Elements of Horror in the Tragedy of Hamlet

Elements of Horror in the Tragedy of Hamlet

Hamlet is one of William Shakespeare’s most iconic tragedies. According to multiple sources, the play was written between 1601 – 1603. It’s also the first of Shakespeare’s tragedies. To this day, hardly anyone has been able to write about tragedy, betrayal, horror, and rage in a more accurate way. More than four centuries have passed by, but the magnetic plot and theme of this play still charm the audience.

The Tragedy of Hamlet has been inspired by several sources of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Twelfth-century Latin prose of Denmark’s history, ‘Ur-Hamlet,’ by Thomas Kyd, and the Senecan Renaissance tragedy notably influence Shakespeare’s work.

Here is a brief description of elements of horror in the tragedy of Hamlet!

The Force of Hamartia

The most significant element of the horror of Shakespeare’s tragedies is that his protagonists have a drastic downfall owing to their own misery. In his plays, Shakespeare uses the Hamartia force to make his lead’s own characteristic flaws seem fatal and horrifying.

In many of Hamlet argumentative essay, we find students of literature blaming the lead character for his own downfall and demise. In the original Senecan version of the story, Hamlet is killed off in a battle of pure revenge and hatred between family members. However, Shakespeare gives this death a new twist by shedding light on Hamlet’s own fatal flaw. In many other Hamlet essay examples, we see a different perspective of Hamlet’s death. His inaction and weak willpower for revenge lead Hamlet to his murder, which could’ve been easily avoided. Thus, Hamartia is a mysterious force in Shakespeare’s tragedies that’s responsible for the self-assisted murder of all protagonists, including Hamlet.

The Philosophical Debate

The story of Hamlet is plotted in the time of the Renaissance era. There’s a deep psychological war between rationality and beliefs that fuels Hamlet’s indecisiveness. One of the ways that the tragedy is brought about is when Hamlet doubts the existence of the ghost. We see that the castle guards and Hamlet’s school friend, Horatio, tell him about his father’s ghost. However, he initially assumes it’s the devil trying to lure him to murder. Hamlet embodies a Renaissance man with confusing scientific beliefs and philosophical ideas.

Elements of Horror in the Tragedy of Hamlet

Violence within his own family incites a tiresome debate in Hamlet’s intellectual mind. He observes the behavior of those around him and tries to find the closure he needs. However, the excessive bloodshed, betrayal, and spite turn out to be too traumatic for the philosophical prince.

Familial Violence

Family conspiracies are the primary theme of this play. Hamlet’s father of first killed by his own brother, who later acquires the throne as King Claudius. Hamlet’s widowed mother, Gertrude, is a woman who has the unspeakable courage of marrying her husband’s murderer.

The bloodshed, rage, lust, and betrayal ruin Hamlet’s life like nothing else. He has a hard time trying to wrap his head around the vileness that he’s trapped in. Of all the most tragic happenings, violence in the royal family is the most horrific. The inability to avenge his late father against his own family is a deadly reason for Hamlet’s downfall. If you’ve come across any Hamlet essay samples, you’ll observe that one murder was followed by several others. When Hamlet’s constant suspicion worries his mother, Polonius hides in Gertrude’s room to prevent Hamlet from harming her. Accidentally, Hamlet stabs the tapestry behind which Polonius is hiding, and ends up killing him.

After the royal attendant, Polonius is replaced by his son Laertes; a duel is set between him and Hamlet. Polonius was faithful to Claudius, and so is his son. However, during the duel, Gertrude drinks the poisoned wine and dies. Hamlet and Laertes fight in sheer rage and revenge, and both are injured by a poisoned rapier. However, before dying, Hamlet, at last, manages to murder Claudius and avenge his father’s death.

This series of murders in the play is an extreme portrayal of broken families. The poison that’s meant to kill one person, actually several. This tragedy shows the curse of mistrust within a single-family, and how strongly it can prevail.

Elements of Horror in the Tragedy of Hamlet

Psychological Trauma

The underlying cause of all of Hamlet’s grief is the extreme trauma he’s subjected to. For a calm, philosophical brain like his, murder and violence are a disease. Hamlet laments the death of his father, and when he finds no closure, the pain eats him from the inside. The disloyal nature of his mother and her marriage to his uncle Claudius is another fatal blow for him.

To test whether or not the ghost of his father is telling the truth, Hamlet plans a drama. He is a man of religion and is a student if psychology, too. He writes a play mimicking his father’s death and invites the newlywed King and Queen to the rehearsal.

The play triggers Claudius, and he asks for Hamlet to be sent away to England. Soon after the rehearsal is called off, he sees Claudius kneeling to God. Here, he decides to spare the King, at least for the time being. However, the circumstances slowly drive him to the edge, and Hamlet tragically kills Claudius just before his own death.

With all his scheming, Hamlet also has to feign his own madness so that his enemies don’t take him too seriously. However, the bizarre truth he unveils about poisonous family relationships is more than enough to drive him mad for real.

Lack of Love

In the entire story, the critical factor that’s missing is the fulfillment of true love. Ophelia, Laertes’ sister, and Hamlet can’t have each other. After Hamlet kills Polonius and rejects Ophelia, she’s distraught and ends up drowning. He doesn’t find love in his uncle, mother, friends, or father, either, which is a great wound that hurts him for life.


In Hamlet, Shakespeare has viewed tragedy from multiple angles. Betrayal, psychological trauma, and philosophical debates are all contributing causes to the great tragedy of Hamlet’s life and death.

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