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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.

Lesson Plan Reference

Grade Level 11-12

Difficulty Level 4 (Difficult / Complex)

Type of Assignment Individual or Partner

Type of Activity: Tragic Hero

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

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Use This Assignment With My Students", 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.
  4. Save and submit the assignment.


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

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The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

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