Hamlet Theme

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Numerous themes permeate William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. However, the central conflict that Hamlet, the protagonist, faces is the difficult task of finding a balance between his thoughts and his actions. In the play’s opening act Hamlet is given the duty of avenging his father’s death. Hamlet’s father’s ghost tells him to kill his uncle, Claudius, who is also his father’s murderer. Hamlet must also maintain a clear conscience. Hamlet is then forced to find a perfect solution, but being the intellectual young man that he is, Hamlet finds it nearly impossible to seek vengeance without affecting his conscience. His thoughts paralyze his actions, and two months pass before Hamlet begins to act on his father’s command. However, Hamlet continues to put off the necessary action, and in the process, he loses every relationship that is valuable to him. The consequences Hamlet and other characters face are due to Hamlet’s procrastination, which is his hamartia, or tragic flaw, and Hamlet’s lack of action poses several questions about man’s conscience.

The first question that Hamlet poses is “How does one achieve a balance between the elements of one’s nature?” By nature, Hamlet is a very intelligent young man, which is evident by his mastery of language. Hamlet is not shown as impulsive, but rather as a thinker who considers his options. His dear friend Horatio advises him to think before acting. However, if Hamlet plans Claudius’s murder, then it is even worse in the eyes of God. In Shakespeare’s time, vengeance was seen as a cardinal sin. Hamlet cannot simply abandon thought and adopt impulse because Hamlet’s regret over the impulsive act will eat away at his conscience. Therefore, to fulfill his father’s requests, Hamlet must find some type of balance between his thoughtful self and his impulsive self.

Hamlet has no way to find the balance between his mind and his actions, and even though he is shown the example of a man who thinks before he acts (Horatio) and a...
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