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 can be easily seen how Laertes, influenced by Claudius 
in the heat of his anger, could conspire to murder Hamlet and it is in 
this attempt that Laertes loses his own life to the very poison he 
kills Hamlet with. Once again, a member of Polonius' family loses 
their life as a result of a conflict that they are oblivious to, 
making Laertes' death a tragedy as well.
 Contrary to popular belief, the tragedy associated with Hamlet 
is not about Hamlet or his family. It is, however , about the tragic 
fate of Polonius' family , whose deaths are not the result of any sins 
they omit but by their being manipulated by Hamlet and Claudius for 
reasons they are unaware of. Although the death of Polonius' family 
stands out as being the most tragic, many other characters in the 
story are killed as well. In fact, the death of a character in Hamlet 
almost becomes commonplace near the end of the play. 

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