Hamlet, arguably one of William Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies, is a classic revenge story that centers around a crestfallen Danish prince who struggles against himself to avenge the murder of his recently deceased father. Scheming the revenge requested by his father’s ghost, Hamlet finds resistance from non but his very pensive and thoughtful self. The play’s tone and language parallel the inner mind of its protagonist: dark and introspective. Hamlet ???s character however is three dimensional and is more complex than mere cautiousness and pension; The English poet weaves radical contradictions into Hamlet’s fabric that by making him indecisive, serve to explore life’s most daunting question that has no definitive answer-death.
After witnessing his mother’s hasty remarriage, Hamlet’s image of women has been tainted and his misogynistic attitude became even more prominent. He began to treat his mother with disgust and treat his once cherished lover with callousness and brutality essentially driving her to insanity. Hamlet however didn’t hate Ophelia or his mother. A very passionate man in nature, Hamlet was pained over the idea that the queen easily replaced the man who was so loving to [her],That he might not beteem the winds of heaven Visit her face too roughly (1.2.141-45) with a beast. When he discovered Ophelia’s death, Hamlet reacted with outpouring emotions and sensitivity admitting that he loved her so much that forty thousand brothers Could not, with all their quantity of love, Make up [his]sum (5.1.263-4).
It is not his ferocity and anger that blinded him and made him treat Ophelia with unimaginable cruelty. Though he did use her as an outlet for the disgust he felt toward his mother and women in general, Hamlet’s actions toward Ophelia were fueled by his sense of duty toward fulfilling the promise he made to his father and his desire to protect Ophelia from this world. Telling her to “Get thee to a nunnery”(3.1.119-120), Hamlet is trying to free Ophelia from her sinful womanly nature and get her to a more chaste place instead. Underneath the heartless and callous actions of the dejected prince a more virtuous and tender motives. It is important to note that just like Hamlet is morally idealistic, he had his stains of corruption that developed throughout the course of the play. One of the prince’s main reasons for opposing the queen’s marriage is that it was incestuous; additionally, later in the play when he was comparing his father to Claudius, he referred to Claudius as a satyr to criticize his lustful and drunken behavior. Put together, it becomes clear that Hamlet despises sensual and lustful ideas and interactions.
Ironically though, he thinks it’s a fair thought to lie between maids’ legs (3.2.111-20). Not only that but Ophelia as she was unconsciously reciting songs when she lost her sanity, reveals that she had some intimate relationship with Hamlet before. Furthermore, when Hamlet received the news of his father’s murder from the ghost, he with great outrage and righteous indignation calls Claudius a damned villain(1.5.106). Nevertheless, Hamlet realizes that to take revenge from his uncle, he must commit the very same act that he is revenging for. He killed Polonius, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern with no compunction whatsoever while the villain he loathes at least thought of repentance. He is pious yet lustful, tender yet heartless, and righteous yet corrupt. He is not only torn within but also can’t escape because he is consumed by self-analysis. Though Hamlet doesn’t acknowledge that, these contradictory thoughts and behaviors have cumulated to stifle him and delayed his avenge until an external factor overpowered all of that.
Toward the climax of the play, Hamlet met Fortinbras and his army marching to their death. To his shame, Fortinbras’s reasons seemed as thin as an eggshell (4.4.53) yet were enough to provoke and incite him. This moved him within as he was bemoaning his inactivity and made his decide that from now on His thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth(4.4.65-66). The encounter with Fortinbras didn’t change the nature of Hamlet, instead, it freed him from the curse of introspection that has for long kept him imprisoned by his inner conflict and insecurities. He chose to turn a blind eye to the conflict within and essentially act without thinking.
Due to that, the once hesitant and fearful death has reached the apex of his development by preparing himself for death and accepting that he will be dealing with a moral paradox. The young prince opted to not give himself or his audience a decisive resolution because he is aware that there is no simple answer to life or death, so to propel himself through action, he makes destiny the scapegoat forcing himself to believe that There’s a divinity that shapes our ends (5.2.4-11).
Whether Hamlet is actually convinced of that or if he is using it as a tool to overshadow his inner conflicts and commit another murder is uncertain; what is certain however is that if Hamlet hasn’t overcame his perpetual introspection, he would have forever been the inactive slave of his thoughts and contradictions.
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