William Shakespeare is widely known for his ability to take a sad story, illustrate it with words, and make it a tragedy. Usually human beings include certain discrepancies in their personalities that can at times find them in undesirable or difficult situations. However, those that are exemplified in Shakespeare’s tragedies include “character flaws” which are so destructive that they eventually cause their downfall. For example, Prince Hamlet, of Shakespeare’s tragedy play “Hamlet,” is seemingly horrified by what the ghost of his father clarifies concerning his death. Yet the actions executed by Hamlet following this revelation do not appear to coincide with the disgust he expresses immediately after the ghost alerts him of the true cause of his death. Thus, it is apparent that the instilled self doubt of Prince Hamlet is as the wand that Shakespeare uses to transform an otherwise sad story to an unfortunate tragedy.
Dismayed, disturbed, distressed. These three words are the resounding cry of Act I, Scene V of the play. They are felt by both of the characters featured. The ghost, or King Hamlet, because he was killed without the chance to repent his sins and now dwells without purpose “…doom’d for a certain term to walk the night, and for the day confin’d to fast in fires, till the foul crimes done in [his] days of nature are purg’d away.”(Act I, Scene V lines10-12) While Hamlet can only utter, “Alas, poor ghost,” at the suffering he is “ bound to hear” from the voice he once knew as that of his father. As the ghost begins to retell how, “…[his] custom always of the afternoon, upon his secure hour [Prince Hamlet’s] uncle stole, with juice of cursed hebona in a vial, and in the purches of [his] ears did pour the leprous distillment, whose effect holds such an enmity with blood of man that swift quicksilver it courses through the natural gates of the body…” and thus sent him to his untimely death, Hamlet can only swear that he shall never forget the words spoken by the ghost.(Act I, Scene V lines 60-7) Hamlet vows to “ …wipe away all trivial fond records, all saws of books, all forms, all pressures past that youth and observation copied there…” so that “[his father’s] commandment all alone shall live…within the book and volume of [his] brain, unmixed with baser matter.
Social and Psychological Influences on Hamlet
Hamlet: Social and Psychological Influences
In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the influence of Hamlet’s psychological and social states display his dread of death as well as his need to avenge his father’s death. In turn, these influences illuminate the meaning of the play by revealing Hamlet’s innermost thoughts on life, death and the effect of religion. Despite the fact that Hamlet’s first instincts were reluctance and hesitation, he knows that he must avenge his father’s death. While Hamlet is conscious of avenging his father’s death, he is contemplating all the aspects of death itself. Hamlet’s decision to avenge his father is affected by social, psychological and religious influences.
Once Hamlet has learned of his father’s death, he is faced with a difficult question: should he succumb to the social influence of avenging his father’s death? The Ghost tells Hamlet to “revenge his foul and most unnatural murder” (1.5.31) upon which Hamlet swears to “remember” (1.5.118). Hamlet’s immediate response to this command of avenging his father’s death is reluctance. Hamlet displays his reluctance by deciding to test the validity of what the Ghost has told him by setting up a “play something like the murder of (his) father’s” (2.2.624) for Claudius. Hamlet will then “observe his looks” (2.2.625) and “if he do blench” (2.2.626) Hamlet will know that he must avenge his father’s death. In the course of Hamlet avenging his father’s death, he is very hesitant, “thinking too precisely on the event” (4.4.43). “Now might I do it…and he goes to heaven…No” (3.3.77-79) and Hamlet decides to kill Claudius while “he is drunk asleep, or in his rage, or in th’ incestuous pleasure of his bed” (3.3.94-95). As seen here, Hamlet’s contradicting thought that Claudius “goes to heaven” (3.3.79) influences him to change his plans for revenge. Hamlet eventually realizes that he must avenge his father’s death and states “from this time forth my thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth” (4.4.69). From this, Hamlet has succumbed to the social influence and has vowed to avenge his father’s death.
Hamlet’s psychological influence demonstrates his dread of both death and life. In Hamlet’s famous soliloquy, “To be or not to be” (3.1.64), he refers the “be” to life and further asks “whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” (18.104.22.168). By this, Hamlet is asking himself the question of whether to live or die.