Hamlet - The "Real" Tragedy



In Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, the death of a character

becomes a frequent event. Although many people lose their lives as a

result of their own self-centered wrong-doing, there are others whose

death are a result of manipulation from the royalty. This is the case

of Polonius? family. The real tragedy of Hamlet is not that of Hamlet

or his family but of Polonius? family because their deaths were not

the consequence of sinful actions of their own but rather by their

innocent involvement in the schemes of Claudius and Hamlet.

The first character to die in Hamlet is Polonius. Although

Polonius often acts in a deceitful manner when dealing with Hamlet, it

is only because he is carrying out plans devised by the king or queen

to discover the nature of Hamlet?s madness. Being the king?s Lord

Chamberlain, it is his duty to obey the king and queen?s wishes and it

is this loyalty that eventually proves to be fatal for him. An example

of hoe Polonius? innocent involvement with the royalty results in his

death can be found at the beginning of Act III, scene iv, when Hamlet

stabs him while he is hiding behind the arras in Gertude?s room. This

shows how Polonius, a man unaware of the true nature of the situation

he is in, is killed by a member of the royalty during the execution of

one of their schemes. This makes Polonius? death a tragedy.

The next member of Polonius? family to die is his daughter

Ophelia. Ophelia?s death is tragic because of her complete innocence

in the situation. Some may argue that Polonius deserves his fate

because of his deceitfulness in dealing with Hamlet while he is mad,

but Ophelia is entirely manipulated and used by Hamlet and the king

for their own selfish reasons. An example of how Ophelia is used by

Hamlet takes place in Act II, scene I, when Hamlet uses her to

convince his family he is mad. Ophelia explains to Polonius how Hamlet

has scared her, causing Polonius to draw the conclusion that Hamlet

has an "antic disposition". Although this is the subject to

interpretation and many believe that this is simply Hamlet taking one

last look at Ophelia before he becomes engaged in his plan to kill

Claudius, the fact that he scares her and does not try to alleviate

these fears points to the conclusion that he is simply using her to

help word of his madness spread throughout the kingdom via Polonius.

In Act III, scene iv, Hamlet kills Polonius while he is hiding behind

the arras in the Queen?s room. This event causes Ophelia to become

insane and leads to her eventual death in a river near the castle in

Act IV, scene vii. It can be seen how the combined scheming of

Hamlet?s scheme which brings about the death of Polonius which leads

to Ophelia?s death. The passing of Ophelia is a tragedy because she

does nothing deserving of death, she is merely used for other people?s

personal gain.

The last member of Polonius? family to die is Laertes,

Ophelia?s brother and Polonius?s son. Laertes? death is tragic

because, although he kills Hamlet, he is avenging his father?s death,

an act, with reference to the moral climate of the 1600s, that would

have been condoned by the people who saw the play. The difference

between Hamlet and Laertes is that Laertes does not use others to

attain his goals and his revenge is in part due to the pressure put on

him by Claudius. This makes Laertes? murder of Hamlet excusable and

his death a tragedy. An example of how Claudius uses Laertes to try

and murder Hamlet is seen in Act IV, scene vii. Claudius and Laertes

are discussing Hamlet when Claudius says:



Laertes, was your father dear to you? Or are

you like painting of a sorrow, A face without

a heart?



He is asking Laertes whether he is really sorry about his

father?s death or if he is just acting mournful without feeling

mournful. Claudius uses these lines to lead Laertes into a plan to

kill Hamlet, asking him what will he do to prove his love for his

father in ActIV, scene vii. Hamlet comes back; what would you

undertake to show yourself in deed your father?s son more than in more

than words? It