Hamlet-Identity Crisis

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Shakespeare's Hamlet is arguably one of the best plays known to English literature. It presents the protagonist, Hamlet, and his increasingly complex path through self discovery. His character is of an abnormally complex nature, the likes of which not often found in plays, and many different theses have been put forward about Hamlet's dynamic disposition. One such thesis is that Hamlet is a young man with an identity crisis living in a world of conflicting values.

An identity crisis can be defined as 'a psychosocial state or condition of disorientation and role confusion occurring especially in adolescents as a result of conflicting internal and external experiences, pressures, and expectations and often producing acute anxiety.' (www.dictionary.com) It was apparent that Hamlet did indeed have an identity crisis because of his conflicting internal and external experiences and the pressures and expectations from those in the Royal Court of Denmark. He endures conflicting internal and external experiences such as the ghost of his father requesting him to exact revenge on Claudius and in doing so contradict all of the morals he has formed. Pressures to accept the dubious marriage of his mother to his uncle, pressure to accept Claudius as the new king and expectations from the court to be emotionally strong in spite of his father's demise and from the ghost of his father to avenge his death by killing Claudius all challenge Hamlet's strength of self. His anxiety is caused as a result of these external pressures.

Hamlet lives in a country of different worlds. At the time, Denmark was in a state of transition between three metaphysical worlds; the heroic world, where a man's honour was foremost, killing was not accepted but expected, might was power, the Machiavellian world, an amoral world where politics and mind games were employed ruthlessly, the ends justified the means, and the Christian world of love and forgiveness. Hamlet was a Christian living in a dying Heroic world which was succumbing to the Machiavellian world. Hamlet's father, King Hamlet, belonged to the heroic world, and so for him revenge was of the utmost importance, shown by the fact that "but two months" (1:2, 136) after his death he returned to instruct Hamlet to avenge his murder. Hamlet's disgust at his mother's marriage to his uncle before "the salt of most unrighteous tears had left the flushing in her galled eyes" (1:2,154-155), and his uncle's speedy ascendancy to the throne clouds his judgement enough so that he accepts and vows to put into action his father's wishes. After he has had time to think, Hamlet realises what must be done, he must murder his uncle. He has no qualms about the target of the act but the fact that he belongs to the Christian world means that to appease his father's ghost he must move to the heroic world, thus contradicting the morals and teachings of his Christian upbringing.

Further, in order to discover the truth about Claudius' supposed crimes, Hamlet slips into the Machiavellian world and produces a play for the court. The play is a re-enactment of the murder of his father so that when Claudius saw the murder scene he would hopefully react to it in some way, and in doing so prove his implication in King Hamlet's death. Secondly, Hamlet had to fall again to the Machiavellian world by deceiving Guildenstern and Rozencrantz, which inevitably meant their demise so as to save himself from Claudius' plan.

Hamlet has been described as a barbarian by some scholars because of the way he treats women. His hatred for women was launched by his mother's incestuous and hasty marriage to his uncle, Claudius. His mother's behaviour is incomprehensible to Hamlet's belief system that ironically, she helped to create. Consequently, Hamlet lost all respect for women in general and felt alone in the world, for the one last thing he had to love, he now despised Ophelia.

It was not Ophelia herself that Hamlet despised, rather the...
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