Write a series of three or four reflections that demonstrate how your response to Hamlet has changed and developed during the process of your critical study.
Hamlet possesses an ongoing theme of certainty, which is deeply intertwined with the theme of action. The play, over its duration, explores how it is possible to take reasonable and purposeful action. Through the play’s central protagonist, Prince Hamlet, Shakespeare is able to show how not only rational considerations, but emotional, ethical and psychological factors too. Hamlet is the only character in the play who seems to distrust the idea of acting purposefully and swiftly, a character flaw which is emphasised by his foils: Laertes and Fortinbras. Both of these characters are embodiments of Sydney Bolt’s “passionate revenger”, seeking justice for the deaths of their fathers. Fortinbras determination and willingness to go to great effort to avenge his father’s death, to the extent of waging war on Denmark, and Laertes furious desire to avenge Polonius’ unjust murder, both contrast sharply with Hamlet’s inactivity. It is made obvious that the other characters think much less about action that Hamlet does, and are therefore less troubled about the implications and risks of acting purposefully. The other characters have an innate ability to act as they feel appropriate. However, their ability to act how and when they feel like it does to some extent prove the necessity for Hamlet’s hesitation, because most of their hasty action turns against them. Claudius, despite gaining a queen and a crown, has a conscience that torments him. The action of killing a king, according to the beliefs of Shakespeare’s era, ensures that Claudius is damned by the heavens, and his divine suffering is briefly shown throughout the play. Laertes assures himself that he will not be distracted or diverted from his course of vengeance, but in his passion, he is easily manipulated by Claudius and dies from his own poisoned rapier.
Ophelia is a beautiful and simple-minded woman, easily molded by the more powerful opinions and desires of others. The thoughts of her father and her brother influenced her the most. The love letters from Hamlet also swayed her opinions and confused her mind. Ophelia wasn't able to realize herself because of all the pressures exerted on her to be something she's not. That weakness of mind and ...
Over the duration of the play, in tandem with Hamlet’s continued inability to act, he slowly becomes less and less passionate about seeking his vengeance. The long period of time during which the play is situated, Hamlet’s inaction and obsessive nature with overthinking how to act effectively destroys his passion for revenge. Hamlet begins to assume and accept his role as an instrument of justice, as if he is guided by fate to perform what he believes he has to, as Denmark has become a ‘diseased’ and ‘rotten’ state due to the sinful acts of King Claudius. He slowly loses his passionate emotional involvement towards the end of the play, and this change of heart is emphasised by Laertes and Fortinbras increased passion and pursuit of a personal vendetta. The extended course of time presented within the play appears to emphasise Hamlet’s most serious character flaw: his inability to act.
Theme of real versus perceived, relevant to Hamlet’s insanity
Throughout the entire play, the question of Hamlet’s sanity remains unanswerable. Shakespeare has used amazing literary control to keep the responder confused about the true nature of Hamlet’s state of mind. You can be certain that it lies somewhere between sanity and insanity, and many events and quotations from Hamlet himself would suggest one extreme or the other. Hamlet agreeably shows many examples of instability and madness throughout the play, however he had also pointed out that he would manipulate an antic disposition to convince others of his madness. On many occasions, such as his long speech with Polonius, Hamlet’s language is erratic and unpredictable, but within these outbursts lie obvious observations and deep analysis that would suggest an intelligent mind working beneath the surface. I believe that Hamlet’s madness is mostly feigned, a clever ruse to deceive his enemies and mask his true intentions. However, due to personal involvement, this madness is able to almost overpower him, for example his furious murdering of Polonius (A3S4), his crazed performance during the play-within-a-play (A3S2), and his open conflict with Ophelia (A3S1).
... does not tell him that Hamlet suspects Claudius of killing the King; instead she states that she is convinced that Hamlet is mad. Even though ... of Fortinbras? In the first and second acts of the play, we heard of a young Fortinbras, impatient under his enforced ... Like a good king, he will protect them from the madness of the Prince. The death of Polonius has provided Claudius with the ...
Shakespeare includes many contextual references and techniques to provide evidence both for and against Hamlet’s sanity. He has undergone a uniquely traumatic experience which most responders would be able to agree with a reaction of insanity. He is unable to believe in religious faith, with physical evidence to suggest the unknown beyond that described by religion, such as Hamlet’s ghostly father, and the lack of heavenly justice which has caused Claudius to usurp the throne. The extent of his questioning shows its climax in the “To be, or not to be” speech, where Hamlet even ponders the philosophy of suicide, a major taboo in the Catholic/Christian religious system. Hamlet is unable to trust society or those around him, as they have been poisoned by hypocrisy and deceit (for example, Guildenstern and Rosencrantz spying on Hamlet for their allegiance to the King), nor believe in the power of love, as it has been destroyed by his mother’s swift betrayal. Shakespeare puts forth all of these reasons, allowing Hamlet to be understandably distraught, and if not insane, then very close to the outer reaches of sanity. However, through a continuous insistence of Hamlet’s intelligence shown through his accurate insights and revealing soliloquys, the audience is kept guessing throughout the entire play, and the final opinion is entirely up to their own interpretation.
The Theme of Disease and Corruption
From the opening line of the play (“Who’s there?” tensions are high and the threat of war is imminent), the responder is able to suspect that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. The play’s first scene explores the anxiety and uncertainty that surrounds the transition of leadership from one monarch to the next, and throughout the play, there are continuous connections suggested between the moral legitimacy of Claudius and the health of the nation he rules. King Hamlet’s ghost is depicted as a supernatural omen to indicate the poor health of the nation. The dead King Hamlet, although easily seen as one of the classical monarchs who ruled with an iron fist, is portrayed as a strong warrior whose nation was under good care whilst he was at its head. However, with the entrance of Claudius who has usurped the throne for his own personal ambition, politically leads the country unprepared into a potential state of war. The immoral ambitions that led to Claudius position on the throne are reflected in the poor health of the state, as Claudius has committed a crime against heaven by killing a King, and is therefore subjected to suffering or punishment. Claudius is not unaware of his trespass either, which is shown in his scene of holy repentance; however, it is made obvious that his character is selfish and led by ambition. His black heart is made most obvious when he does not prevent Gertrude from drinking the poisoned wine during the last scene of the play, overcoming any emotion he felt toward her so that he is able to adhere to his plan. Over the duration of the play, my understanding of the nature and source of Denmark’s disease became a more obvious link to Claudius’ sinful nature.
... Denmark whose father has recently died. The throne now belongs to Claudius, King Hamlet's brother. King Hamlet's spirit makes two mysterious appearances seen only ... the same time, he is also stating that King Claudius is nothing like King Hamlet, whom Hamlet believes to have been a great ... his ever-changing disposition. Although the first act of the play does not often show him other than melancholic ...
At the very end of the play, Fortinbras rise to power suggests that Denmark will be strengthened and united once again, and that some order and just balance has been restored to the state.