Although Hamlet and Agamemnon both follow Aristotle’s definition of tragedy, I believe Hamlet is a more tragic play. Many more innocent lives were taken in Hamlet than Agamemnon. Hamlet, Gertrude, Ophelia, Polonius and Laertes were all killed due to Claudius’ deceptive and cheating ways. In Agamemnon, Cassandra and Iphigenia were the only innocent lives taken, both caused by Agamemnon’s lack of morals. The sheer number of deaths in Hamlet that were caused by unjust means and intentions brings a great amount of unrest to the audience. It holds even greater unrest for the audience when compared to Agamemnon. The level of understanding I had with all the characters was far greater in Hamlet than in Agamemnon. Hamlet, the tragic hero in his play, was the main character. The audience was able to connect and sympathize with him through his struggles with avenging his father and his many soliloquies.
Touching on the topic of Hamlet’s desire for suicide in his soliloquies gives the impression that he is trapped in his life. Even though he may be miserable in the world he lives in, suicide is forbidden by his religion, and thus he is trapped to stay in a world he hates. Agamemnon does not appear in his play until at least half way through. This makes it difficult to justify Agamemnon, the tragic hero in his play, as the main character. His wife, Clytemnestra is the main character since her story is followed from the beginning to the end of the play. Making a connection with the tragic hero in Agamemnon is much more difficult since the audience does not have a chance to connect with him, ultimately making his death less tragic and compelling to the audience. An element of Aristotle’s definition of tragedy is involving a tragic hero of higher standing.
Both of these plays follow that element. Hamlet is the prince of Denmark. Agamemnon is the king of Argos, Greece. Both of these men make and error in judgement that eventually leads to suffering and their final downfall. Hamlet accidently kills Polonius, believing him to be Claudius. This sets a chain of events in action that leads to the death of not only himself, but many people around him. Agamemnon makes the mistake of trusting his wife upon his return. He walks on the purple silk into his palace, where Clytemnestra kills him. This event feels less tragic since the audience almost believes Agamemnon deserves death for sacrificing his own daughter and taking Cassandra as a concubine.
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