Conflict is the cornerstone on which the timeless appeal of Hamlet rests. Hamlet is fundamentally an ethical play which challenges an audience to reconsider its understanding of the dichotomy between good and evil. Conflict, because of its predominance in the context of the early seventeenth century Renaissance, forms the basis of the behaviour of key characters in the play, particularly in ethical and religious confusion. Such ambiguity is mirrored in Hamlet as it is organised around pivotal internal conflicts, presented through soliloquies, which manifest in the outward behaviour of key characters. As a result, there is an inherent lack of integrity amongst the central characters in Hamlet, causing key relationships within the play to be underscored by a desire for self-gain. However, the essential catalyst of the conflict within Hamlet can be attributed to the heinous usurper, Claudius, whose Machiavellian schemes form the basis of the plot. This triggers the eponymous Hamlet’s search for the truth by assuming his “antic disposition” to avenge his father’s death. Subsequently, an audience may question and redefine acceptable moral boundaries. This internal ethical and religious conflict becomes apparent through the characterisation of the play’s protagonist and antagonist. First, this is clear through Hamlet’s inner turmoil as he ponders revenge and also the prospect of suicide. Second, this is evident through Claudius’ conflict between the Christian principles he stands for and his heart’s egotistic desires. Thus, Hamlet is essentially a psychological study of the human condition, centred on ethical conflict and human reactions to situations in which moral boundaries are pushed.
The true appeal of Hamlet is based on the internal conflict of the protagonist, as his theatrical imagination ponders the possibilities of revenge. Hamlet’s inner conflict arises from his religious and
References: Bacon, F 1625, Of Revenge. Fernie, E 2002, 'Hamlet ', in Shame in Shakespeare, Routledge, London and New York. Garber, M 2004, 'Hamlet ', in Shakespeare After All, New York, Pantheon Books. Jones, E 1976, Hamlet & Oedipus, W. W. Norton and Company, New York. Taylor, M 1971, 'The Conflict in Hamlet ', Shakespeare Quarterly, no. 2, Spring 1971, pp.147-161. |