Literary Heritage 2201
08 October 2011
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare is one the most acclaimed and widely read pieces of literature in the history of Western civilization. No other Shakespearean character has commanded the same level of fascination, scrutiny, and sheer volume of literary criticism. This effect comes primarily from the complexity and uncertainty of the character. No definite conclusions about Hamlet can be reached is he a hero or coward, sinner or saint? The play allows the audience to see itself in Hamlet, making ever so easy to relate. Using Joseph Campbell’s characteristics of the archetypal hero I will show how Hamlet does and does not fit the guidelines that Campbell has set. The characteristics that Campbell gives use are: unusual circumstances of birth or born into royalty, the hero leaves his family or land and lives with others, an adventure or quest will ensue, special weapon, supernatural help, prove himself many times, journey and unhealable wound, experience atonement with the father and finally when the hero dies he is rewarded spiritually. Hamlet most certainly fits the first characteristic of the Archetypal hero. Although his birth is not of unusual circumstance he was born of royalty. Hamlet is the prince of Denmark making him a perfect fit for this characteristic. The second characteristic is that Hamlet would have to leave his family and live with others. I feel that one can argue this point, while Hamlet does not always live with his family because he is a student; Claudius does make Hamlet embark on a journey to England issuing a command which is meant to end Hamlet’s life. One could argue that he was sent away but other events allowed Hamlet to end up back in Denmark. As Campbell states in his theory the hero must leave, he also states that heroes always return to their land. One can conclude that Hamlet partial fits the characteristic; he leaves and comes...