Self-Preservation Is the First Law of Nature

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“Self-preservation is the first law of nature.”

The above quote is an often heard line regarding an individual’s response to the demands of nature. It can be said that self-preservation and security outweigh the need to act independently and freely of the constraints of others. This is but one of the ways one can attempt to balance out the desire to act independently but also with the need for security. The idea of resolving these seemingly irreconcilable needs is brought up in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, wherein he writes of two main characters who attempt to resolve their need for independence and security. The playwright utilizes character to suggest that in the attempt to reconcile independence and security, it is ultimately the need for self-preservation that takes immediate priority.

A character who is faced with the task of uniting his desire to act independently with his need for security is Hamlet. Hamlet shows a melancholy side to him when confronted by these opposing demands. From his soliloquies, the reader is immersed in the thoughts of a pensive young man who struggles with the need for safety and freedom. He debates whether “to be, or not to be,” and although he does not hold his life at a “pin’s fee,” his heart harbors discontent with the “unweeded garden that grows to seed.” It is seen that he is conflicted with the demands set upon him by his dead father, as well as that of Claudius and the people of Denmark who want to move on from the passing, and he struggles with the desire to resolve his need for security and autonomy in this matter. From this, it is seen that Hamlet values self-preservation over independence as his soliloquies are only words and not actions, and as such, are the product of his own safety thereby allowing him to immerse himself in the safety of this own thoughts. Furthermore, it is evidenced that he is a procrastinator in his quest for independent action, and this ultimately turns out to be his tragic...
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