Hamlet’s Values Prevail
Mark Twain once stated, “It is curious - curious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare.” The zealous struggles between internal and external gratification and somatic and ethical honour have incontrovertibly led to man’s continual battle for integrity – pride versus ethics. Religious teachings impart that one show respect to all and utilize the power of oration to convey ideologies; yet religious crusades have instigated the bloodiest and most deadly battles in human history. Man’s universal and timeless question asks whether it is ethical to defend one’s honour through brutality or if the use of language and moral lessons are sufficient to deliver the message. Analogously, William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Hamlet bequeaths enlightenment to its audience of the universal beauties and faults of mankind on the comprehensive debate of integrity. The tragic hero, Prince Hamlet of Denmark, vies to comprehend his uncomfortably altered environment, while he relentlessly endeavors to seek morality, logic, and reason in a world where corruption and greed autonomously dictate action. His mother’s precipitous remarriage, the tormenting death of his father, and the forsakenness Hamlet feels from those he held close lead him to render epiphanic cognizance. Shakespeare’s use of soliloquys bestows unto the audience a voyeuristic view into Hamlet’s personal meditations, highlighting Hamlet’s introspective state. Though his vulnerability and pathos at times render him ineffectual and indecisive, it is purely reflective of his humanity and that is what entices him to the audience. Hamlet is in an internal battle with the imperfections of the world around him. In the hypocritical nation of Denmark, Hamlet is thrust into witnessing indecencies, both externally and in his own home; thus Hamlet’s lack of action is conjured not by feebleness of character. It is the moral contradictions and duplicity in the world before him that hinder his actions; he operates therefore with ethics, prudence, and wisdom. Heroic valor sets Hamlet apart from the supplementary nobility in Denmark. After the enigmatic death of the erstwhile King Hamlet Senior, goes unquestioned, Hamlet’s morals compel him to seek answers. Before Hamlet can pursue the truth he must however come to terms with his mother Gertrude’s remarriage to his father’s brother, Claudius. Disappointment in his mother and grief for his father, lead Hamlet to his first soliloquy, wherein he describes the consequences of suicide and his mother’s immorality. Even in his melancholia Hamlet understand the magnitudes of “self-slaughter,” as “the Everlasting [has] fixed / his canon ‘gainst” it (1.2.135-136). His ability to look past the superficial transient benefits of iniquitous actions helps Hamlet to stay firm in his beliefs throughout his journey. Though dismayed as to how “rotten in the state of Denmark” it is, Hamlet expresses his emotions by reacting to his surroundings in a gallant manner (1.4.90). Upon meeting the ghost of the late King, Hamlet is incensed by the horrific crime his “uncle-father” has committed (2.2.399). However, Hamlet does not immediately take the words of the ghost as factual; in his second soliloquy he concludes “the spirit that [he has] seen / may be a devil” and that he cannot trust him without evidence (2.2.627-628). Hamlet decides “the play’s the thing / wherein [he will] catch the conscience of the king” (2.2.633-634). Hamlet realizes the depravity of slaughtering a man based on the conjecture that he is a murderer. He refuses to place such marginal worth on an individual life as to take it without knowing the truth.
In the most famous soliloquy of all the Shakespearean plays, Hamlet debates the value of life and the consequences of death; Hamlet asks “to be or not to be” (3.1.64). Realizing that death is a misleading and temporary fix, as...
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