but his will is paralyzed, because he is seized by the most terrible human question: “To be or not to be.” In his denial of reality Hamlet goes so far that he is ready to see nothing but evil in the world. But if the world is so terrible, it is not worth living. One only thing stops Hamlet, whose faith in the Creator and divine justice is shaken: whether there is continuation of this being after the grave, or it is oblivion that expects us? Hamlet’s figure, whose youth was held not in idle amusements and rough play, and in the walls of Wittenberg University, symbolizes the new consciousness, a new attitude, for whom “There is no time connection.”
What is the connection? For the Christian, such has always been sacred and unreasoning faith. But at the University Hamlet knew the power of other forces – the mind, and now these two forces, faith and reason fight in his heart a fierce struggle. How to live if reasonable understanding of life leads to its denial? Hamlet’s tragic flaw is that he forces himself to ensure that he does not talk, but acts because
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.
Symbolically, the Hamlet for the fulfillment of his plan pretends insane: insanity is the flip side of reason, stalled in trying to grasp the immensity – the meaning of life. Hamlet is a person who stands on the threshold of a new time, but he is still under influence of the principles and ideals of the past. Revenge for the murder of his father is a heavy duty for Hamlet, duty, not the divine right. And what’s the point in revenge on Claudius, as if he alone is the incarnation of evil! The whole world succumbed to deterioration and, according to the officer guards, “something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”
Besides Hamlet is no longer able to live in obedience to authority age-old wisdom, with its unique standards firmly establish what is good and what is evil. Yet Shakespeare was far from to show his hero complete cynic and a pessimist. Determination to fight evil in spite of everything, the willingness to die in this unequal battle, knowing the nullity of that struggle – all this raises Hamlet over low everyday life, and even over philosophical detachment and wise moderation of his friend Horatio, the only one who is not corrupted by universal moral damage. Shakespeare shows how serious thoughts, doubts, and ordeals in the end do not destroy Hamlet’s faith in man and in his mind, but strengthens it.
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