Case Study Analyses of the Character Hamlet by Individual Psychology

Adams State College

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I will be evaluating the character Hamlet from the movie “Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.” The
theory I have chosen is Gordon Allport’s psychology of the individual. Hamlet was written by William
Shakespeare in 1602 and was first performed at the Globe theater in England. In particular I have chosen
the 1993 screen play interpretation written by Franco Zeffirelli and staring Mel Gibson as Hamlet.
The stage is set in Elsinore Denmark, circa 1200. Hamlet’s father has just died. Within two
months his mother Gertrude is wed to the new king Claudius, also Hamlet’s uncle. Hamlet is told one night
by the ghost of his father that he was murdered by his brother Claudius. Hamlet takes upon himself an oath
of revenge. Somewhere between the beginning of the play and the end Hamlet goes mad. The play is
classified as a tragedy, for all the main characters are dead by the end of the play.
Personal dispositions are defined as a generalized neropsychic[sic] structure unique to an
individual with the capacity to render many stimuli equivalent, and to initiate and guide consistent forms of
adaptive and stylistic behavior. Allport placed personal
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dispositions on a continuum from those that are most central to those that are only of peripheral importance
to an individual (Feist, 1994).
A cardinal trait is a ruling passion so outstanding that it governs ones life. Hamlet’s cardinal trait
is duty. In the opening scene as Hamlet follows the ghost of his father he is warned off by his friends that
this could be a trap and may lead to his demise. Hamlet pushes aside his friend and draws his sword saying
“Back from me. I will pursue my passions and my course. If not for piety\'s sake, then know that it holds my
duty and my honor.” It should be noted that it is right before this time when Hamlet first learns of the ghost
that Hamlet begins to lose his sanity. I believe that a cardinal trait must be something worth dyeing for.
That under the right circumstances it is an aspect of who we are so prevalent that we can not quickly or
easily live without.
It is shortly after this time when Hamlet walks out of the tower after just being told of his uncle’s
treachery that Hamlet swears his oath of revenge. He is overlooking a party which his uncle is attending.
He begins striking at the stones with his sword and says
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“ Upon my heart I swear father that sweetest of revenge is ours. Be I mad or man I will right this vengeance
so venomously upon his soul that you may be at rest and I swear it shall be mine.” In the second act
Hamlet delivers a speech in the castles catacombs. He has just returned from England where he learned of
his uncles orders that Hamlet be arrested and executed on his arrival. Hamlet switches the kings orders so
that it is his two friends the messengers that are killed. This action alone, to have his own friends killed as
so that he may avenge his father shows an incredible degree of sacrifice nessacarry for a cardinal trait. In
the catacombs hamlet stares as the crypt of his father and contemplates his own suicide. “To be or not to
be? That is the question and choice before me.” Hamlet considers suicide as an alternative to his revenge.
He questions whether the message delivered by the ghost is really his father and not some devil taking a
kindly form. He says “Such !
release can not be mine. My duty is here and no course can clear me of my conscious. My fathers soul shall
be at rest. This I have sworn to witness of king or devil.” Even if Hamlet’s oath of revenge was made
under false pretense he can not deviate from that course for which he has set for himself.
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Hamlet has several central traits as well. A central trait is a personal disposition from which a
person’s life focus. These characteristics would be those listed in a letter of recommendation about the
person (Feist, 1994). Hamlet is best described as passionate, bold, honest, proud, petty and