Critical Analysis of Hamlet: Character Analysis and the Themes of Revenge and Manipulation

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The play Hamlet is a text that despite its age and Elizabethan linguistic style is still resoundingly relevant to today’s modern audience due to its ability to move past time related contextual barriers and capture the universality of the human condition with its infinite confusion as evident in the character of Prince Hamlet, its ability to influence and manipulate as well as its reaction to such manipulation, revenge.

The character of Hamlet himself is very relatable today especially to young students, the reason that the play still thrives today is due to the universal relevance that his conflicting emotions hold for us. Hamlet being a university student of Wittenberg; intelligently tries like men today to justify his life, as can be seen evident of his quoting of both Aristotle and Boethius. However unable to express himself he runs rampant through his own thoughts creating elaborate wordplay and metaphors such as “get thee to a nunnery” which simultaneously means both a place of chastity as well as slang for a brothel, reflecting Hamlets confusion with female sexuality. He like a teenager is brash and impulsive, for every thoughtful soliloquy “To be or not to be” there is a burst of rage or impulsive remark, in his opening encounter with the ghost in Act i Scene iv he says “I’ll make a ghost of anyone who stands in my way” before running off after the apparition. Throughout the play he not only rages at the antagonist Claudius, but his girlfriend in Act iii Scene i and his mother in Act iii Scene iv of which the latter he stabs Polonius through the curtain without even seeing who was there. He interrupts his own production of the Mousetrap with rude remarks and condemns Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to death using his father’s signet ring while on route to England. An analysis of Hamlet’s character reveals that he clearly does not know what he wants, his thoughts are universally reflected by those of men today. In Hamlets 2nd soliloquy Act ii Scene ii he praises the actor for his ability to express emotion so freely yet soon after praises Horatio for being the exact opposite, a stoic “All passions hit you but you do not become passions slave” His conflicting ideals are also evident in his relationship with Ophelia, which mirror those of couples today, during her funeral Hamlet argues with Laertes “I loved Ofelia, 40 000 brothers could not with their quantity of love make up a sum like mine” However earlier in Act iii Scene i at the mere thought that she may be a manipulated tool used against him by her father he refers to her as a whore “you jig, you amble, you lisp” to Hamlet she is either the most beautiful woman in the world, or a traitor. This clearly is a common trait today as it is connected by the human condition making his constantly changing and conflicting emotions timelessly relatable. His emotions like students today are frequently undercut by his intelligence, referring back to Act ii Scene ii as an example of this his outburst of anger “Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain! O Vengeance!” yet then he exclaims “O what an ass am I” here clearly recognising his anger as nothing but rage and then sneering at it. This fluid transition clearly captures how we as people shift back and forth, critiquing our own thoughts. This soliloquy alone is evidence of Hamlets continued relevance today due to its clear reflection of the human psyche. However after all of this Hamlet transitions during Act iv Scene vi into a man no longer using his knowledge to define the world but to accept it, no longer a victim of his thoughts, “it will be now; if it be not now it will come” this thought of overcoming societies underlying fear of death and therefore living for the moment releases Hamlet from his conflicting and confused mind entertaining an audience while influencing the responder simultaneously. After this Hamlet no longer is conflicted as can be seen from the evident lack of any more deep thoughts i.e....
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