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To Be, Or Not To Be

A synopsis on the tragedy of Hamlet

Montana Tait

on 9 December 2013

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Transcript of To Be, Or Not To Be

To Be, Or Not To Be
Hamlet: A Tragic Hero
What is a tragic hero?
How does Hamlet match the description?
He is of high noble birth
Has a tragic flaw: indecisiveness
His downfall is caused by his tragic flaw
This causes an unfortunate change in fortune
Ultimately leading to his death
Northrop Frye's 5 Stages of Action in Tragedy
Classical Definition (Aristotle):
A person of noble status that has a tragic flaw and undergoes a change in fortune from glory to death
Downfall is brought upon himself but he is not completely responsible for his own demise
Modern Definition:
A person does not have to be of high noble birth or status but can be an ordinary person with a tragic flaw
Does not have to die in the end instead they will experience a change in fortune
Hamlet's tragic flaw: Indecisiveness
Very meticulous in his plot to assassinate Claudius
After Hamlet's encounter with his dead father, he states how he will be quick to avenge his father
"Haste me to know it, that I, with wings as swift/As mediation or the thoughts of love/May sweep to my revenge." (Act 1, Scene 5, Lines 34-36)
Two months later, Hamlet has not killed Claudius and is complaining about the corruption of the throne
"A goodly one, in which there are many confines/wards an dungeons, Denmark being the one of the worst." (Act 2, Scene 2, Lines 260- 261)
His tragic flaw starts to become apparent
How Hamlet is a Tragic Hero
1. Encroachment
"Protagonist takes on too much, makes a mistake that causes his 'fall'.
When Hamlet decides to kill his uncle
He wants to fix everything
He does not care about anything but his task
"So, uncle, there you are. Now to my word:/It is ‘ Adieu, adieu, remember me.’/
I have sworn 't." (A1.S5.L110-112)
2. Complication
"The building up of events aligning opposing forces that will lead inexorably to the tragic conclusion."
He distances himself from Ophelia
He sets the mousetrap
Postpones the murder
Accosts his mother
Then he kills Polonius
"I must be cruel only to be kind./
Thus bad begins, and worse remains behind."
3. Reversal
"The point at which it becomes clear that the hero's expectations are mistaken, that his fate will be the reverse of what he had hoped."
When he learns of Claudius' plan
The letter for the ambassador in England
"That on the supervise, no leisure bated,/
No, not to stay the grinding of the axe,/
My head should be struck off."
4. Catastrophe
"The catastrophe exposes the limits of the hero's power and dramatizes the waste of his life. Piles of dead bodies remind us that the forces unleashed are not easily contained."
The deaths of:
As well as his own death
"Had I but time – as this fell sergeant, Death,/
Is strict in his arrest – O, I could tell you –/
But let it be. Horatio, I am dead./
Thou livest. Report me and my cause aright
To the unsatisfied."
5. Recognition
"The audience (sometimes the hero as well) recognizes the larger pattern."
Horatio and Fortinbras are said audience
They recognize and understand what has happened
Fortinbras recognizes Hamlet for the hero he is

Let four captains
Bear Hamlet like a soldier to the stage./
For he was likely, had he been put on./
To have proved most royal. And for his passage/
The soldiers' music and the rites of war/
Speak loudly for him./
Take up the bodies. Such a sight as this
Becomes the field, but here shows much amiss.

Tragic Hero?
It is controversial on whether or not Hamlet is a tragic hero
Is he a tragic hero?
Matches Aristotle's definition
His life spirals out of control
His tragic flaw causes Hamlet to make descisions that lead to his own demise
Realizes his tragic flaw, but by then it is too late
He accepts his fate willingly
Tragic Flaws That Make Him Human
Major Flaws
Indirect, never takes action head on
Insane (if you believe he truly went insane)
Minor Flaws
Drama Queen
Emotionally Traumatized
Stuck on revenge
He has trouble letting go
Thinks every decision through to the point that the opportunity is gone
Talks to much
Act 3, Scene 3: Hamlet has the chance to kill Claudius
Hamlet sees Claudius praying
Chooses not to kill him
If he's confessing he will go to heaven
Hamlet wants Claudius to burn in hell
This is the last time Hamlet could kill Claudius before the end of the play and Hamlet's death
How his Indecisiveness Leads to his own Demise
source: Faculty.gvsu.edu. 2013. Tragedy: the Basics. [online] Available at: http://faculty.gvsu.edu/websterm/Tragedy.htm [Accessed: 5 Nov 2013].
LearnHub. 2013. Elements of a tragic hero in literature. [online] Available at: http://learnhub.com/lesson/4435-elements-of-a-tragic-hero-in-literature [Accessed: 5 Nov 2013].
Shakespeare's Plays: Tragedy at

In conclusion, Hamlet is a tragic hero.
He follows Aristotle's definition,
Has a tragic flaw that causes his fall,
Follows Northrop Frye's five stages of action in tragedy.
He is one of the prime examples of a tragic hero in both the modern and classic sense.

Thank you!
Comparing Tragic Heroes
-Oedipus is often considered the best example of a tragic hero
-While he is a kind, caring and noble man, because of his impulsiveness and quick temper he makes a series of bad decisions that, if thought out, could have been avoided.
-Oedipus's tragic flaw was his pride and arrogance , he was so determined to avoid his fate he actually brought the it upon himself.
-Jay Gatsby is a tragic hero in the Great Gatsby, because of his errors in judgement and his tragic flaw led to his fall.
-Gatsby's tragic flaw is that he naive and trusting of all those who are around him.
-Tragic hero in the movie "The Dark Knight"
-His tragic flaw is his paranoia and obsessiveness
-Although he saves Gotham City he is still sent into exile and seen as the villain
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