Hamlet: A Tragedy Without Catharsis?

"Hamlet is a tragedy without catharsis, a tragedy in which everything noble and heroic is smothered under ferocious revenge codes, treachery, spying and the consequences of weak actions by broken wills." In truth, this statement is not a legitimate contention. The Aristotelian definition of "catharsis" is the purging of emotions of pity and fear that occurs when the hero falls. In Hamlet, catharsis is most definitely present; it is developed throughout the play in Hamlet's exceptional suffering, and is achieved during his death in the last scene.

Hamlet's character development plays a major part in creating catharsis in the play. In the first part of the play, Hamlet is perceived as highly egocentric. When the Ghost asks him to avenge his father's death, Hamlet feels he has to do more: he believes that he has been born to restore moral order to the wretched state Denmark has become. Driven by this belief, he misjudges Ophelia; he takes it upon himself to be his mother's conscience, going expressly against the Ghost's orders, and most significantly, he postpones killing Claudius because he presumes that he is to decide if Claudius is to receive salvation. Hamlet assumes too much in his...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 1190 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 9187 literature essays, 2395 sample college application essays, 405 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in