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The Tragic Hero's Journey: A Case Study of Hamlet

Study Guide for Hamlet!
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Eli Diamond

on 5 December 2012

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Transcript of The Tragic Hero's Journey: A Case Study of Hamlet

Background Info: What is a Tragic Hero? Terminology Tragic Hero: He is for the most part a hero like any other; however, his death serves a greater purpose or cause. His death is tragic, because his death is not necessarily deserved. In the words of the wise Mrs. Meeker: "Usually his death is seen as a waste of human potential." We grieve his downfall. Tragic Flaw: A positive or negative character trait
that brings about the downfall of the hero. Examples from Literature More Background Information: Understanding Shakespeare Even More Background Information: Pretext for Hamlet The Call Refusal of the Call The Mentor Threshold Guardian Crossing the Threshold Belly of the Whale Road of Trials Meeting with the Goddess Woman as the Temptress Atonement with the Father The Ultimate Boon Refusing the Return The Magic Flight Rescue from Without Crossing the Return Threshold Master of the Two Worlds Freedom to Live... or not to live? The "Tragic" Hero's Journey Act 1, Scene 5: Prince Hamlet's meeting with the Ghost of his father, King Hamlet, marks his initial call to adventure in the play. The truth behind the death of his father is revealed to him and Hamlet is determined to avenge his father and unmask the villainy of Claudius, the unseen murderer.

Quote: The Ghost: "Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder" - Page 57, Line 32 Hamlet's Natural Flaw: - The use and power of words in Hamlet is
something very profound. Throughout the play, Hamlet and his fellow characters are seen using their words to deceive, attack, and impugn other characters. King Hamlet's death, which is executed by way of poison being put in his ear, represents the significance of what goes into one's ears; thus hinting to the nature of words in general. Through his words, Hamlet creates and interprets his own reality. His famous soliloquy, in which he poses the question "To be or not to be?", forces him to realize that he has little power in determining his own fate, which ultimately dampens his potential for both success and happiness. In the soliloquy, he ponders the question of death, and the inexorable fate of man. Bleak death, that is the reality that Hamlet paints for himself through his words. Examples of the Flaw: - Hamlet's flaw can be seen in many cases throughout the text. For example, Opehila's death is one instance where his words bring about the destruction of a character in the play. Instead of simply ignoring her, Hamlet uses his words to break down Ophelia. He says: "Get thee to a nunnery. Why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners?" (Act 3, Scene 1 - Page 131, Lines 131-132). Here, we see the duality of the word nunnery where it could mean either a monastery or a whore-house; Hamlet is devious with his words. This is just one example of the hurtful language Hamlet employs against Ophelia. Eventually, after the death Polonious, Ophelia is killed after falling from a willow tree. The tree itself represents the fact that Hamlet abandoned her, and instead of helping her through her tragedy, he continues to insulting her. Hamlet's Death: - As seen at the beginning of the play, King Hamlet is murdered by poison being put into his ear. His death foreshadows the downfall of the entire Danish kingdom. Prince Hamlet's death, the tragic ending, is the culmination of the "poison in the ear" and the significant role words play in the story. Hamlet as the Tragic Hero Characters in the Play The Ghost - Prince Hamlet's deceased father
Hamlet - Prince Hamlet, son of King Hamlet and Queen
Gertrude (protagonist right here)
Queen Gertrude - Ex-wife of the deceased King, father of Hamlet, and now wife of King Claudius
King Claudius - Brother of the deceased King Claudius, Prince Hamlet's uncle (and his murderer as well.) His underhanded usurping of the throne is unknown to the characters in the play.
Polonious - Counsel on the King's court, adviser to Claudius. He is distrustful of Hamlet throughout the play.
Ophelia - Daughter of Polonious and Prince Hamlet's love. She is a pleasant and bashful girl.
Laertes - Son of Polonious. He is for the most part removed from the conflict of the play until the end.
Horatio - Hamlet's single friend. He advises and supports Hamlet throughout the play. Hamlet Act 3, Scene 4: Gertrude can in fact be seen as the temptress in the story. If you think about it, the whole conflict of the play unfolds because of Claudius' lust for her. He realizes that he wants her and murders his brother in order to finally have her. Although it is debated whether she is intentionally a temptress, Gertrude still fills the role of the "woman as the temptress" in the play.

Quote: (Hamlet describes Gertrude's "incestuous" relationship with Claudius to her) "Stewed in corruption, honeying and making love over the nasty sty!"
- Page 175, Lines 105-106 Act 1, Scene 5: In the play, Hamlet does not refuse the call, rather, he accepts it willingly. He jumps at the opportunity to avenge his father.

Quote: Hamlet: "Haste me to know’t, that I, with wings as swift as meditation or the thoughts of love, may sweep to my revenge." - Pages 57-59, Lines 35-37 The Ghost serves as Hamlet's mentor in the play. In many instances, the Ghost is seen giving him advice and providing directives for him. An example of this, other than the Ghost imploring Hamlet to take revenge on Claudius in the first place, can be seen when Hamlet confronts Gertrude about her relationship with Claudius. When Hamlet is about to rebuke his mother, the Ghost intercedes and warns him: "Do not forget. This visitation is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose. But look, amazement on thy mother sits. O, step between her and her fighting soul. Conceit in weakest bodies strongest works. Speak to her, Hamlet."
- Act 3, Scene 4; Page 177, Lines 126-131 Act 3, Scene 1: In Hamlet's "to be or not to be" soliloquy, we see him psychologically consumed by the concepts of life and death, to live or not to live. He is essentially struggling to decide whether it is better to overcome life's obstacles or to cede to death and just be done with it all. Hamlet then goes on to list the many sufferings that men face throughout the course of their lives and seems to lean towards death-ridden end. Eventually, he recounts that people choose life over death because people do not know what the afterlife truly is, and fear it as a result. This predicament is the belly of the whale that Hamlet is trying to free, or not free, himself from.

Quote: (Soliloquy is on Page 127-129,
Lines 64-98) Act 3, Scene 1: Ophelia stands out as the Goddess in the play because when Hamlet confronts her, he chooses to disrespect her; that is one of the tell-tale archetypal signs of a meeting with the goddess in literature. A hero can either be kind to the goddess, or choose to go against her, Hamlet chooses the latter. In instances where the hero is disrespectful to the Goddess, the they both suffer in the end. Ophelia's death comes through a tragic suicide, as she is heartbroken by the way in which Hamlet deals with her. Her death ultimately contributes to Hamlet's own sense of grief and sorrow and becomes a a symbolic aspect of his eventual downfall.

Quote: (Example of the way Hamlet speaks to her) - "If thou dost marry, I'll give thee this plague for thy dowry: be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny. Get thee to a nunnery, farewell." - Pages 131-133, Lines 146-149 Act 5, Scene 2: Hamlet's ultimate boon is the death of Claudius. Although Hamlet does not live to celebrate the death of Claudius, Hamlet dies for the sake of receiving this ultimate boon. Furthermore, it can be inferred that Hamlet's desire to murder Claudius was for the purpose of restoring Denmark's reputation, and though he was unable to live to see the restoration of Denmark's reputation, the death of Claudius still satisfies the role of the ultimate boon.

Quote: "Does it not, think thee, stand me now upon- He that hath killed my king and whored my mother...to let this canker of our nature come in further evil." - Page 263, Lines 72-80 Act 1, Scene 4: The threshold guardian is actually two people in the play. When Hamlet attempts to follow the ghost after its silent visitation, the castle guard Marcellus and Hamlet's close friend Horatio try to dissuade him, arguing that chasing after ghosts is a bad omen.

Quote: Marcellus: "You shall not go, my lord." / Horatio: "Be ruled. You shall not go."
- Page 55, Lines 88 and 90 Act 1, Scene 4: Despite their misgivings, Hamlet pursues the Ghost and initiates his journey for vengeance. He abandons the days of inaction and apathy and, with the advice of the Ghost, begins to actively seek out the truth behind Claudius' deceit.

Quote: Hamlet: "My fate cries out and makes each pretty arture in this body...By heaven, I'll make a ghost of him that lets me! I say, away!-Go on. I'll follow thee." - Page 55, Lines 91-96 There is no atonement with the father in “Hamlet.” It can be argued that Claudius is Hamlet’s father figure in the play. And because Hamlet is determined to kill his father figure, Hamlet can in no way “atone” with him. This proves to be very significant by the end of the play. In accordance with Freud’s Oedipus Complex, the lack of atonement between the son and father figure will lead to many things such as: competition for the mother’s affections (Hamlet fighting for Gertrude’s affection), the child killing the father in order to marry the mother, the son’s inability to have stable relationships with women (which is seen with Ophelia and Gertrude), and the child’s hate for the father figure because he feels as if the father is the dominant figure in the house, a position the child believes is rightfully his (in this case, Hamlet would feel hatred towards Claudius because Claudius has usurped the throne, which Hamlets believes is rightfully his.) Act 4, Scene 6: Hamlet's magic flight can be seen when he sends a letter to Horatio stating that he is out of harm's way (speaking to Claudius' attempt to kill him) and intends to return back to Denmark. In his letter, Hamlet explains that pirates boarded their ship and took him as the lone prisoner. This development displays a less-than-common salvation from the grapples of death and marks Hamlet's magic flight home.

Quote: (Hamlet's letter on Page 221,
Lines 13-31) Act 4, Scene 4: Hamlet does not refuse the return back to Denmark. He chooses to pursue his journey and go back home to kill Claudius, thus fulfilling his destiny.

Quote: (Hamlet's Soliloquy): "How all occasions do inform against me and spur my dull revenge...O, from this time forth my thoughts be bloody or be nothing forth!" - Pages 203-205, Lines 34-69 William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, in 1564. He died in 1616, in the same city. In between, he managed to write 37 plays, 154 sonnets, and a variety of other poems- not to mention the various works that are occasionally attributed to Shakespeare, although unauthenticated. But Shakespeare’s greatness doesn’t lie in his prolific body of work. What sets Shakespeare apart is both his pure talent and the way his talent evolved.William Shakespeare’s first plays were written in the generally accepted style of the time. This was a highly stylized, ornate way of writing, and it led to often wooden dialogue that held back Shakespeare’s obviously brilliant character creations. However, soon Shakespeare began to adapt his language and wordplay to his drama and story arc, and he began to write the plays that made his fame, among them Hamlet. Later, closer to the end of his career, Shakespeare began to twist the iambic pentameter and linguistic structure even more so, to the point that the rules he was ignoring were unrecognizable. This was revolutionary in the world of English literature. Nearly all of Shakespeare’s work was exceptional, most of it groundbreaking, and some of it world-changing. This was a direct result of his poetic ability, and his willingness to shift and alter that ability. Hamlet opens with a few doltish guards encountering a ghost. From then on, it thrusts into a twisted plot filled with deception, incest, murder, and most of all, madness, both real and feigned. Prince Hamlet spends the play plotting the death of his king/uncle for the murder of his father. Meanwhile, he lusts after the young Ophelia and spars with the wily Polonius, all against the backdrop of a Denmark Kingdom that may be thrust into war at any time. Hamlet is dramatic in every sense of the word. http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/hamlet/section1.rhtml Act 1, Scene 1: Act 1, Scene 2: http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/hamlet/section2.rhtml Act 1, Scenes 3-4: http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/hamlet/section3.rhtml Act 1, Scene 5/Act 2, Scene 1: http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/hamlet/section4.rhtml Act 2, Scene 2: http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/hamlet/section5.rhtml Act 3, Scene 1: http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/hamlet/section6.rhtml Act 3, Scene 2: http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/hamlet/section7.rhtml Act 3, Scene 3: http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/hamlet/section8.rhtml Act 3, Scene 4: http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/hamlet/section9.rhtml Act 4, Scenes 1-2: http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/hamlet/section10.rhtml Act 4, Scenes 3-4: http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/hamlet/section11.rhtml Act 4, Scenes 5-6: http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/hamlet/section12.rhtml Essential Questions: Things to looks for throughout your reading. 1. Throughout the play we see Hamlet claiming to be mad and he does this so well that the reader may even think he has actually gone mad. Asses the validity of this statement and bring evidence to support your answer.
2. Describe or illustrate the chain of revenge that begins with Claudius murdering King Hamlet and continuing throughout the end of the play. What does this chain reveal about the nature of revenge? (From your worksheet.)
3. In Act 4 Scene 7, Gertrude describes Ophelia's fate to Laertes. In climbing too far out on the delicate branches of a willow tree over a brook, Opehlia falls into the water laden with garlands of flowers and weeds. Why is this willow tree symbolic in this scene? (From your worksheet.)
4. Do you believe Ophelia should have a proper funeral ceremony and a proper religious funeral? Bring evidence to support your claim.
5. Combining the classic traits of the Oedipal Complex with the situations occurring in Hamlet, compose a 2-3 paragraph essay exploring the theory that Hamlet is or isn't suffering from an Oedipal Complex. (From your quiz.)
6. As you read through the play, who seems to be Hamlet's foil? Support your answer with evidence from the text.
7. Do you think Fortinbras's rule will restore morality to Denmark? Explain. Act 4, Scene 6: As explained in the bubble for Magic Flight, pirates took Hamlet hostage and, for one reason or another, had mercy on him. Even more surprising is the fact that they are willing to take him home to Denmark. This serves as the rescue from without because the pirates essentially save his life, and return him back to his journey of vengeance.

Quote: (Refer back to Hamlet's letter in
the previous bubble.) Act 5, Scene 1: Although Hamlet officially returns to Denmark when he visits the graveyard secretly, he does not formally resume his quest until he confronts Laertes and wrestles him. At that point, when he physically comes into the picture, he has in fact crossed the threshold back into the journey.

Quote: "(comes forward)" Hamlet: "What is he whose grief bears such an emphasis...This is I, Hamlet the Dane. (leaps into the grave.)" - Page 294, Lines 238-242 Act 5, Scene 2: In the final scene of the play Hamlet dies. Although it might seem that death was inevitable for Hamlet, he proactively chooses death and is no longer afraid of the supernatural fate that lies beyond. In essence, he has answered his own existential question: to be or not to be. His acceptance of death can be inferred from the text when Hamlet, in his final breaths, states: If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart, absent thee from felicity a while, and in this harsh world, draw thy breath in pain to tell my story."

Quote: Page 332, Lines 345-348 Act 4, Scene 7: http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/hamlet/section13.rhtml Act 5, Scene 1: http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/hamlet/section14.rhtml Act 5, Scene 2: http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/hamlet/section15.rhtml By the end of the play, Hamlet has essentially mastered the two worlds, life and death. In his "to be or not to be" soliloquy, Hamlet is still unsure of his stance on life. However, by the end of the play, Hamlet is confident enough in his beliefs to accept death, and thus proves his mastery over it. His mastery over the living world comes when he earns Laertes' forgiveness and kills Claudius. These two actions finally put back together the broken pieces of his own life and the Danish Kingdom as well.
Quote: (Refer to the end of Act 5, Scene 2) One classic example of the tragic hero is modern literature is that of John Proctor, from The Crucible. He is accused of witchcraft, and sentenced to death. However, he is offered the chance to “confess” and save his life. Proctor initially agrees, before he realizes the confession will be nailed to the front of the church, thereby shaming his name and the names of who he associates with. Proctor tears up the confession and declaims of his pride and pride in his good name, thereby ending his life. He is a good man whose tragic flaw is that of intense pride. It dooms him in the end. Another example of a tragic hero is Dobby the house-elf, from the Harry Potter series. Dobby spends his life as a good elf, who wishes to fight the Dark Arts and evil. However, his tragic flaw takes his life in the end. His flaw is that of his great love and admiration for Harry Potter, which causes him to sacrifice himself to save Harry. Dobby accomplishes great things, but his tragic flaw kills him. In an ironic twist, his death may be his greatest accomplishment, as it saves Harry Potter and, by extension, the wizarding world. What exactly belongs within Hamlet’s road of trials is up for discussion, and hard to nail down. However, Hamlet clearly goes through a significant amount of trials. One trial Hamlet goes through is his struggle to cope with the fact that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two of his closest friends, have chose to spy on him at the behest of the king and queen. It clearly hurts him greatly when he realizes this, and he tries to find out the truth: “..be even and direct with me whether you were sent for or no.” (Act 2, Scene 2) They eventually tell him, and it angers him greatly. The fact that Shakespeare’s greatest friends have chosen to spy on him is something he must fight through: both to come to terms with the betrayal, and to not allow them to find anything out to tell back to the king and queen. Another trial that Hamlet faces is his relationship with Ophelia. He desperately loves Ophelia, but she betrays him as well, and shows that her loyalty lies with Polonius, more than it does with Hamlet. When Polonius tells Ophelia to stop seeing Hamlet, she says: “I shall obey my Lord.” (Act 1, Scene 4) This hurts Hamlet tremendously, and he turns on her viciously, confusing her with poisonous words and insults. Most strongly, he exclaims: “...get thee to a nunnery,” (Scene 3, Act 1) and “I loved you not.” (Act 3, Scene 1) Hamlet’s ordeal with Ophelia wounds him. This is a man who has been betrayed by everyone he loves. Hamlet’s road of trials is made up of a series of betrayals. By: Eli Diamond, Jeremy Shevach, Dani Socher, and Menachem Polonsky :) Optional Assignment: - Compare this movie of version to the text. How closely does the movie match up with the text? Are the steps of the hero cycle as easily identifiable? Compose a 2-3 paragraph essay explaining and supporting your answer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RW_Cbopvdv4 Act 4, Scenes 5 and 7: Ophelia's flowers are very symbolic and have great significance in the play. Distraught after her father's death, Ophelia is overcome with deep sorrow and grief and feels that the best way to express her emotions is through flowers. Though everything going surrounding her is very confusing, she is keen enough to sense the guiltiness of the people around her. She offers flowers to the King, Queen, and Laertes as a way of accusing them for their misdeeds. She offers a bouquet of rosemary and pansies to her brother, Laertes, so that he will contemplate and remember their father, Polonius. She then offers Claudius a bouquet of fennel and columbines because Claudius is deceptive and hides a very large secret-the truth behind the death of King Hamlet. Lastly, she offers Gertrude a bouquet of rue which also contains a single daisy because she is the bereft of sadness after realizing the truth about Claudius. While giving the bouquet to Gertrude, Ophelia adds that Gertrude should “wear rue with a difference,” in order to tell Gertrude that she must not only listen to what Hamlet tells her, but that she must actually do something about it. After Ophelia's death, flowers and weeds in Ophelia's garland have a significant role as well. The crow flowers symbolize ingratitude, which represents her gratefulness for the love of Hamlet, who is a great man. The flowering nettles symbolize the sharpness and stinging nature of Hamlet's insults and sexual jokes that he says to her after Polonius' death. Daisies signify innocence and virginity, which relate to Ophelia since she dies a virgin. The long purples (orchids) signify sexual desire, which can represent her lust to have more of a sexual relationship with Hamlet, but was never able to. Finally, the willow tree that Ophelia falls from represents Hamlet's abandonment of her in her time of need; he leaves her when she needs him most.
http://huntingtonbotanical.org/Shakespeare/ophelia.htm Ophelia's Symbolisms
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