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Most revenge tragedies share some basic elements:
the ghost, the play- within- a- play, delayed revenge, rape or threats to female honor, and a bloody denouement. Hamlet’s similar ironic commentary under the disguise of madness.
In these plays, the revenge is a kind of hero, avenging cruel and undeserved death, yet is a killer in his turn. Hamlet is the only protagonist in any Elizabethan revenge play who can be considered a hero, aware of the moral implications involved in exacting his revenge. In the conventional revenge tragedies, the obstructions in the way of revenge were certain material considerations, but in Shakespeare's play, the obstacle is conscience coupled with a temperamental incapacity. Shakespeare's play moves in a higher plane of significance through the reflections of the hero and through his relationship with the outside world.
The remarkable features of a Shakespearean tragedy: Supernatural Elements, supernatural elements are another key aspect of a Shakespearean tragedy. They play an import role in creating an atmosphere of awe, wonder, and sometimes fear. Supernatural elements are typically used to advance the story and drive the plot. The ghost Hamlet sees plays an important role in stirring up an internal conflict. It is the ghost who tells Hamlet his father was killed by his uncle Claudius and assigns him the duty of taking revenge.
Hamartia, a good example of hamartia can be seen in Hamlet when Hamlet's faltering judgment and failure to act led him to his untimely death. He suffers from procrastination. He finds a number of opportunities to kill his uncle, but he fails because of his indecisive and procrastinating nature. Every time, he delays taking action. In one case he finds an opportunity to kill Claudius while Claudius is praying. Still, Hamlet forgoes the excellent opportunity to achieve his goal with the excuse that he doesn’t want to kill a man while he is praying. He wants to kill Claudius when he is in the act of committing a sin. It is this perfectionism, failure to act, and uncertainty about the correct path that ultimately result in Hamlet's death and lead Denmark into chaos.
Good vs. Evil, For example, in Hamlet, the reader is given the impression that something rotten will definitely happen to Denmark (foreshadowing). Though the reader gets an inkling, typically the common people of the play are unaware of the impending evil.
Tragic heroes are kings, princes, or military generals, who are very important to their subjects. Take Hamlet, Prince of Denmark; he is intellectual, highly educated, sociable, charming, and of a philosophic bent. The hero is such an important person that his/her death gives rise to full- scale turmoil, disturbance, and chaos throughout the land. When Hamlet takes revenge for the death of his father, he is not only killing his uncle but inviting his own death at the hands of Laertes. And as a direct result of his death, the army of Fortinbras enters Denmark to take control.
Tragic Waste, in Shakespearean tragedies, the hero usually dies along with his opponent. The death of a hero is not an ordinary death; it encompasses the loss of an exceptionally intellectual, honest, intelligent, noble, and virtuous person. In a tragedy, when good is destroyed along with evil, the loss is known as a "tragic waste." Shakespearean tragedy always includes a tragic waste of goodness. Hamlet is a perfect example of a tragic waste. Even though Hamlet succeeds in uprooting the evil from Denmark, he does so at the cost of his death. In this case, the good (Hamlet) gets destroyed along with evil (Claudius). Neither of them wins. Instead, they fail together.
Internal conflict is one of the most essential elements in a Shakespearean tragedy. It refers to the confusion in the mind of the hero. Internal conflict is responsible for the hero's fall, along with fate or destiny. The tragic hero always faces a critical dilemma. Often, he cannot make a decision, which results in his ultimate failure. Again, Hamlet is a perfect example. He is usually a doer, but over the course of the play, his indecision and frequent philosophical hangups create a barrier to action. Internal conflict is what causes Hamlet to spare the life of Claudius while he is praying.
Catharsis, a Shakespearean tragedy gives us an opportunity to feel pity for a certain character and fear for another, almost as if we are playing the roles ourselves. The hero's hardships compel us to empathize with him. The villain's cruel deeds cause us to feel wrath toward him. Tears flow freely when a hero like Hamlet dies. At the same time, we feel both sorry for Hamlet and happy that Claudius has received his proper punishment.
The play Hamlet thus follows the major conventions of contemporary revenge tragedy. Apart from the central theme, which is revenge, and apart from the role of the instigator played by a ghost, we have plenty of melodramatic action here. We have a violent, bloody, and terrifying scenes which were the staple of the revenge tragedy of the time. There is, for instance, the murder of Polonius committed by hamlet before our eyes.
There is the scene of revolt by the enraged Leartes who would have attacked the monarch if the latter had not been tactful enough to bring him under control. There are the scenes of Ophelia going mad, getting drowned, and bring buried. There is the incident of Laertes leaping into the grave meant for Ophelia, followed by Hamlet's leaping into it. Finally, there are the murders which bring the play to a close.
The Queen is the first to die, having drunk poisoned wine. Then the king dies, having been stabbed by Hamlet and having, in addition, been forced to drink the poisoned wine. The next to die is Leartes who has been stabbed by Hamlet with a rapier dipped in poison. The last to die is the hero himself. He is mortally wounded by the same rapier with which he afterward wounds Laertes. These several deaths on the stage have obviously a melodramatic character.