Hamlet - Comment on Humanity


Hamlet - Comment on Humanity

       The Elizabethan play The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark
is one of William Shakespeare's most popular works.  One of the
possible reasons for this play's popularity is the way Shakespeare
uses the character Hamlet to exemplify the complex workings of the
human mind. The approach taken by Shakespeare in Hamlet has generated
countless different interpretations of meaning, but it is through  
Hamlet's struggle to confront his internal dilemma, deciding when to
revenge his fathers death, that the reader becomes aware of one of the
more common interpretations in Hamlet; the idea that Shakespeare is
attempting to comment on the influence that one's state of mind can
have on the decisions they make in life.
       As the play unfolds,  Shakespeare uses the encounters that
Hamlet must face to demonstrate the effect that one's  perspective can
have on the way the mind works. In his book Some Shakespeare Themes &
An Approach to Hamlet, L.C. Knight takes notice of  Shakespeare's use
of these encounters to journey into the workings of the human mind
when he writes:

      What we have in Hamlet.is the exploration and implicit
      criticism of a particular state of mind or consciousness.In
      Hamlet, Shakespeare uses a series of encounters  to reveal the
      complex state of the human mind, made up of reason, emotion,
      and attitude towards the self, to allow the reader to make a
      judgment or form an opinion about fundamental aspects of human
      life. (192)                  

       Shakespeare sets the stage for Hamlet's internal dilemma in
Act 1, Scene 5 of Hamlet when the ghost of Hamlet's father appears and
calls upon Hamlet to "revenge his foul and most unnatural murder"
(1.5.24).  It is from this point forward that Hamlet must struggle
with the dilemma of whether or not to kill Claudius, his uncle, and if
so when to actually do it.  As the play progresses, Hamlet does not
seek his revenge when the opportunity presents itself, and it is the
reasoning that Hamlet uses to justify his delay that becomes paramount
to the reader's underezding of the effect that Hamlet's mental
perspective has on his situation.
       In order to fully underezd how Hamlet's perspective plays an
important role in this play, the reader must attempt to answer the
fundamental question: Why does Hamlet procrastinate in taking revenge
on Claudius?  Although the answer to this question is at best somewhat
complicated, Mark W. Scott attempts to offer some possible
explanations for Hamlet's delay in his book, Shakespeare for Students:
Critics who find the cause of  Hamlet's delay in his internal
meditations typically view the prince as a man of great moral
integrity who is forced to commit an act which goes against his
deepest principles.  On numerous occasions, the prince tries to make
sense of his moral dilemma through personal meditations, which
Shakespeare presents as soliloquies. Another perspective of Hamlet's
internal struggle suggests that the prince has become so disenchanted
with life since his father's death that he has neither the desire nor
the will to exact revenge. (74)

Mr. Scott points out morality and disenchantment, both of which belong
solely to an individuals own conscious,  as two potential causes of
Hamlet's procrastination, and   therefore he offers support to the
idea that Shakespeare is placing important emphasis on  the role of  
individual perspective in this play.  The importance that Mr. Scott's
comment places on Hamlet's use of personal meditations to "make sense
of his moral dilemma" (74), also helps to support  L.C. Knight's
contention that Shakespeare is attempting to use these dilemmas to
illustrate the inner workings of the human mind.    
       In Hamlet, Shakespeare gives the reader an opportunity to
evaluate the way the title character handles a very complicated
dilemma and the problems that are generated because of it.  These
problems that face Hamlet are perhaps best viewed as overstatements of
the very types of problems that all people must face as they live
their lives each day.  The magnitude of these "everyday" problems are
almost always a matter of individual perspective.  Each person will
perceive a given situation based on his own state of mind.  The one,  
perhaps universal, dilemma that faces all of mankind is the
problem of  identity.  As Victor L. Cahn

Read the full essay 987 words