Hamlet's Mindset

William Shakespeare is a literature genius that operates the words skillfully so as to create individualities with deep characters in his plays. One of such examples is Hamlet who is a many-sided personality. His witty language that manifests itself in either monologues or dialogues with the other characters is a clear representation of his intelligent and brave personality. Nevertheless, although he looks like a self-conscious, sorrowful and absorbed in his mediations individual, Hamlet is still a very indecisive young man. His incapability to prevent his father’s death, his uncle’s enthroning, and his mother’s sudden remarriage only proves that Hamlet is confused in his life. He is a grief-stricken man, who still thinks that he should do something to change the current situation in the kingdom. Hamlet’s character can be evaluated through his numerous speeches that are sometimes melancholic, ironic or philosophic, and rarely self-analyzing.

Scientists have a variety of opinions on Hamlet’s personage. For example, Levy considers that despite the fact that Hamlet’s character is being changed during the play, his mindset controls the situations all the time (73). According to Levy, “Hamlet represents the process of transformation… of his own identity” (Levy 73). Julia Lupton enriches Levy’s opinion stating that Prince’s “revolted materialism and his subjection to his father’s command are the preconditions for his transformation in the act 5” (Lupton 238). Marvin Hunt discusses Hamlet’s character through the lens of his relations to both terrestrial and mystical phenomena: Hamlet’s representation of “heaven, earth, and underworld intersects with a linear, durational axis in which events in the drama unfold over time” (Hunt 79). Thus, even though Hamlet seems to be a skillful, intelligent, and determined character, as the drama progresses, the reader finds out that his mindset is set deep and far away from the physical world.

Nevertheless, the playwright endowed Hamlet with a set of exceptional intellectual abilities. He is the son of a former king, well-educated and clever, and who can operate the words skillfully. There are many references in the play to Hamlet’s intelligent state of mind such as his reference “the book and volume of my brain” (Shakespeare 3.2.54-55). Using this metaphor, Shakespeare also makes a strong connection between the material finite phenomena and non-finite ones, such as Heaven, Earth, and Hell in Hamlet’s representation. For example, his crafty use of words is presented in the episode when Polonius asks the Prince who reads the book, “What do you read, My Lord?”, and the latter answers tiredly, “Words, words, words” (Shakespeare 3.2.85.). Hamlet’s linear speech patterns prove his alienation from the real world. Protagonist’s usage of many hendiadys and other figures of wordplay clearly demonstrates him connecting the real things and the imaginary ones.

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The diversity of Hamlet’s traits of character makes him almost a unique personage, with his thoughts far away from the physical world. Moreover, Hamlet’ decision to leave the murderer of his father alive during his prayer, “so as not to send him on Heaven”, seems to reflect an orthodox mindset (Hunt 77). However, other examples bring an opposite idea. Therefore, Hamlet is not a supporter of medieval ideology, bearing in mind a conception of death as an endless mystery, “the undiscovered country, from whose bourn/no traveler returns” (Shakespeare 1.2.112). It is not non-existence that threatens Hamlet but, perhaps, his undiscovered desires. He is rather afraid of death than considers it as a blessed relief from miseries and troubles of life. It is no wonder that, later, he becomes totally obsessed with the idea of death and kills a few characters of the play. As a result, he says “if it be not now, yet it will come; the readiness is all” (Shakespeare 5.2.215-20).

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In addition, Hamlet’s grief-stricken mindset makes him shift the blame for Polonius’ death and other unpleasant accidents on other people, but not himself. The thing is that protagonist feels nothing but the pain for the things he cannot change. As a result, Hamlet’s “mindset mutes the themes of the enormity of evil everywhere and the enormity of his lonely task” to revenge on his father’s death (Craven 89). This idea is supported in the play, when Horatio says, “Heaven will direct it”, and Hamlet responses, “Heaven ordinant” (Shakespeare 1.4.91).

It should be noted that Hamlet’s witty choice of modus operandi proves that he is mentally sane. In the course of the events, he pretends to be mentally ill to find out the causes of the events. However, most characters in the tragicomedy find Hamlet’s insanity to be a love sickness. They strongly advise Ophelia to distance herself from Hamlet, who skillfully mocks her later. Sometimes, Hamlet seems so confused that his mindset, and “wearied by his sufferings is so disorganized that he” cannot think coherently (Williamson 512).

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Nevertheless, the Prince is not insane. He is grief-stricken, and, sometimes, his mind gets confused by emotions. This idea is supported by Chesterton, who argues, “if Hamlet was really mad, there does not seem much point in his pretending to be mad” (Chesterton and Ahlquist 189). Hamlet’s passionate commitment to take vengeance upon the king for his father’s murder seizes him. At the same time, he understands that there should be a strict balance between a desire to avenge and logic. In the play, he admires Horatio’s tranquility as though desiring to resemble his friend, “blest are those whose blood and judgment are so-well co-meddled”, “give me that man that is not passion’s slave” (Shakespeare 3.2.68-72). Although Hamlet has an extraordinary set of traits of character, he adores the tranquility of the other character.

Therefore, Shakespeare depicts Hamlet as a complex personage, whose mindset can be interpreted only taking into account all the facets of his many-sided personality. On the one hand, he is a resolute and passionate avenger for his father’s death; on the other hand, he is immature, doubting youngster, who debates a matter in mind before taking action. Thus, it is a ghost that leads the prudent Hamlet. The prince listens to both his intuition and logic, blaming Claudius for killing the former king. The logical arguments point to his uncle’s guilt, however, Hamlet does not have any evidence beside the ghost’s testimonial and his own intuition. Therefore, Hamlet attempts to reach underworld matters in his communication with his father’s ghost and spiritual evaluation of things and situations.

The audience always has the opportunity to follow Hamlet’s original mindset due to his vibrant soliloquies. These monologues rather establish communication with the readers than describe the Prince’s personality. In his first monologue, Hamlet complains that he is so mad at life that he would choose to commit suicide, and only his belief in God stops him from doing this. This soliloquy shows Hamlet’s repugnance with Gertrude’s sudden marriage. Hamlet can no longer stay inactive and must do something to change the situation. With the help of this monologue, Shakespeare instills the curiosity into the audience and gives an opportunity to look into Hamlet’s original state of mind. Later, a courageous and intelligent Hamlet is represented following the ghost of his father and listening to his orders. Prince’s friends cannot withdraw him from communicating with the ghost that might be malevolent and “tempt you toward the flood or to the dreadful summit of the cliff” (Shakespeare 1.4.69-70).

Nevertheless, the Prince would not listen to anyone’s advice from the real world. His mind is set on spiritual but not physical matters. Moreover, Hamlet’s drastic measures prove his immature personality. Therefore, his resolute actions show his impulsiveness and provoke a response from other characters. However, hamlet needs this response in order to start acting. Consequently, Hamlet’s inner conflicts provoke him to behave in an undetermined way. For example, he prefers not to kill the king until he becomes sure that he is the murderer of his father and develops a witty plan of revenge. Hamlet invites actors to perform “The Murder of Gonzago”, expecting to see the reaction of Claudius and, therefore, find out his relation to his father’s death. Prince’s choice of specific modus operandi, whether it is a banter, feigned madness or theatricalized murder, proves that his irresolute personality becomes more determined towards the end of the play.

Conclusion

William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” is a magnificent example of tragicomedy. The writer has created an outstanding plot with tension, suspect, humor and drama. Moreover, Hamlet incorporates all these features thus being the main character of the play. A grief-stricken Prince of Denmark, whose father has been killed most probably by his uncle Claudius, is aspiring for revenge. Hamlet has a unique mindset that allows him to manage the situation in a particular way. Being resolute and at the same time intelligent, prince’s individuality is far deeper than it may seem at the first glance. His mindset is far away from the physical world as Hamlet uses witty wordplay, feigned insanity, and contemplates on spiritual matters. Multiple soliloquies prove that Hamlet thinks over all pros and cons before actually doing something. Taking decisions, he refers to his inner conflicting thoughts, intuition, and logic.

 

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