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Crawling Inside the Mind of Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Crawling Inside the Mind of Hamlet

Much of the dramatic action of Shakespeare’s tragedy, Hamlet is within the head of the main character, Hamlet. His wordplay represents the amazing, contradictory, unsettled, mocking, nature of his mind, as it is torn by disappointment and positive love, as Hamlet seeks both acceptance and punishment, action and stillness, and wishes for consummation and annihilation. He can be abruptly silent or vicious; he is capable of wild laughter and tears, and also polite badinage.

One of the first things which a reader learns about Hamlet is that he uses words with startling agility. He plays on words that sound alike, or nearly alike:

King. But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son–

Ham. A little more than kin, and less than kind.

King. How is it that the clouds still hang on you?

Ham. Not so, my lord; I am too much in the sun. (I.ii.64-67)

The king withdraws from this exchange, and his mother begins more lovingly, on a different tack. But still Hamlet takes words that others have used and returns them changed or challenged: “Ay, madam, it is common./. . . Seems, madam? Nay, it is. I know not ‘seems’” (I.ii.74-76). Although the prince is speaking in public, he uses verbal rhetorical devices most critics in Shakespeare’s day would consider unseemly.

Hamlet’s first words are rhetorically complicated, and also challenging and puzzling. Does he pretend to be flippant or boorish in order to keep his thoughts to himself, or to contain his pain? Or does he express rational criticism in savagely sarcastic comments spoken only to himself? Or is the energy of his mind such that he thinks and speaks with instinctive ambiguity? Words are restless within his mind, changing meaning, sh…

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…espeare, William. 1985. Hamlet. The New Cambridge Shakespeare edn, edited by Philip Edwards. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Vickers, Brian. 1993. Appropriating Shakespeare: Contemporary Critical Quarrels. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Watson, Robert N. 1990. ‘Giving up the Ghost in a World of Decay: Hamlet, Revenge and Denial.’ Renaissance Drama 21:199-223.

Wright, George T. 1981. ‘Hendiadys and Hamlet.’ PMLA 96:168-193.

Shakespeare, William. The Tradegy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark. New York: Washington Square Press, 1992

Weiten, Wayne. Psychology: Themes and Variations, Fourth Editon. Boston: Brooks/Cole Publishing Co., 1998

Watson, Robert N. 1990. ‘Giving up the Ghost in a World of Decay: Hamlet, Revenge and Denial.’ Renaissance Drama 21:199-223.

Wright, George T. 1981. ‘Hendiadys and Hamlet.’ PMLA 96:168-193.

The Ideal Hero in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Hamlet is not like the other tragic heroes of his period. He stands apart from other Shakespeare’s heroes because of his innocence. Perhaps this supposed tragic hero is an ideal hero – one without the tragic flaw. The tragic flaw has been a part of the formula for the tragedy since the Golden age of Greece. The main, and, most often, the only flaw that has been attributed to Hamlet is his delay. This seems to constitute the central part in Hamlet. Critics seem to cling to this detail, as if trying to save the status of Hamlet as a typical Elizabethan tragedy of revenge. By the definition of tragedy, there should exist a flaw in the character of the main hero, who is a great personality that is engaged in a struggle that ends catastrophically (Stratford, 90). If Hamlet had no flaw, what kind of tragic hero is he? No doubt, Hamlet is a tragic drama, for it has many characters that loose their lives. But the play wouldn’t lose its tragic tone if Hamlet were an ideal hero instead of tragic one, which is exactly the case. If more people realized this, maybe we wouldn’t have that much trouble trying to “decipher” Hamlet’s character, just like Elizabethan audience never raised any questions concerning Hamlet’s delay. It was only in the last two centuries, that the audience and their perceptions have drastically changed, which causes this confusion concerning the character that was created by Shakespeare for common people, some ignorant ones among them, perhaps.

Hamlet is like a soldier that is thrown into a war where he has to do some things he rather would avoid doing, but under the given circumstances he bites his teeth and carries himself well (Stratford, 128). In this war, the circumstances brought on by Cla…

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…went on in the kingdom in the last two months.

Hamlet is the only Shakespeare’s tragic hero who doesn’t have a tragic flaw, which makes him an ideal hero, instead of a tragic one. Hamlet, the play, still is the revenge tragedy, for Hamlet never lived to see the full revenge.

Works Cited

1. Hamlet. The Norton Introduction to Literature, Shorter 6th Edition, editors Bain, Beaty, Hunter, New York: W.W. Norton

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