Hamlet is a good example of a classic tragedy. It contains all the elements that define a classic tragedy, just as Macbeth and Oedipus Rex do. To be considered a classic tragedy it the play should recount an important, but causally related series of events. The protagonist should be male and of noble birth. Though he is essentially a good person, the protagonist makes a fatal choice as a result of a character flaw (this can also be called the tragic flaw). In a classic tragedy the protagonist undergoes a fundamental change that leads to his mental and/or physical destruction by the end of the play. Tragedies always end unpleasantly with they protagonist being defeated by the antagonist. At the beginning there is a basic disorder, however by the end order is restored. This is done to leave the audience with some sense of hope after watching a disaster. A classic tragedy must have certain structure as well. That structure has five different parts, as well as five acts. It is defined by Fretag’s Pyramid, which is a diagram of the five-act tragedy. The exposition is the first part that it must contain, this part contains that introductory material that creates the tone, gives the setting, introduces the characters and supplies other background information that is critical to understanding the play. The second part that it must contain is the complication (or conflict), in this part you see a struggle between the protagonist and antagonist being intensified. The third part is the climax, this is the turning point in the action were it is obvious that the protagonist and the antagonist can’t coexist. The fourth part is the resolution (or reversal), this is when you find out the outcome of the climatic struggle, and weather that antagonist or the protagonist has won. In the fifth and final part the denouement takes place. This can also be called the catastrophe because this is a tragedy. In this part the final unraveling of the plot takes place, it is the solution to the mystery, and the explanation of all secrets and misunderstandings connected with the plot. The catastrophe is specific to tragedy, and is defined as the destruction of the protagonist as well as the revelation of all that has occurred. Hamlet follows all of the rules that a classic tragedy must abide by. Hamlet, the protagonist, is male and of noble birth which is part of the definition of a protagonist. Though he is essentially a good person he has a tragic flaw. His flaw is his passion to avenge the murder of his father; he is blinded by it. His passion is essentially what drives him to murder Polonius. It also causes the death of Gertrude and Claudius. He has forgotten all about humanity and has turned into a wild animal. He also undergoes a fundamental change that leads to his destruction. The change is the result of the position that he finds himself in after the death of his father. Hamlet is more scholarly than he is brutal. However because of his passion to avenge the death of his father he must change his basic nature. The passion for revenge is what makes him able to do this. This change is what leads him to his mental and physical destruction. There is also a basic disorder in the beginning of this play. With the death of the king and the Queens incestuous marriage to his brother, there is definite disorder. However in the end the truth comes out and order is restored when Fortinbras takes over as King. The antagonist of course is Hamlets Uncle Claudius, because of Hamlets vow of revenge for the murder of his father. The plot of the play follows all the elements that a classic tragedy must have also. In act one you find out all the back round information that sets the plot for the rest of the book. This is what is called the exposition, act one is supposed to set the tone for the rest of the play and show that the antagonist and protagonist share an uneasy coexistence. This is exactly what Act one accomplishes. In act one you learn about the tension between Hamlet and Claudius, and why it exsits. You are also introduced to the main characters of this play.
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In the second act you find out what the conflict is. It is in this act were the ghost of Hamlet’s father appears and tells Hamlet they he was murdered by his brother. This is when you see the struggle between Claudius and Hamlet become intensified. This is when Hamlet gets the idea about revenge. He decides to stage the play to find out once and for all if Claudius is guilty. In the first act, though he was upset, he didn’t have any reason to step in. However, now that he thinks Claudius murdered his father he wants revenge. The conflict has now been intensified, as well as the tension between Claudius and Hamlet. In the third part (or third act) the climax of the play takes place. This is the turning point in the tragedy. In Hamlet the climax comes when the play is being performed. The reason Hamlet has this play performed is because he wants to make sure the ghost was right. This play is staged to be a reenactment of the murder of Hamlet’s father. Hamlet watches Claudius carefully during the play to see if he reacts in a guilty way, which he does. At this point Claudius sees that Hamlet knows he is guilty. At this point it is obvious that Hamlet and Claudius can’t coexist. The resolution (or reversal) is the fourth part of the tragedy in Hamlet this is the act were Claudius tries to send Hamlet to England where he will be executed when he arrives. Hamlet sees this coming and doesn’t go to England. He seems to have given up on his plot for revenge when he comes across Fortinbras’ army. They are crossing Denmark to fight for a piece of land that is essentially useless to them. However, they are fighting for it because of principle. This provokes Hamlet to go back. He feels that if this army can fight because of their pride, that he owes it to his father to gain revenge. This is the scene when you know that both Hamlet and Claudius will come to their ends. In the final part of this tragedy you have the denouement, and the catastrophe. This is when you have the final unraveling of the plot. In this play it is the scene were Gertrude, Hamlet, Laetres, and Claudius die. Their deaths are also the catastrophe in this play. The only thing that doesn’t follow the descriptions of a classic tragedy is that both the antagonist and the protagonist are destroyed. Hamlet succeeds in gaining revenge; however, once he got his revenge he had nothing else to live for. He had devoted so much of his life to gaining revenge that he had nothing else to live for. In this way Claudius does destroy Hamlet. The last thing that this play must have to be a classic tragedy is a sense of settlement. This is achieved when Frotinbras takes over as King. Also Hamlet is given a hero’s burial for his nobility of sprit. This play fits all the criteria for it to become a classic tragedy, just as Macbeth and Oedipus Rex do. It has all the components that are required such as; a protagonist with a tragic flaw that is destroyed by the antagonist, as well as the five parts in Freytag’s Pyramid. Because it contains all these things it is said to be a classic tragedy.