Hamlet

a high school paper

In Hamlet, we are presented with a multitude of inner-conflicts and insecurities. As Hamlet fights his own conscience and sorts through his jumbled emotions he paints a picture of grim, unwilling consent to his father's wishes and confused, angry passion.

Brillian literary play write hamlet head shot
William Shakespeare

Although his role as prince in the given circumstance is to avenge his father's death, Hamlet's own self-conflicts seem to hinder his ability to act on the matter. He reveals this self-conflict and a lack of confidence to the ghost of his father when he says he will forget everything that "youth and observation" taught him (1, v, 98). This is an impossible task to undertake. The idea was explored by Mary Shelley in her Frankenstein, in which she wrote that one cannot feasibly neglect his roots, for knowledge "clings" to the mind "like lichen to a rock" (pg. 103). Hamlet couldn't possibly forget his most basic understanding of life. Similarly, Hamlet slyly, almost sarcastically, defies his dead father's decree with this statement. Even in his remark, "conscience does make cowards of us," Hamlet reveals his unwillingness to comply (3,i,83). And when he tells the ghost that his revenge will be "swift as meditation" (1,v,30) and backs down on an opportunity to slay the King until a "more horrid hent" (3,iii,88), his reluctance proves overpowering to his father's wishes.

Shakespeare Play Hamlet
Hamlet

This lack of confidence and personal struggle soon turns into doubtfulness, leaving Hamlet confused and hesitant. He doubts the validity of his father's apparition and seeks more empirical evidence of Claudius's guilt before consenting to revenge, even noting the possibility of "the devil" posing as "the spirit" of his father (2, ii, 610). This caution and doubt eventually drives Hamlet to orchestrate an elaborate plan to prove Claudius's guilt. Only then will he be certain of his "course" (2, ii, 610) -to avenge his father's murder. However, even after his scheme proves successful, Hamlet still spends three more acts fretting over his "outrageous fortune" (3,i,58). If not for the eventual death of nearly every other character in the play, it seems as though Hamlet would never actually do the deed.

Not only have I noticed Hamlet's obvious inability to act, but other characters, too, pick up on it. His "will is not his own," according to Laertes at the beginning of the play (1,iii,17), which suggests that Hamlet is predisposed to indecisiveness and hesitation. Later on, other characters simply think "he's mad" (3,iv,106; 5,i,274) or putting on an "antic disposition" (1,v,172). Hamlet himself prompts a reference to his own lack of will to act on the matter in the player's speech about Pyrruhs, who stood "neutral to his will" and "did nothing" (2,ii,490). This constant insecurity within Hamlet becomes the only force driving the plot. The central problem to be solved in the play is Hamlet's own personal struggle between right and wrong instead of simply killing his step-father. His emotions prove to be tremendous obstacles on the road to sweet revenge.

Shakespeare Play Hamlet  Act I Scene IV before the Castle of Elsineur
Hamlet, Horatio, Marcellus speak with the ghost of the king

Hamlet obviously has some personal problems with his emotions. It takes the death of both of his parents, and a mortal wound to himself to finally bring Hamlet to his revenge. And revenge, by this prince's definition, is nothing short of "punish[ment]" (3,iv,175). Hamlet's emotions and anxiety interfere with the duty he was "born" (1,v,188) with. Perhaps Shakespeare is demonstrating with Hamlet an idea that Wordsworth would later explore in his poem, Tintern Abbey: one must "lighten" the "weight" of the world from one's mind in order to see clearly (line 40). Hamlet cannot act because his mind is so strewn with emotion and conflict. Only when he is dying next to his slain mother does he clear his thoughts enough to act. Similarly, William Yeats referred to "passionate intensity" as a serious human downfall in his poem, The Second Coming. Corresponding with this theory, Hamlet is a play full of passionate intensity, and this contributes to the characters' eventual downfall, especially Hamlet.


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