The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0380 Thursday, 16 July 2009
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
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.
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