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Comparing Death Of A Salesman and Hamlet compariso

Willy Loman and Hamlet, two characters so alike, though different.

Both are perfect examples of tragedy in literature, though for separate

reasons and by distinct methods.  The definition of a tragedy, in a

nutshell, states that for a character to be considered tragic, he/she must

be of high moral estate, fall to a level of catastrophe, induce sympathy

and horror in the audience, and usually die, and in doing so, re-establish

order in the society.  Hamlet follows this to a “T”. Death of a Salesman

does not fall within these set guidelines but is still considered tragic

for reasons, though different, somewhat parallel those of Hamlet’s.


Hamlet, a rich young price of high moral estate suddenly has his

joyous life ripped away from him when his father, Hamlet Sr., suddenly

passes away.  Though originally thought to be of natural causes, it is

later revealed to him through his father’s ghost, that dear old dad was

murdered by his Step-Father, and also his Uncle, Claudius. Vowing revenge

upon his Uncle/Dad, Hamlet begins to mentally falter and eventually, is in

such a wild rage that he accidentally kills Polonious believing him to be

his father. Hilarity ensues.


Ophelia, Hamlet’s love interest, commits suicide/dies (that’s up

for debate elsewhere) after going slightly mad from the impact of her

father’s death, then Laertes, Polonius’ son, arrives on the scene enraged

and ready to kill Hamlet for what he’s done, and  just when you thought

things couldn’t get any worse, unbeknownst to Hamlet, Claudius has been

plotting to kill him.  Talk about your bad days.


A duel takes place between Hamlet and Laertes where Laertes, using

a poison-tipped sword, cuts Hamlet, thus giving way for his impending

death.  Hamlet eventually gets hold of the sword and kills Laertes, then

kills King Claudius.  Just as the play ends, Hamlet takes his last breath

of air, appoints Fortinbras Jr. as the new King of Denmark, and dies.


In Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman, a salesman who believed

himself to be a powerful man, has his life unravel before him as he loses

his job, his sanity and the respect of those around him.  Many years before,

Willy had an affair.  This “dirtied” his appearance to his son Biff, though

his wife never found out.  Biff later went on to become a drifter of sorts,

dabbling in one low-paying profession after another until finally settling

on a farm.


After Willy was fired, for being too old, too inept or both,

supposedly, Willy pretends he’s still working and doesn’t let his wife in

on the bad news.  Too stubborn to accept a job from his next-door neighbour,

Willy is forced to lie to his family.

Through visions of his older brother Ben, coupled with the

degradation of his mind, Willy eventually commits suicide to ensure his son

Biff’s career through the Life Insurance policy.  Willy dies an empty,

shallow death.


Hamlet and Willy are both considered tragic.  The Classical

Tragedy’s definition was tweaked with to make it a more general encompassor.

A common man’s injured sense of dignity, coupled with forces beyond his

control and/or ability to comprehend, displace him from his perceived place,

causing the audience to recognize such and prepare itself for the

inevitable finale in which the hopelessness and defeat are more poignant

than the actual death.


Willy and Hamlet both fell from grace, both commited morally

bankrupt acts and evetually died, giving way to a re-establishment of order.

Tragic men,  for different reasons,  bound together through their demeanor

and their deaths.

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