Hamlet Analyzed In Terms Of Aristotle's Poetics
Hamlet Analyzed in terms of Aristotle's Poetics
Hamlet Analyzed in terms of Aristotle's Poetics
Poetics of Aristotle are usually considered as the guide to well written tragedy. The methods employed by Aristotle have been used by many poets in thee last centuries. According to the opinion of Aristotle, plot is the most significant aspect of the tragedy such as character, theme, diction, music, spectacle and thought stem from the plot. Aristotle provides a definition of a tragedy as “….an animation of an action that appears to be somber, complete and has a certain magnitude; in language embroidered with every sort of artistic ornament, and several other types are usually found in the play; in the form of action rather than a narrative; although pity and fear affects the appropriate purgation of such emotions” (pp. 22). In most of the parts of Hamlet by Shakespeare also we witness that this definition is applied in most instances. Although it does not always agree with the guidelines of Aristotle, it still appears to be an enormous and most well-organized tragedy.
In (p. 22) Aristotle give us the definition of a tragedy as an animation of action that is somber, complete and has a certain magnitude, we also find that Hamlet is the best example of this. The play is focusing on the Hamlet’s to revenge the death of his father, which can be viewed as a serious or somber action. And Hamlet is complete in the sense that all the loose ends appear to be tied together in a prudent and plausible manner. Hamlet thus becomes capable of avenging his father’s death by killing his uncle. Shakespeare also employs Aristotle’s idea of the perfect tragedy that has a certain magnitude. In Hamlet the characters are supposed to be the most perfect people whom the audience is supposed to relate to. Hamlet is viewed as a wealthy prince which is not the case since we find that it is not the case but rather he suffers the problems as common man. He is perplexed, paranoid, and infuriated with reference to the circumstances around the death of his father. He also becomes unsure of himself since he does not know what to do in order to deal with the situation. This feeling of uncertainty relates to the audience and they are also capable of empathizing with Hamlet.
Aristotle believes that for a tragedy to appear effective, it must be in a position to convey trepidation and misfortune. He thus defines pity as a feeling that can only be awakened by “unmerited misfortune” (pp. 27). Hamlet unquestionably undergoes through this unmerited misfortune. He is not able to do anything to bring about the death of his father. To worsen the situation even further and make it appear more painful, we find that Hamlet’s mother has married his uncle who Hamlet suspects to have caused the death of his father, the tragedy in this case. Such circumstances present pity to the audience. The fear of impending evil is also witnessed in the play and as the plot progresses, it becomes clear that the king is plotting to cause demise to Hamlet but Hamlet is planning to kill the king on the other hand.
The plot of Hamlet is what Aristotle refers to as multifaceted. It is accompanied by recognition, which is “an alteration from unawareness to comprehension producing love or hatred between the individuals who are destined by the poet for both good and fortune” (pp.26). The recognition takes place when the play within the play is staged for the king. The represents an enactment of what Hamlet considers to have happened to his father. His uncle also appears to have been flustered such that he vacates the room and this action shows hamlet that his suspicion concerning the cause of the tragedy were correct and indeed his uncle is the man behind King Hamlet’s demise (Roberts, pp 138). Hamlet then later finds the king praying in a church and makes an attempt to kill him right there but decides against it since he believes in God he is likely to go to heaven because he is praying. From this, the audience can learn that later, Hamlet is likely to kill his uncle later in the play.
Aristotle also stresses that diction is one component that is really vital in making the tragedy to appear believable. Likewise, we see that Shakespeare also uses diction in the most appropriate manner and all that is said by his character appears appropriate. For example, the king talks just as any king, and ensures that he dodges just like politician. There is a distinguishing factor in the mannerism in which he speaks and the way gravedigger speaks. Gravediggers are common men and they talk like common men.
All in all, there are some poetic aspects that Shakespeare does not employ as his poetic device. For instance, Aristotle states that for a tragedy to be considered great there must be unity of time, place and action. This implies that the actions of the play must take a given period of time in which it takes place. This must also occur in a given setting, and should be accompanied by one major plot of action. Shakespeare breaks all the rules since the play spans over a significant period of time and the action takes place in several setting varying from a palace to a plain in Denmark (Rorty, pp 162).
Finally, there are several plots taking place at the same time. For example as hamlet tries to deal with the death of his father, we also find that Ophelia goes insane since Hamlet seizes to return his love or rather Hamlet does not show any interest in her. The audience therefore feels pity for the ordeal of Ophelia as well. Aristotle thus could not approve for all the subplots that goes on in the play (Jonathan, pp34).
In conclusion, Hamlet is great and the most effective tragedy that follows most of the guidelines as set by Aristotle in Poetics. Although there are some aspects that Shakespeare does not follow, the play still affects the audience in the same and preferred manner. In realty, Hamlet would not have the same impact if it happened to have been in line with all the guidelines of the Aristotle. For example, the whole aspect of the subplot concerning Ophelia’s insanity contributes a lot in the play. Although Shakespeare broke some of the rules as employed by Aristotle, the play was still written in an effective tragedy that audiences have appreciated for centuries (Roberts, pp 137).
Jonathan, Barnes. “Aristotle, the Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation.” Princeton: Princeton University Press, (1984), pp 12-37.
Rorty, Ambrose. “Aristotle's Poetics: As depicted in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.” Princeton: Princeton University Press, (1992). pp. 102-167
Roberts, Dennis. "Outside the Drama: The Limits of Tragedy in Aristotle's Poetics", (1997), pp. 133-154.