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Hamlet and Agamemnon are two classic plays that both include all the common elements of Greek tragedy. They also share similar themes related to the abuse of power, revenge, deceit, loyalty, love and loss. The protagonists in both stories are characters of high status that suffer an inevitable downfall caused by their own character flaws and a fatal error of judgment. However, I believe Hamlet is more tragic than Agamemnon. Although both their misfortunes arouse pity, Hamlet’s story offers the audience a more intimate perspective into his thoughts, feelings, and relationships which encourages a stronger emotional connection and a sympathetic response.
Even though both Hamlet and Agamemnon are the protagonists of these plays, Hamlet seems to play a more integral role. Agamemnon is still a central figure, but there is a significantly heavier focus on other secondary characters such as his wife, Clytemnestra. As a result, Hamlet’s character development is much more substantial. He is an emotionally expressive man, whether he feels deep sorrow, grief, anger, or elation.
We also learn much about him through his many dramatic and eloquent soliloquies that examine intense topics like betrayal and morality. The way he exposes his tortured inner world evokes deep sympathy and makes him relatable, despite his extraordinary circumstances. Furthermore, Hamlet is generally a more likeable character because he was basically innocent and didn’t deserve to die, but Agamemnon was guilty of murdering his own daughter. I perceived Agamemnon in an impersonal manner and was neutral to the outcome of his plight, whereas I was more emotionally invested in Hamlet and genuinely wanted him to prevail.
These two tragic heroes share many commonalities from Aristotle’s components of a tragedy. However, Hamlet is a greater tragedy because of the humanity in his portrayal. Additionally, Hamlet is the centralized figure of his story, and the audience learns about him through the personal insight he offers. By contrast, the audience lacks insight into Agamemnon’s life and personality because his character is built largely by other characters in the story, who figure just as prominently as he does. There are great moral lessons to learn from both tragedies but Hamlet’s ability to connect with audiences in a more intimate way by sharing the deepest parts of himself, and the martyr-like nature of his death, makes him the epitome of a tragic hero.
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