Activity Overview

Hamlet is full of important literary elements for students to explore. One of these elements is the tragic hero, a protagonist who seems to be ill-fated, and destined for doom. In this play, Hamlet is the tragic hero as he leads himself and many others to their ruin and deaths.

The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, was the articulated the specific attributes or principles of a tragic hero. For the storyboard above, students can use a template to storyboard the qualities that make Hamlet, a tragic hero. The finished product outlines each of Aristotle's principles with a detailed explanation of the specific attributes.

Hamlet - Tragic Hero

HamartiaFlaw in the Character Hamlet’s repeated indecision prevents him from immediately killing Claudius, indirectly causing every other death in the play.
HubrisExcessive Pride Hamlet believes he is clever enough to beat Claudius and Laertes in any challenge. In the fencing match, Laertes takes advantage of this to poison Hamlet with his fencing blade.
PeripeteiaReversal of Fortune Hamlet proves to himself that Claudius is guilty, but now Claudius knows he has to kill Hamlet. His first attempt, with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, fails, but he then arranges the fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes.
AnagnorisisA Moment of Critical Discovery There are several moments of Anagnorisis in Hamlet. The whole play is set in motion when the Ghost of King Hamlet tells the prince that it is Claudius who has killed him.
NemesisFate that Cannot be Avoided Hamlet's failure to act immediately leads the duel between Hamlet and Laertes, where both men are poisoned and die.
CatharsisAudience's Feeling of Pity or Fear After the Hero's Fall With the Danish royal family dead, only Horatio is left to tell the story, while the King of Norway claims the crown of Denmark.

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Activity", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows how Hamlet can be considered a tragic hero.

  1. Identify events of the play or characteristics of Hamlet that fit into Aristotelian attributes of a tragic hero.
  2. Illustrate examples for Hamartia, Hubris, Peripeteia, Anagnorisis, Nemesis, and Catharsis.
  3. Write a short description below each cell that specifically relates Hamlet as a tragic hero.

Lesson Plan Reference

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/11-12/1] Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/11-12/3] Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed)
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/11-12/5] Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text (e.g., the choice of where to begin or end a story, the choice to provide a comedic or tragic resolution) contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact


(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

Tragic Hero Rubric Template
Create a storyboard that shows how the protagonist can be considered a tragic hero using Aristotle's Characteristics
Proficient Emerging Beginning Needs Improvement
Tragic Hero Characteristics
The six tragic hero characteristics are correctly identified and portrayed from the story. The explanation provided explains how the scenes depict each characteristic, and shows effective analysis.
Four or five tragic hero characteristics are correctly identified and portrayed from the story, or some of the elements may not be identified correctly. The explanations give context to the scene, but may be minimal, and there is some attempt at analysis.
Two or three tragic hero characteristics are correctly identified and portrayed from the story, or most of the elements are inaccurately depicted. The quotes and/or explanations are too minimal.
One or fewer tragic hero characteristics are correctly identified and portrayed from the story, or most of the elements are inaccurately depicted. The quotes and/or explanations are minimal or missing altogether.
Artistic Depictions
The art chosen to depict the scenes are accurate to the work of literature. Time and care is taken to ensure that the scenes are neat, eye-catching, and creative.
The art chosen to depict the scenes should be accurate, but there may be some liberties taken that distract from the assignment. Scene constructions are neat, and meet basic expectations.
The art chosen to depict the scenes is inappropriate. Scene constructions are messy and may create some confusion.
The art chosen to depict the scenes is too limited or incomplete.
English Conventions
Ideas are organized. There are few or no grammatical, mechanical, or spelling errors.
Ideas are mostly organized. There are some grammatical, mechanical, or spelling errors.
Ideas may be disorganized or misplaced. Lack of control over grammar, mechanics, and spelling reflect a lack of proofreading.
Storyboard text is difficult to understand.

How To Gain a Deep Understanding of the Attributes of a Tragic Hero


Introduce the Attributes

Since the concept of a tragic hero is an abstract one, teachers can begin by introducing the attributes of a tragic hero and how students can identify these attributes in different stories. Similarly, teachers can give them different examples and also tell similar concepts such as the famous “Damsel in Distress”.


Discuss Attributes

Start with open-ended questions to lead the discussion on the attributes. Ask the students, why they think such attributes combine to make a tragic hero and the significance of these characters in literature.


Study and Compare Various Tragic Heroes

Examine and contrast various tragic figures from diverse works. This might assist the students in recognizing recurring themes and distinctive qualities that contribute to the tragic hero archetype.


Think About Real-Life Examples

Tragic hero characteristics aren't just found in fiction. Examine people from history or the present whose lives exhibit the traits of tragic heroes. This can make it easier for you to comprehend how these qualities behave in actual life. Ask the students to apply these attributes to their personal life as well.


Reflect on the Knowledge Gained

Apply what you learn as you gain more understanding of other writing or creative projects. Students can make up their own tragic hero-like figures, or use this perspective to examine personalities they already know.

Frequently Asked Questions About Hamlet as a Tragic Hero

What Is the Tragic Flaw in Hamlet?

Hamlet's tragic weakness is his propensity for overanalyzing and delaying decisions, which results in his indecision. He consistently waits to act, especially when it comes to exacting revenge for the killing of his father, which finally leads to his demise.

Does Hamlet's Nobility Affect His Tragic Ending?

Yes, Hamlet's noble origins as the Prince of Denmark add to the tragedy's scope. Because of his exalted status, his fall from grace and the effects of his deeds on both his own life and the kingdom are amplified.

What Are a Few Illustrations of Hamlet's Difficult Relationships?

Complex interactions between Hamlet and people like his mother Gertrude, Ophelia, and friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern all add to his tragedy. His inner struggle is complicated by his tense relationship with his mother and his romantic involvement with Ophelia.

What Position Does Hamlet Hold Among Other Tragic Heroes?

Hamlet and other tragic characters like Macbeth and Oedipus have a lot in common. They all have fatal defects that cause them to fail, and they all have times when they recognize those flaws in themselves. However, Hamlet differs from previous tragic heroes because of his contemplative and philosophical temperament.

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