Hamlet stands out as the most popular William Shakespeare’s tragedies. The play is categorized as drama, literature, and philosophy and the world admits its artistic stature. Besides the poetic language used in the play, the appeal of the play lies in Hamlet’s character. He is obliged to avenge the death of his father and in the process; Hamlet has to face duty, ethics and morality problems. Hamlet has to deal with issues that have been daunting human beings for centuries. Hamlet depicts a complex character through his reluctance to act and his indecision.
According to Freudian critics, Hamlet’s character is catalyzed by his father mother son unstable relationship. Based on this argument, Hamlet is bothered, and he is eventually jealous of his uncle. Going by other psychoanalytic critics, Hamlet’s character is catalyzed by his lack of moral resolution and courage. Hamlet’s indecision signifies moral inadequacy that he overcomes when it is too late. The theme of morality is evident when Hamlet is weighed down by virtue, and he is confused trying to find out what life and death means. After his father dies, Hamlet thinks genuinely about what life means and how it ends mean. He wonders what happened after people die, whether people go to heaven when they are murdered and whether kings have a free ticket to heaven.
Hamlet thinks that the idea of dying is not very bad, but he is afraid of the uncertainty of afterlife. The fear drives him away from suicide even though he considered the aspect. Hamlet deeply contemplates the moral actions of those alive, but he decides when he sees Yorick’s skull. Hamlet loved and respected Yorick, and on seeing his skull, he realizes that death wipes out the disparities that people have. The play has many bodies at the end, but although eight of the characters die, the play does not fully answer the question about morality. The play does not solve the questions about afterlife, death, and suicide.
Both psychoanalytic arguments look into Hamlet’s motivation. Nonetheless, the Renaissance drama was not based on motivation, by moral standing or by psychological character. The Renaissance drama focused on presenting characters with ethical and moral standings and who have to deal with dilemmas. In the play, Shakespeare presents the battle between an intelligent man and the will of God. Hamlet is torn between his role as an avenger and his fate. His father’s death distresses him, and he is angry at his mother for moving on too fast. Hamlet does not consider his love for his mother. He only considers her lack of regard to his father’s memory. By directly accomplishing his role as an avenger, the play would lack theological and moral complexity. Hamlet studies theology, and this confuses him. His theological knowledge confuses him and exaggerates his feelings. An ordinary avenger would consider the ghost’s commission enough.
Nonetheless, since Hamlet knows that otherworldly apparitions are unreliable, he does not immediately act on the ghost’s advice. Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder (Shakespeare). Furthermore, Hamlet is not sure whether his father was pure of sin when he was murdered. He is not sure whether his father was condemned to hell and this boosts Hamlet’s notion of injustice and creates doubt on the ghost’s advice.
At first, Hamlet acts mad and crazy to drive people into believing that he is harmless as he probed Claudia’s involvement and his father’s death. Polonius, the plumber says, Though this be madness, yet there is method in it (Shakespeare). Polonius makes a right and also the wrong argument because according to psychology, there is no clear line dividing sane and insane. Polonius falls into Hamlet’s plan by believing that he mad because he is genuinely in love with Ophelia. However, as the play continues, Hamlet behaves more erratically, and through his actions, he loses a grip from reality. It becomes difficult for him to manage emotional issues. Hamlet ends up enduring physical violence despite the deep stress. It shows that he has more significant problems and he may not just be acting crazy.
Hamlet’s agitation is high when he talks to the women. Even though he cares for both female characters, Hamlet is suspicious of them. He thinks that Gertrude, his mother, remarried too fast. He argues that her fast action to remarry means that she did not love her first husband. The play reveals that Hamlet is in love with Ophelia, but after he starts acting mad, he thinks that Ophelia, his mother, Polonius, and Claudius are collaborating. This is, however, an illusion since Ophelia obeys her monarch and her father. The misjudgment illustrates that Hamlet has lost touch with reality due to madness. The play only has two female characters, and they both die. The scarcity of the women in the play highlights the minimal role of women in Hamlet and society. Hamlet feels that the women have let him down and he quickly points out their flaws. According to him, Ophelia is a victim. His attitude towards women reveals his sexist nature and does not tell much about the women.
Hamlet’s indecisive nature does not indicate weakness, but it is because he extensively understands due to his extensive understanding of the moral dilemma that he has to deal with. He does not want to act unjustly, but he is afraid that he is failing to avenge. He deeply contemplates on the issue until he is sure that his indecisiveness is due to cowardice or moral standing. He ends up misjudging Ophelia and his mother, and he even forgets his mother’s love. Shakespeare uses Hamlet’s intelligence to create internal conflict, making it easy for people to relate to Hamlet’s s feelings. He is timeless since regardless of the century, country or person, everyone has experienced what Hamlet goes through. It could be the loss of a father, a divorce or any drastic change in life. Some people may not think of suicide, but they question life and the afterlife. Hamlet questions everything that he has gone through including betrayal, love, anger, and depression. Hamlet’s situation represents the Biblical notion of turning the other cheek. He hesitates to take revenge, not because he is a coward but because he thinks it is unjust.
Everyone experiences struggle and, in some instances, they have to decide whether turning the other cheek is the best thing to do. The play includes themes of revenge, love, betrayal, death and right and wrong. The topics relate to everyone because Hamlet’s experiences happen in real life and resonate with everyone. Nonetheless, the primary battle is in his head as he contemplates whether to be or not to be Hamlet’s indecisiveness makes him mad.
- Hamlet, Shakespeare W. “Prince of Denmark.” The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Act II, Scene ii. London and Glasgow: Collins (1960): 1141.