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The Inner Struggle in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Hamlet: The Inner Struggle

On the journey through the path of life, there are encounters with many different incidents and situations where we must act accordingly. Depending on what type of personality is possessed, there are numerous ways that we can deal with these encounters. In the play Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, the main character is confronted with a cluster of dilemmas and is in emotional distress. The ghost that encounters Hamlet, the monarchs’ incest, and the contemplation of murder, are the major conflicts which he must deal with one way or another. As a result of these three issues, as well as Hamlet’s particular character, he handles these issues internally which causes internal struggle and a passive response.

In Hamlet, the incest involving his mother and uncle triggered the action which took place within Hamlet. First off, Hamlet was in deep sorrow with the death of his father, and very angered of the hasty re- marriage of his mother. On top of all of that, the fact that Hamlet’s mother wed his uncle, made matters even worse. In Act I, scene ii, line 129-159, Hamlet recites what is on his troubled mind. He closes off by saying, “With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!/ It is not, nor it cannot come to good./ But break my heart, for I must hold my tongue.” This reveals Hamlet’s true feelings regarding the marriage and how he bottles up his emotions and keeps them to himself. However, if Hamlet was a different person, he may have had the ability to speak up to his parents and tell them how he really felt, as opposed to concealing his thoughts. Unfortunately for Hamlet, he is not that type of person, so a lot of his actions occur internally rather than externally, and this was spurred by the situation with Gertrude and Claudius.

Hamlet’s inner course of action was further intensified with his encounter with the ghost. The information that Claudius murdered Hamlet’s father, was given to Hamlet by ways of the mysterious spirit, and this immediately provoked animosity in himself. In Act I, scene v, line 29-31, Hamlet states, “Haste me to know’t, that I with wings as swift/ as meditation or the thoughts of love,/ may sweep to my revenge”. This statement shows the rage and fury of Hamlet wanting to seek full revenge on his uncle; He still does not act upon this as quickly as he proclaims, which shows his inability to step into action.

Guilt in Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Guilt in Macbeth

There is a large burden of guilt carried by Lady Macbeth and Macbeth in Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth. Let’s look at this situation closely in the following essay.

Fanny Kemble in “Lady Macbeth” asserts that Lady Macbeth was unconscious of her guilt, which nevertheless killed her:

Lady Macbeth, even in her sleep, has no qualms of conscience; her remorse takes none of the tenderer forms akin to repentance, nor the weaker ones allied to fear, from the pursuit of which the tortured soul, seeking where to hide itself, not seldom escapes into the boundless wilderness of madness.

A very able article, published some years ago in the National Review, on the character of Lady Macbeth, insists much upon an opinion that she died of remorse, as some palliation of her crimes, and mitigation of our detestation of them. That she died of wickedness would be, I think, a juster verdict. Remorse is consciousness of guilt . . . and that I think Lady Macbeth never had; though the unrecognized pressure of her great guilt killed her. (116-17)

In “Memoranda: Remarks on the Character of Lady Macbeth,” Sarah Siddons mentions the guilt and ambition of Lady Macbeth and their effect:

[Re “I have given suck” (1.7.54ff.)] Even here, horrific as she is, she shews herself made by ambition, but not by nature, a perfectly savage creature. The very use of such a tender allusion in the midst of her dreadful language, persuades one unequivocally that she has really felt the maternal yearnings of a mother towards her babe, and that she considered this action the most enormous that ever required the strength of human nerves for its perpetration. Her language to Macbeth is the most potently eloquent that guilt could use. (56)

Clark and Wright in their Introduction to The Complete Works of William Shakespeare explain how guilt impacts Lady Macbeth:

Lady Macbeth is of a finer and more delicate nature. Having fixed her eye upon the end – the attainment for her husband of Duncan’s crown – she accepts the inevitable means; she nerves herself for the terrible night’s work by artificial stimulants; yet she cannot strike the sleeping king who resembles her father. Having sustained her weaker husband, her own strength gives way; and in sleep, when her will cannot control her thoughts, she is piteously afflicted by the memory of one stain of blood upon her little hand.

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