Summary: Nine Elements of Shakespearen Tragedy

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In the play there are many different types of tragedies. The most significant one in the world of literature is Shakespearean Tragedy. Shakespearean Tragedy play is written by Shakespeare himself or by another author using his ideas or specific elements from Shakespeare’s work. There are nine elements of Shakespearean Tragedy, without just one of these elements the play wouldn’t be considered Shakespearean Tragedy. All of the elements of Shakespearean Tragedy can be characterized within Shakespeare’s work Hamlet. As shown below are explanations of how the elements are used, and why the nine elements must be used inorder to be a Shakespearen Tragedy.

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The first element of Shakespearean Tragedy is a tragic hero, a character who suffers with some kind of internal conflict. A tragic hero faces some kind of tragic flaw, a literary term that refers to a personality trait, which usually causes his downfall due to a personal defect of their character. (Tragic Flaw.) As Hamlet says in depressed tone, “The / earth, seems to me a sterile promontory.” (Shakespeare 101). Hamlet explains that he feels empty, as if he is nothing. His mental health is one of his tragic flaws. Hamlet’s poor mental state was caused by his downfall after his father, King Hamlet, died. But Hamlet, a tragic hero, faces many characteristics of a tragic hero. Hamlet has many other characteristics, another one being as he restores the truth about his father he shows his outstanding deeds and greatness. But a tragic hero must have a couple of other things: a dramatic personality in the play, and hold a higher position over others as they must be apart of a royal family. (Definition and Characteristics.) They may be a queen, a princess, a military general or another who holds great power. (Top Ten Shakespeare. Without Hamlet in the play, there wouldn’t be a tragic hero, therefore it wouldn’t fit into the elements of Shakespearean Tragedy. (Definition of Characteristics.)

During Shakespeare’s time when he wrote his playwrights, the beliefs on good and evil were changing. (Good and Evil.) Even Edward Dowden a poet and literary critic said years later after Shakespeare’s work, “Tragedy as conceived by Shakaespeare is concerned with the ruin or restorations the soul and of the life of man. In other words, its subject is the struggle of Good and Evil in the World.” (Definition and Characteristics.) Shakespeare used good vs. evil as the main structure of his plots. Making the second characteristic of Shakespearean Tragedy being good vs. evil. For an example, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Claudius is shown to have consistent actions of evil. The beginning of Hamlet, Claudius kills his brother then does everything to hide what he has done. Then the Good would be the restoration of damaged brought upon by the evil. After the death of the king, on reader may conclude that Denmark will fall without a ruler. Hamlet took over the role as kind, restoring the damage from the killing of King Hamlet, and all the other damages from this infinite. (Definition of Characteristics.) Hamlet with confidence after talking to his father’s ghost tells how he is going to restore his country, “ So, uncle, there you are. Now to my word. / It is “adieu, adieu, remember me.” / I have sworn’t.” (Shakespeare 63.) Hamlet sworn to his father’s words and is going to make right for his country. Showing the contrast between good vs. Evil.

Hamartia, is the third element of Shakespearean Tragedy. Hamartia is a tragic flaw that switches the attitude of the tragic hero from good to bad. (Hamartia.) A tragic hero may fall in doing his deed at such a high power, leading to their death. In the play Hamlet has lost all sense of thought and concentration leading to irrational decisions. In the closet of Queen Gertrude, Polonius yells, “ What ho! Help!” the Hamlet replies, “How now, a rat? Dead for a ducat, dead.” (Shakespeare 171.) This shows that Hamlet’s tragic flaw as he loses all sense of thought, not thinking before he doing, making irrational decisions. His irrational actions took the life of innocent Polonius. Another example of how Shakespeare shows his procrastination and his thoughts about his abilities. As Hamlet said, “ I know my course. The spirit that I have seen, May be a (devil,) and the (devil) hath power / T’ assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps, / out of my weakness and my melancholy, as he is very potent with such spirit, / Abuses me to damn me.” (Shakespeare 119.) Hamlet saying this shows that he has no with for himself nor the abilities that he has made and will continue to make. Making the Hamartia Hamlets mental health. (Definition and Characteristics.)

In the climax of Shakespeare’s work, tragic waste is keen to the climax of the plays. Tragic waste is when the hero dies against their opponent. Their death of a hero is not just an ordinary death, as it the death of one of the most important people of the play. Shakespeare uses tragic waste as a good thing. Hamlet is one who is shows tragic waste as he steps up for his country to fight his opponent. Hamlet agrees to fight Laertes, “I’ll be your foil, Laertes; in mine ignorance / Your skill shall, like a star i’ the’ darkest night, / Stick fiery off indeed.” (Shakespeare 275.) Showing that he his ignorance took over and he did something he couldn’t handle, and it caught up with him. In Hamlet, Claudius the evil and Hamlet the good, both go down, neither of them win, showing that the good is destroyed along with the evil. Neither won making this tragic waste. (Definition and Characteristics.)

The rising action of a play needs one specific thing, conflict, the fifth element of Shakespearean Tragedy. There are two different types of conflicts that are essential for a Shakespeare play. External Conflict are caused by an outside force, which causes internal conflict. (Definition and Characteristics.) Hamlet faces many external and internal conflicts. His biggest external conflict was caused when he saw the ghost of his father making for many internal conflicts. Hamlet questionably asks his father, ‘ Whither wilt thou lead me? Speak. I’ll go no / further.” the ghost of King Hamlet replied, “Mark Me.” (Shakespeare 55.) After this conversation with the ghost of Hamlet’s father, his mental state was ruined making for this being his internal conflict. Internal conflict is the most essential elements which can cause some confusion to the mind set of the tragic hero. This is why Hamlet was stopped multiple times from killing Claudius because he mentally couldn’t do it. A tragic hero faces both internal and external conflicts are key factors in the plot of a Shakespearen play. (Definition and Characteristics.)

Shakespeare did an amazing job using the sixth element, Catharsis, a greek word meaning “cleansing”. In literature is used for healing the emotions of the characters, and giving them a new emotion to feel. (Literary Devices.) An example of how Shakespeare uses catharsis is when he wants the audience to feel sad when Hamlet dies, but then too happy when Claudius has finally received the punishment for killing his brother. This element is crucial to a tragedy for keeping the audience and listeners engaged. (Definition and Characteristics.)

During Shakespeare’s time of writing superstition was extremely popular. Things and other events, during the Elizabethan era,such as Bubonic Plague and other unexplained deaths or illnesses were superstitious or later to be considered witchcraft. (Shakespeare, Witchcraft) Royalty was interested and fond of supernatural elements in plays. That is why Shakespeare incorporated the seventh element, supernatural events, into his works. A supernatural element creates many different emotions such as wonder, awe, and sometimes fear. (Definition and Characteristics.) Shakespeare used supernatural elements in his work of Hamlet. One of the emotions from a supernatural event in Hamlet would be wonder. When King Hamlet’s ghost appears no one at first really knows if it is really him or not. Horatio telling hamlet what he saw, “I think I saw him yesternight.” Hamlet asking questionably, “The king my father?” (Shakespeare 33.) Horatio later was able to explain the physical features of the ghost to Hamlet, showing it was King Hamlet, “Thrice he walked / By their oppressed and fear-surprised eyes / Within his truncheon’s length, whilst they, distilled / Almost to jelly with the act of fear.” (Shakespeare 35.) The deceased King of Denmark appears within the first act of Hamlet, then continues to reappear throughout the play. As Shakespeare adds some kind of supernatural event to all of his stories and playwrights as without this element, it wouldn’t be considered a Shakespearean Tragedy. (Definition and Characteristics.)

Poetic justice is and element that is important for a theme. Poetic Justice is when the good is rewareded, and evil is punished. Kinda like karma in a way. By the end of a play everything should be put into place. In Shakespeare’s writings there is only partial justice, good deed coming without any rewards, where people are often free to enjoy life to the fullest potential. Patrons don’t have to worry about living under a microscope of their leaders. In Hamlet, the tragic hero fought his rival, Claudius, throughout the whole play. Having many failed attempts to kill Claudius, Hamlet finally did his deed to country and had the murder of his father killed. Hamlet did this asking for nothing in return, except for the truth for his people. As a true leader would do. One of the last acts where Hamlet and Claudius have their final thoughts and actions together went as followed, Claudius innocently yelling, “O, yet defend me, friends!” Hamlet angrily replied, “Here, thou incestuous, (murd’rous,) damnèd Dane, / Drink off this potion. Is (thy union) here?” (Shakespeare 281) Here Hamlet has had Claudius punished for his wrong doings, moving the play’s plot to an ending. Without this scene happening, there would be no ending to the evil showing no justice. (Definition and Characteristics.)

Shakespeare writes to have the emotions throughout a tragedy all over the place. Mostly being chaotic and sad, a comic relief will be added to relieve some tension and sadness to the reader or an audience. Comic relief is the last element of Shakespearean Tragedy. This element can be shown in Hamlet as the grave digger. The grave talks to Hamlet talking about his father and other stories. During his part as comic relief he sang a song to lighten up the mood, “(O,) a pit of clay to be made / (For such a guest is meet)” (Shakespeare 245). During this time Hamlet thinks the graver is funny, when he is actually digging for Hamlet’s love Ophelia. Comic Relief is important to Shakespearean Tragedy as too much tragedy and negative events happening can ruin a viewers thoughts about a play. (Definition and Characteristics.)

The nine elements of Shakespearen tragedy play a significant role in the works of Shakespeare. Hamlet is just one of Shakespeare’s works that present all nine elements to their fullest. Without just one of the nine elements, the plot of Shakespearean Tragedy wouldn’t flow correctly and wouldn’t give Shakespearean Tragedy it’s own selection in tragedy. If the tragic hero wouldn’t have a downfall leading to their own destruction, no heroic deed would be taken and there would be no conclusion. All nine elements are essential and without just one of the elements of this type of tragedy it wouldn’t be considered a Shakepsearen Tragedy.




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