Hamlet begins the book as a righteous hero seeking to avenge his Father, but progresses to becoming a tragic hero who is no better than his father’s murderer. He is motivated by pride, and hindered by a lack of empathy. In his quest for revenge, he loses sight of the other people in his life who care about him, and he seems to ensnare these people as collateral damage on his path to revenge. Hamlet’s tragic flaw is his lack of empathy, and his tendency to be clouded by his emotions.
Claudius plans and executes the death of his brother in order to gain power, an act that establishes him as the antagonist of this story. His tragic flaw is his hubris, his unending belief that he will be able to get away with his schemes. His pride is wrapped into all aspects of his personality. It fuels his dislike for Hamlet, as he reminds Claudius of his older brother, the first-born, and the one who received privilege and entitlement. His pride is ultimately his downfall, for in the final act of the play, it is his pride that prevents him from taking the poisoned glass from the Queen’s lips, because of his desire to see Hamlet’s murder through to its conclusion.
There is the potential for Queen Gertrude to be construed as either a scheming and manipulative Queen or a weak and feeble wife. In regards to the latter description, she is constantly defending an evil man, and can’t seem to take accountability for her misfortunes and the feelings of her son. She does not seem to have a mind of her own, and is generally pushed around by her husband Claudius. Her tragic flaw is that she places too much trust in those around her, particularly in Claudius who she fails to see as an evil antagonist to her son.
Ophelia is a headstrong and willful woman. She knows her own mind and isn’t afraid to speak up for herself and her needs. She cares deeply about the other characters—especially Hamlet—and is often what binds them together. He death becomes a central rift between two of the main characters, Hamlet and Polonius. Her tragic flaw is her constancy to empathize, and ultimately care too deeply about those around her.
Polonius: Polonius is the royal counsel or advisor, and he balances that role with his duties to his children, Laertes and Ophelia. He is wise and level-headed, and like his daughter he is the glue that holds many of these characters together. he is well-liked for his sound advice and wisdom, and he generally knows how to solve the royal families problems. His tragic flaw is that he tries too hard to fix the problems that are not his—from helping Ophelia with regards to her issues with Hamlet, to aligning himself with the King to monitor Hamlet’s behaviors.
Laertes is impulsive and headstrong—a dangerous combination. Laertes wants to be a patriarchal figure, as shown in his desire to give Ophelia advice. He cannot achieve the standing he desires because of an inherent lack of necessary maturity and wisdom. His tragic flaw is that he has the desire to be a patriarchal figure, but still leans on the advice given to him by others, regardless if they are a sound source for advice.