Hamlet and Fate

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Harold Bloom says the genius of Shakespeare is that “Characters develop rather than unfold, and they develop because they reconceive themselves” (The Invention of the Human XVII). Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet, shows the development of Hamlet within the land of Denmark. Hamlet goes through many changes throughout the five acts, but these changes are not entirely due to the events of the play, but rather to Hamlet’s confrontations with himself. He battles with his mind through soliloquys, he overhears himself speaking, and he always questions himself and the world because he is unable to accept any belief. It is not until the last act that he comes to any conclusion: an acceptance of fatalism, a philosophy that states that all events are driven by Fate.

In Poetics, Aristotle says that every tragic hero has a fatal flaw, or “hamartia”, that causes the events of the tragedy to develop. At the beginning of Hamlet, the ghost of Hamlet’s father reveals to Hamlet the circumstances of his death and ushers Hamlet onto a quest for revenge. Unlike Laertes, who after learning of his own father’s death, rushes onto revenge without hesitation, Hamlet spends the next four acts contemplating what it is he should do. Hamlet knows that his destiny should be to kill Claudius, his father’s usurper. In Act 3, Scene 4, Hamlet has the chance for revenge but he withdraws. Hamlet’s hamartia is his thoughts and his questioning mind; he thinks far too much and he thinks, perhaps, too well. Out of the 4,000 lines of the play, 1500 (more than one-third) are Hamlet speaking, usually to himself.

One of that main focuses of Hamlet’s musings is the debate of thinking and knowledge versus action. In the play-within-the-play, Hamlet writes the last few lines, which the Player King recites, “Our wills and fates do so contrary run/ That our devises still are overthrown;/ Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own” (3.2.198-200). To Hamlet, his life and the revenge that he feels...
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