Q) Comment on the character of Hamlet? (10 marks)
Considered by many critics as the greatest tragedy of English canon, Hamlet is without question a milestone in Shakespeare’s dramatic development. It has inspired more speculation and comment than any other play by any dramatist, including Shakespeare himself. However, more than the plot, it is his characters, particularly the protagonist Hamlet that has been the subject of debate over centuries. The playwright achieved artistic maturity in this work through his brilliant depiction of the hero’s struggle with two opposing forces: moral integrity and the need to avenge his father’s murder.
Hamlet is arguably the greatest dramatic character ever created. From the moment we meet the crestfallen prince we are enraptured by his elegant intensity. Shrouded in his inky cloak, Hamlet is a man of radical contradictions -- he is reckless yet cautious, courteous yet uncivil, tender yet ferocious. Throughout the play, we see the many different aspects of Hamlet's personality by observing his actions and responses to certain situations. Hamlet takes on the role of a strong character, but through his internal weaknesses, we witness his destruction as well. Hamlet's character dominates the play, lending the tragedy its greatest philosophical and metaphysical dimensions. He is a great moraliser; and what makes him worth attending to is, that he moralises on his own feelings and experience. He is not a commonplace pedant. If the greatest depth of passion distinguishes King Lear, Hamlet is the most remarkable for the ingenuity, originality, and unstudied development of character. The character of Hamlet stands quite by itself. It is not a character marked by strength of will or even of passion, but by refinement of thought and sentiment. According to William Hazlitt, “Hamlet is as little of the hero as a man can well be: but he is a young and princely novice, full of high enthusiasm and quick sensibility—the sport of circumstances, questioning with fortune and refining on his own feelings, and forced from the natural bias of his disposition by the strangeness of his situation”.
When Hamlet is first introduced in Act I, Scene II, the reader is shown the depths of his sorrow. The King asks Hamlet "How is it that the clouds still hang on you" and the Queen tells him to "Cast thy nighted color off." By these comments one can envision Hamlet as someone who appears and radiates out his sorrow over his father's death. Hamlet lets the reader know that his sorrow runs much deeper than his clothes and sorrow filled eyes, saying about them that "These indeed seem, for they are actions that a man might play. But I have that within which passes show; These but the trappings and the suits of woe." In this statement Hamlet pours out that his sorrows courses through every part of him.
One of the first images that are created to further Shakespeare’s investigation of humanity is created by Hamlet in his first soliloquy. This simple comparison brings to life the feeling that the treachery and corruption surrounding him is enveloping all that he is familiar with. No longer is he able to see the metaphorical flowers of joy and prosperity that were once so familiar and comforting to him as they are becoming increasingly obscured by the rampant weeds of vile corruption. Hamlet furthers his emotional outpouring when he wishes that his “flesh would melt, Thaw and resolve itself into a dew.” He clearly wishes not to deal with the corruption that has grown thick around him. He goes as far as to offer his life for such an escape. This is exactly where Hamlet’s character is portrayed as fighting between good and evil and it shows just how much Hamlet wanted to vanish from the earth, but this attitude is shown in a manner that enables the reader to visualize this state of mind and understand Hamlet’s suicidal thoughts as rational contemplations. Hamlet is not a suicidal...
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