Is Hamlet truly a tragedy or can it be considered more of a comedy? Weâ€™ve noticed, as a group, that when we ask Monk to predict the classification of Hamlet in either Comedy or Tragedy it continually deems it comedic.
But why is this? To further investigate this weâ€™ve decided to compare Hamlet to Macbeth, Titus Andronicus, Merchant of Venice and As You Like It.Â Â Macbeth is a tragedy through and through, while Titus Andronicus was Shakespeareâ€™s first tragedy making them two good candidates to be comparative texts. Comedy on the other hand, we chose As You Like It because itâ€™s a classic comedy and very well known, the choice of Mechant of Venice provided us with a bridge between comedy and tragedy since it is commonly known as a tragic comedyâ€¦maybe Hamlet can be a tragic comedy too?
Iâ€™m not really a huge reader of Shakespeare so the only thingÂ that I knew that differentiate a tragedy from a comedy was that a tragedy ended in death, normally numerous deaths, while a comedy normally ended in marriage or marriages. I looked on Wikipediaâ€¦.which I know itâ€™s not the most reputable source but I just need a quick reference on the differences between the two. They describe a tragedy as linked to â€œAristotle’s precept[ion] about tragedy: that the protagonist must be an admirable but flawed character, with the audience able to understand and sympathize with the character.â€ A comedy has a â€œhappy ending, usually involving marriages between the unmarried characters, and a tone and style that is more light-hearted than Shakespeare’s other playsâ€. Worhoard isnâ€™t capable of showing me a relationship or qualities in a person to help me un-code a tragedy, however I can look at key words, adjectives and the use of the negative to gain the tone of a comedy.
Knowing the limitations of my tool I turned back to my last analysis where I searched the lemmas of love and death, as well as the use of the negative. I used this method in the 4 additional plays, as well as Hamlet as a whole and just Act 5. I soon realized that the results I received could be misleading because I just got the number of results back and not a percentage. Since not all the plays are the same length if the word love appears 200 times in play X and play Y it will not be the same percentage or concentration. So I also had to get Wordhoard to calculate the total number of words in each play.
These are the results I got (organized on paper so itâ€™s easy to understand and follow):
The results werenâ€™t overly surprising; â€œloveâ€ had a higher appearance in comedies, while â€œdeathâ€ had a higher concentration in tragedies. The negative seems to appear more often in comedies than tragedies and this may be a linguistic choice of Shakespeare, but Iâ€™m not sure.
My findings that as a whole play, Hamlet, as a whole, falls in the middle between tragedy and comedy when it comes to the lemma â€œloveâ€, itâ€™s right in-line with tragedy with the lemma â€œdeathâ€, but when you look at the negative it appears to be a comedy. Making it as a whole play a confusing mix of tragedy and comedy, a tragic comedy…
When you single out just Act 5 I can see that it lends itself more to tragedy in both lemmas categories and is in between the two categories when we look at the negative. Since tragedy appears twice, I can label Act 5 as a tragedy.
I think some help from my other group members about synonyms or other words that are comedic or tragic will help me utilize my tool further in uncovering this mystery. Maybe different scenes are more comedic and others are more tragic?