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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: July ::
What is Hamlet's flaw?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0380  Thursday, 16 July 2009

From:       Louis Swilley <
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Date:       Wednesday, 15 Jul 2009 21:34:55 -0700 (PDT)
Subject:    What is Hamlet's flaw?

"Thus the hamartia, or shortcoming, in a tragic person may refer to 
something within the man, or to an outward act, a particular shortcoming 
or case of misjudgment, which brings about his downfall." -- Lane 
Cooper. Aristotle on the Art of Poetry.

Cooper offers that Hamlet's flaw is his delay of action -- then his 
sudden, rash deeds.

But is it [also?] his failure to make use of friends about him (Does 
that account for Horatio?) . . .

Or is it his failing to understand that, having presented himself as 
mad, Ophelia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (and Polonius?) naturally 
believe him deranged -- as he intended all should --  and are kindly 
trying to bring him to his senses -- although he interprets their 
conduct as betrayal, as siding with Claudius against him?

And does he ever realize what he has done to bring this disaster on 
himself?

And does he blame himself for that?

I cannot see that Aristotle requires the tragic figure to finally 
realize and regret his error, yet it seems best that he should -- 
otherwise is he not somewhat innocent of it?  (Lear certainly realizes 
his error ["Take physic, pomp, etc."] and regrets it.). Yet, William 
Arrowsmith, I believe, made the point that the tragic figure is "deaf" 
and remains so. Yet that such a figure should NOT realize his error 
makes his demise less justified, less dramatically effective.

Your thoughts on all this, please.

L. Swilley

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