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In the epic tragedy Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, Prince Hamlet is entrapped in
a world of evil that is not of his own creation. He must oppose this evil, which permeates
his seemingly star-struck life from many angles. His dealings with his father’s eerie death
cause Hamlet to grow up fast. His family, his sweetheart, and his school friends all appear
to turn against him and to ally themselves with the evil predicament in which Hamlet finds
himself. Hamlet makes multiple attempts to avenge his father’s murder, but each fails
because his father’s murder, but each fails because his plans are marred by very human
shortcomings. It is these shortcomings that Hamlet is a symbol of ordinary humanity and
give him the room he needs to grow.
The Hamlet that Shakespeare begins to develop in Act I is a typical mortal, bowed
down by his human infirmities and by a disgust of the evils in a world which has led him to
the brink of suicide. Hamlet voices his thoughts on the issue: ‘O that this too too solid
flesh would melt...’ (I. ii. 135). He is prevented from this drastic step only by a faith
which teaches him that God has ‘fix’d/ His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter’ (I. ii. 131-2). To
Hamlet appears his dead father’s spirit, and he must continue to live in the ‘unweeded
garden, / That grows to seed’ in order to fulfill the obligation he has to his father (I.ii.
Making Hamlet more a story of personal growth than a dark murder mystery,
Shakespeare emphasizes the emotional, rather than the physical, obstacles that Prince must
face in accomplishing his goal. Immediately, Hamlet must determine whether the ghost
speaks the truth, and to do so he must cope with theological issues. He must settle the
moral issue of private revenge. He must learn to live in a world in which corruption could
be as near as the person who gave birth to him. He also must control the human passions
within him which are always threatening his plans. There are no more sobering issues than
these which would catalyze growth in any human.
Hamlet’s widely recognized hamartia, or tragic flaw, is his inability to make
decisions on subjects with consequences of any weight. That he is aware of his stagnation
in such situations does prove to be helpful in defeating this flaw. After passing up three
oppotuities to entrap Claudius in the third act (the nunnery scene on which the king was
eavesdropping, during The Murder of Gonzago, the scene in Gertrude’s closet), Hamlet
berates himself because of his indecisiveness: ‘Why (must ) I live to say ‘This thing’s to
do; / Sith I have cause and will and strength and means / To do’t’ (IV.iv. 44-46). Hamlet
realizes that his strength and opportunity are of no avail until he feels morally right in
following through on his vengeful task. Looking towards Horatio as a model of the
Christian stoicism he needs to pull himself through the play, Hamlet comments on him: ‘. .
.thou hast been / As one, in suffering all, that suffers nothing, / A man that fortune’s
buffets and rewards / Hast ta’en with equal thanks. . . .Give me that man / That is not
passion’s slave, and I will wear him / I my hearts core’ (III.ii. 70-79).
Hamlet must become like Horatio. He must learn that evil is a necessary part of the
harmonious order that God created. When Hamlet can become impervious to the blows
of fortune, his mission will be accomplished.
The impending dark period Hamlet must endure is represented by the sympathetic
fallacy of the state of nature in Denmark. Francisco notes, ‘’tis bitter cold, And I am sick
at heart’ (I.i. 8-9). This readies the audience for the appearance of the ghost which will
represent the perversion of the harmonious order that Hamlet must restore.
Hamlet’s reactions to his father’s questionable death begin to reveal his
immaturity. Suffering from an unnatural grief over his father’s death, Hamlet lets his
immaturity be revealed when he says the death was ‘a will most incorrect to heaven’ (I.ii.
129). As of now, Hamlet has a ‘...heart unfortified, a mind impatient, / An understanding
simple and unschool’d’ ( I.ii. 96-97). He is, therefore, unable to bear the brunt of
something tragic as his father’s death. Unable to see the god in things, Hamlet views the,
world, God’s own creation, as merely a place of corruption: ‘How weary, stale, flat and
unprofitable, / Seem to me all the uses of tis
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Characters in Hamlet, Prince Hamlet, Hamlet, Ophelia, Gertrude, Ghost, Laertes, Horatio, Polonius, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Critical approaches to Hamlet
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