Hamartia is a term that is developed in Aristotle’s Poetics. The term simply means a fatal error or mistake of one character. One character that has good reputation that does not seem to have many mistakes can change the story to a tragedy just with one error, miscalculation, or sin. The term is also known as “tragic flaw”. In Greek “Hamartia” is the word to denote “sin”.

Oedipus And The Sphinx - Project Gutenberg eText 14994


Hamartia in Hamlet

Hamlet is not a bad character in the play. He thinks about the death of his father, he plans “the mousetrap”, yet he does not act for it. Hamlet’s lack of action is his tragic flow that changes the story and causes all the character’s death except for Horatio. Tragic flow for Claudius could be defined as alcoholism or the addiction to lust and power.


Hamartia in Shakespeare’s Other Works

Othello’s hamartias are jealousy, unrealistic love, trusting others easily, and being so proud. Hamartia in Macbeth is the ambition and lack of self control. In Romeo and Juliet, their immaturity and falling in love in first sight for Romeo are thought to be the tragic flows rather than the fight between two houses. In King Lear, his high social statues raise hamartia.