Is Ophelia the tragic figure in Hamlet?
In literature, a tragic hero is a great or virtuous character whose flaws and mistakes end up leading to their downfall (Dictionary.com). Often times, the tragic hero is portrayed as the protagonist and is praised for their admirable characteristics, pinning them as the victim (Literary Devices). In Hamlet, however, this definition of a tragic hero is defied and instead of being the victim, the tragic hero is often times responsible for the devious acts (Hogue). Although Ophelia does possess many qualities that would embody this definition of being a tragic hero, I believe that Claudius represents this role entirely. Claudius, who embodies a large amount of distinguished qualities, allows his evil elements to eventually lead to his demise, portraying the exact definition of tragic hero Shakespeare was trying to illustrate.
In a tragic hero, you can find both good and bad qualities. In Hamlet, Claudius has many admirable characteristics, one being his ability to be a great leader. We see this quality come out first when he was crowned as king at the beginning of the book. In his speech, he displays his leadership skills by talking about some major events that were recently occurring in Denmark, these being his brother’s death, his recent marriage, and the incoming threat from Norway. He realizes that his brother’s death is very important to his kingdom, so he makes sure to address it. Realizing that King Hamlet was worshiped by his citizens and his death took a significant toll on them, he asks that they forget about him. By saying “That we with wisest sorrow think on him, together with remembrance of ourselves”, he reminds them to return their focus back on him and his current reign as king (Shakespeare,1.2.6-7). He communicates that he does not want the memories of his brother to interfere with his future for the kingdom, but he will do whatever he can to meet the needs of his people. Realizing that the people are still needing time to mourn, Claudius compromises, telling them that as long as they also think of him they can continue to mourn the late king. The ability to compromise shines light on his capability to be a good leader.
Not only does he have a good sense of leadership, but he is able to recognize the backlash behind his marriage to Gertrude and address it. He recognizes that his marriage does look like a result of lust, but clarifies that it was done in the intention of political reasons. He states that he did seek approval from his people before going through with marriage and that if he did not receive approval he would not have gone through with it, showing the respect he has for his citizens. With the impending threat from Norway, Claudius demonstrates a large amount of delegation skills. Instead of sending a huge army, he decides instead to send Fortinbras’s uncle a letter to inform him of what his nephew was about to do. By doing this, he shows that he wants the best for Denmark ...