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The Complexity Of Hamlet

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The Complexity Of Hamlet’s Character Essay, Research Paper

Enclosed in William Shakespeare?s Hamlet lies the greatest gallery of captivating characters. The role of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, in particular is considered one of theater?s greatest acting challenges, as well as an aspect noted for the success of the play. Shakespeare focused the tragedy on the deep conflict and complexity within the thoughtful and idealistic Hamlet as he is torn between the demands of his emotions and the hesitant skepticism of his mind. Hamlet?s inconsistency is portrayed throughout the drama in many different forms, one being his convenient inability to animate his desires. A subsequent aspect of Hamlet?s antic disposition that is put on trial is his trusting constitution. Hamlet?s character also raises inquiry with his madness, and whether or not it is truly authentic insanity or exhaustively a facade. These three distinct characteristics create and promote complexity within the persona of Hamlet.

Hamlet portrays the tendency to incongruously suffer from a lymphatic and inactive temperament, wherein he at times lacks the energizing ability to act. His tendency to procrastinate and excessive introspectiveness is shown extensively when Hamlet is unable to seek revenge on his uncle Claudius, to avenge his father?s murder. Hamlet promises that when the Ghost tells the story of the murder, his revenge will follow:

?Haste me to know?t, that I, with wings as swift

As meditation or the thoughts of love,

May sweep to my revenge?


However, at the end of the scene he doesn?t seem to be in a big hurry, he exits saying, ?The time is out of joint: O cursed spite/ That ever I was born to set it right!? (I.iv.189). Hamlet continues to prolong the delay of the execution of his revenge because of his inability to act; therefore his murderous rage is misdirected into a stream of greatly contrasting impulsive actions. Hamlet releases his murderous impulse in a moment of temporary insanity, where he loses control and kills the hidden figure of Polonius, without a thought of reason. Hamlet?s change of temperament and newly awakened ability to act continues to develop while he is shipboard on his way to England with Claudius? accomplices, Guildenstern and Rosencrantz. Inspired by his restlessness, he discovers the letter ordering his own death, and forges a new commission which substitutes for his death the deaths of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Hamlet again puzzles the audience with a nature that is both credulous and doubtful and definitely complex.

The trusting attitude of Hamlet is presented when Hamlet first encounters the spirit of his dead father. Without a second thought, Hamlet is ready to execute an elaborate revenge plot upon the king, as he trusts and believes the words said by the apparition of Hamlet Senior to be true, and without infidelity. In contrast, Hamlet soon after begins to doubt the words of his father, and starts to become suspicious and paranoid, believing the ghost was really an evil spirit and not his father. This principle of trust is recognized and is substantially beneficial to Claudius, who demonstrates his awareness of Hamlet?s trusting disposition whence he is plotting the demise of Hamlet with Laertes:

?..He, being remiss,

Most generous, and free from all contriving,

Will not peruse the foils, so that with ease,

Or with a little shuffling, you may choose

A sword unbated,..?


Hamlet again exemplifies his disbelief when he first encounters Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and immediately believes that his friends have arrived in Denmark with concealed motives. This inconsistent aspect of Hamlet?s character also attributes to the question of purity in Hamlet?s insanity.

Preceding the unveiling of the vengeance plot, one is presented Hamlet, a model courtier, soldier and scholar, as quoted by Ophelia ?The glass of fashion, and the mold of form,/ Th? observed of all observers,? (III.i.156-157). With the death of his father and the hasty, incestuous remarriage of his mother to his uncle, however, Hamlet is thrown into a suicidal frame of mind in which life seems boring and unpleasant, demonstrated when he states:

?O God, God

How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable

Seems to me all the uses of this world!?


All that Hamlet is able to do in this frustrated state of mild insanity is to lash out with bitter satire at the evils he sees and then relapse into suicidal melancholy. It is in this state that he meets the equally mysterious figure of his father?s ghost with its supernatural revelations of murder and adultery and its injunction upon Hamlet to revenge his father?s murder. The spirits effect on Hamlet was truly diabolical, and ensuing this oppressing encounter he decides to play the part of insanity, which he implements in order to prove his noxious uncle?s guilt, without arousing suspicion:

?Here, as before, never, so help you mercy,

How strange or odd soe?er I bear myself,

As I perchance hereafter shall think meet

To put an antic disposition on,?


In opposition to the beliefs of his authentic insanity, Hamlet puzzles the court with what he claims to be an assumed madness. Which leaves it to be a difficult enigma in distinguishing whether or not the insanity is of solid background, or is merely a hoax played by the ingenious Hamlet.

The mystery of Hamlet?s complex character attributes intensely to the exultation and success of Shakespeare?s masterpiece. This mystery marks the essence of Hamlet?s character as it ultimately does for all human personalities.


William Shakespeare’s Hamlet


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