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The Existentialist Views of Hamlet

The Existentialist Views of Hamlet

Do we matter? Will anything we do endure? These are questions from existentialism. The dictionary defines existentialism as “the plight of the individual who must assume ultimate responsibility for his acts of free will without any certain knowledge of what is right or wrong or good or bad” (Merriam Webster). In the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare, Hamlet struggles with the concept that nothing from our lives last and time grinds everything away. Hamlet’s major conflict was his existentialist view of the world.

Does a prince of Denmark have any worth if “Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander returneth into dust; the dust is earth; of earth we make loam; and why of that loam, whereto he was converted, might they not stop a beer-barrel? Imperious Caesar, dead and turn’d to clay, Might stop a hole to keep the wind away” ( V. i. 206-209)? Hamlet saw examples of lives crumbling to dust. Twenty thousand men and twenty thousand ducats are spent on “A little patch of ground that hath in it no profit but the name. To pay five ducats, five, I would not farm it.” ( IV. iiii. 19-21). These lives are expended for nothing and even Hamlet’s father, a good and wise king, was murdered with only Hamlet mourning for an extended period. The king’s wife said “Seek for thy noble father in the dust: Thou know’st ’tis common; all that lives must die, Passing through nature to eternity.” ( I. ii. 72-74) and she later encourages Hamlet to stop pretending to mourn for his father. Hamlet protests that he feels actual grief for his father but he fears that his father’s life is already becoming meaningless.

This existentialist worldview forced Hamlet to overanalyze before action…

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…. Hamlet died believing his life counted for nothing.

Works Cited and Consulted:

Bloom, Harold. Introduction. Modern Critical Interpretations: Hamlet. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986.

Bradley., A. C. Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth. New York: Penguin Books, 1991.

Burton, Philip. “Hamlet.” The Sole Voice. New York: The Dial Press, 1970. N. pag.

Mack, Maynard. “The World of Hamlet.” Yale Review. vol. 41 (1952) p. 502-23. Rpt. in Shakespeare: Modern Essays in Criticism. Rev. ed. Ed. Leonard F. Dean. New York: Oxford University P., 1967.

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995.

Heritage as an Idea of Oneself in Bless Me Ultima and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

Heritage as an Idea of Oneself in Bless Me Ultima and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

Traveling through humanity is a never-ending story. Traveling through ethnicity is an ever changing journey. Is race or culture a matter of color? Is it a way of life; or a decision an individual makes? Is it an idea one has of themselves? In the novels, Bless Me Ultima (Anaya 1972) and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (Alexie 1993), two different minority characters, Tony and Victor, give voice to their journey of growing up and finding their place in the world in regards to their heritage. The characters, in Anaya’s and Alexie’s novels, relate to a dominant culture, pursue balance in their life by searching traditions of the past, and attempt to blend their heritage into the present allowing them passage to the future. Their journeys differ in respect to heritage and family situation. Their journeys parallel considering that they are both male, belong to a minority, seek individual identity, and search for their place on the planet. Each seeks peace within and without. Although, their journeys are different, they are the same.

The characters in the two novels, belong to two different cultures. In Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me Ultima, the young, Mexican-American Anthony Juan Marez y Luna (Tony) struggles between two ways of being a Spanish-Mexican-American while also dealing with the dominant white culture. Tony’s mother and father, although both born in New Mexico, come from two different cultures. His father, a Marez, comes from a long line of Spanish “conquistadores, men as restless as the seas they sailed and as free as the land they conquered” (Anaya 6). Tony’s mother, a Luna, comes fr…

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… America, 1982. 80-167.

Meacham, Jon. “Redefining Race in America.” Newsweek September 2000: 38-41. Mitchell, Carol. “Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima: Folk Culture in

Literature.” Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction. 17.1 1980, 55-64.

Smoke Signals. Dir. Chris Eyre. With Adam Beach and Evan Adams. Miramax/Shadowcatcher. Prod. Larry Estes and Scott Rosenfelt. 1997.

Tonn, Horst. “Bless Me, Ultima: A Fictional Response to Times of Transition.” Aztlan, 18.1 1987, 59-68.

White, Craig. “American Minority Literature.” Handout. University of Houston-Clear Lake. Houston. 24 August 2000.

– – – – – “American Minority Literature.” Notes. 27 September 2000. Yancey, William L. Ericksen, Eugene P.; and Juliani, Richard N. “Emergent

Ethnicity: A Review and Reformulation.” American Sociological Review 41.3 1976: 391-403.

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