IB HL English II
Hamlet’s Conflicting Emotions
In the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare, the title character lives two different lives: one public and one private. In his public life, hamlet fakes his emotions so to stay out of trouble while his private life allows Hamlet to express his true emotions without fear of social outcast. In the “Introductory Lecture on Shakespeare’s Hamlet,” Ian Johnston writes that “given the nature of Elsinore, which is impossible to ignore, we come to a second important fact of the play, namely, that people in this world have to live two lives…” (13). Hamlet’s duplicity with his parents leads to his passive behavior, thus avoiding social persecution for his contempt of this marriage.
Through Hamlet’s compliance with his mother’s demand and passive aggressive response to Claudius’s concern, he hides his emotions so not to offend his parents and in doing so avoids any conflict with them. In response to Gertrude’s request to stay home, Hamlet replies “I shall in all my best obey you, madam” (I.ii.120). Hamlet’s response contrasts with his original plans to go to Wittenberg showing the difference between his private desire and public behavior. The use of the words “obey” and “madam” show respect for Gertrude in juxtaposition with his lack of respect for her marriage. When asked by Claudius, “How is it that the clouds still hang on you?” Hamlet replies, “Not so, my lord. I am too much I’ the sun” (I.ii.66-67). In his pun, Hamlet avoids the question literally by saying that since he’s in the sun, no clouds exist. At the same time, Hamlet complains about Claudius’s overbearing spotlight and about Claudius calling him “son” too often. The fact that this response is passively aggressive shows how Hamlet tries to hide his true emotions of contempt in his public life to avoid conflict with Claudius.
Through allusion and repetition in Hamlet’s first soliloquy, Shakespeare emphasizes hamlet’s anger towards his...