Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Few Words on Tragedy

Here's something I found interesting: In the Introduction before Hamlet, it says that Polonius's advice to Laertes, "This above all: to thine own self be true" is usually taken out of context and is in reality a "worldly gospel of self-interests and concern for appearances." As I thought about this, I assumed that Shakespeare would reveal the flaw behind this way of thinking and prove that characters who resort to selfishness always lose. And while this happens within Hamlet (Claudius and Polonius, for example, are consumed by self interest and ultimately die), the characters who are attempting to be selfless (Hamlet trying to avenge his father's death and Ophelia obeying the advice of her father and brother) also die and sink into a tragic ending.

So, what's the point of a tragedy? What is it supposed to teach us? It seems to me that fate is fixed within these plays and no matter the attempts of the characters, their chain of decisions will inevitably end in ruin. Does anyone have a bit more optimistic outlook?