Analysis Of The Shakespeare's "Hamlet"
Hamlet is an enduring play, in that Shakespeare’s plays touch on the intricacies of the human condition. While contextual values can change, our basic human nature to seek answers to the fundamental questions of life remains constant, and allows Hamlet to respond to us in many ways. Hamlet is not limited by contextual barriers, and therefore multitudes of interpretations are plausible through the play’s ability to be recontextualised due to its complex characterization and universal themes. That is, the existential ideas of the disillusionment with reality through the search for truth and self, and the confrontation of roles and propensity of revenge to provoke a struggle between contemplation and action, as well as the fear and inevitability of death that pervades the presence in Hamlet.These timeless ideas continue to vex humanity to the end of existence, and reflect Hamlet’s enduring relevance today.
The corrupt world is sustained throughout the play, enhancing Shakespeare’s commentary on the deception and corruption present in the world, and the confusion this causes, which speaks to all contexts. Shakespeare introduces the fundamental questioning of humanity, and presents the motif of truth and appearances. In the opening scene, the instability of Ellsinore establishes the tone of uncertainty, as evoked by the opening line: “Who’s there?”. Shakespeare reflects on the political uncertainty of the Elizabethan era, as LC Knights further argues, “The ethos of the place is made up of coarse pleasures, of moral obtuseness, treacherous plotting and brainless triviality.” The corruption of Denmark is further reinforced in the metaphor of the overgrown garden “tis an unweeded garden/ rank and gross in nature”, which highlights a world of decay and disorder whereby the natural order has been disturbed by Claudius’ murder of Old King Hamlet. Here, Hamlet’s moral dilemma is governed by not only the death of his father, but also by the marriage of Gertrude (Hamlet’s mother) and Claudius (Hamlet’s uncle). This theme of verisimilitude is established by Hamlet’s true words, “But I have that within which asses show, / These but the trapping and the suits of woe”, implying that Gertrude and Claudius’ grief is superficial – an appearance. Through dramatic binaries, Hamlet, a Renaissance thinker shows awareness of the inconsistency between the surfaces people adopt and the truths they hide, as expressed in the lines “Seems, madam! Nay, it is; I know not ‘seems.’ as ‘one may smile and be a villain’. Here, the appearance of reality is disillusioned and Hamlet adopts an ‘’antic disposition’’ to metaphorically shield against the world of appearances that eventuates in his madness. As TS Eliot suggests, “the ‘madness’ of Hamlet was feigned in order to escape suspicion” thus making it Hamlet’s duty to restore order to Ellsinore. Through Claudius’ death, it allows Hamlet to triumph, albeit tragically, over both Machiavellianism and the corruption of Denmark, thereby restoring harmonious order. Thus, the integration of theme and structure in the examination of natural order serves to highlight the unity of the Hamlet as a whole.
The Elizabethan society and its enduring ideals of filial piety propound Hamlet’s inaction. Hamlet’s disillusionment with reality, as seen in the metaphorical allusion to ‘’all forms, moods, shape of grief that can denote me truly’’, is due to Hamlet’s dramatic struggle between contemplation and action, as seen in his antagonistic relationship with Claudius. Shakespeare examines the appearance of the ghost acting as a dramatic catalyst for Hamlet’s consideration of his duty to “revenge his foul and most unnatural murder” of his dead father, King Hamlet. However, Hamlet is characterised by his inability to avenge his father’s murder, and eventually hinders his belief in the necessity of acting through his soliloquy ‘’but in our circumstance… am I then revenged’’ delaying his vengeance. Through the extensive use of soliloquies throughout the play, it exposes Hamlet’s true thoughts and feelings to the audience; revealing his dual personality of intellect and moments of vengeful fury. Such complexities of human nature coherently and consistently acts as “a glass where you may see the inmost part of you”, forcing the audience to reconsider the importance of being true to oneself. Hence, it is argued that Hamlet’s soliloquy creates a universal bond that is reflected in Hamlet’s sarcasm and melancholy for his own lack of action that many often experience. Having been influenced by the psychological analysis of my context, and the Elizabethan context in which the play was written, my interpretation of the play highlights Hamlet’s succession in demolishing the corruption of his world, and therefore allowing truth and order to be restored. Coleridge’s reading, states that Hamlet’s inaction is a psychological condition due his intellectuality causes Hamlet to perceive reality as a pigment of his imagination.
Shakespeare explores the fear of death and our subsequent need to accept the inevitabilities of mortality found within reality and the uncertainty it brings through Hamlet’s continual procrastination against immediate revenge. Through a dramatic discussion of issues, that carry continual relevance within contemporary society, Shakespeare’s Hamlet retains its integrity and value as a text. Influenced by Elizabethan religious views and moral justifications, Shakespeare’s contemplation between Hamlet’s actions of suicide or avengement, both sinful and religiously consequential in action, conveys the innate fear of uncertainty that death brings. This is conveyed through the representation of King Hamlet’s ghost, and an initial doubting of his intentions “be thou a spirit of health or goblin damned?” reflecting the questioning of religious truths within Shakespeare’s context. This contemplation of the afterlife is conveyed further in Hamlet’s Humanist soliloquy “to be or not to be…” through the metaphoric statement “the undiscovered country, from whose bourn, not travellers returns” describing the discomposure of death. Hamlet’s contemplation of suicide as a way to void the moralistic tortures of mortality are met with the contextual influence of religious debate, presenting him with a metaphysical dilemma between corruption on earth and purgatory. Hamlet deals with the universal emotional and intellectual dilemma,“You cannot take away anything that will more willingly part withal – except my life, except my life, except my life.”. The epizeuxis highlights his philosophical attention to death and the melancholy he possesses, captivating audiences from his deep contemplation of life’s meaning in the face of mortality. Textual integrity is also apparent in in the play whereby the play begins and ends with the poisoning of the kings Old King Hamlet and Claudius respectively contributing to the overall completeness of the play. As the play treats death like a concept more than just a stage in life at times, Shakespeare thus can explores the many facets of death in order to convey various perceptions of life and afterlife, ultimately the human experience.
In summation, Hamlet serves to accentuate the existential concepts and ideas that continue to vex humanity. As 19th century critic A.C. Bradley stated, Hamlet is a “symbol of a tragic mystery inherent in human nature”; Hamlet epitomises the human condition. Shakespeare uses Hamlet to tunnel into the disillusionment with reality through the search for truth and self in a world of appearances, the conflict of roles and the propensity of revenge to provoke struggle between contemplation and action, as well as the fear and inevitability of death that pervades the presence in Hamlet. It is through such complexity and endurance of modern ideals that engages contemporary audiences and makes Hamlet worthy of a critical study.
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