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Topics: Hamlet, Characters in Hamlet / Pages: 7 (2686 words) / Published: Feb 28th, 2015
A Critical Analysis on Hamlet In one of the greatest plays, Hamlet, William Shakespeare introduces a tragic story of the royal family of Denmark, which contains elements of politics, loyalty, heroism, friendship, and love. Allan Massie, a writer for The spectator, argues that Prince Hamlet is “an indecisive and self-questioning Romantic intellectual (the Gielgud interpretation), or as a mixed-up kid, immature, uncertain of himself, veering from self-love to self-loathing by way of self-pity.” However, Hamlet, the prince of Denmark, seems to be a completely different person at the end of the play compared to the beginning. After the death of his father, the quick remarriage of his mother, the potential true cause of death of his father, and the rotten state of Denmark, Hamlet, the protagonist of the play, learns a lot intellectually. Hamlet changes dramatically over the course of the play and teaches readers humanity through his dramatic experiences in his life.
Hamlet is a philosophy college student in Wittenberg, where has a close relation to Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation during the Renaissance. By the influence of Protestantism, Hamlet develops his own philosophy critically. However, his immaturity appears when he is called back to Denmark and hears his father’s death. He is very depressed and unable to control his emotion because of his father’s sudden death and his mother’s quick remarriage with his uncle Claudius, the new king of Denmark. In his first speech, he reveals his helplessness and irritation, which clearly demonstrates his immaturity and weakness. Hamlet expresses his grief that “To be, or not to be: that is the question;
whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?” (Shakespeare 1127).
While Hamlet is suffering his grief, the sprit of his father appears. Hamlet discovers that hamlet’s uncle, Claudius, murdered his father. Hamlet decides to revenge as “Haste me to know't, that I, with wings As swift as meditation or the thoughts of love, May sweep to my revenge” (Shakespeare 1102) At this moment, revenge becomes the clue of the play. During his revenge, he learns to understand romantic love, loyal friendships, heroism, and death.
Hamlet learns dealing with romantic love by sacrificing his love to Ophelia for his revenge on Claudius. Hamlet’s love to Ophelia is sincere, faithful, and obsessive, and it appears in his actions, including his romantic poem and his great affection to her. In Act III Scene I, when Hamlet realizes that he cannot stay with Ophelia, he suggests Ophelia that both of them to be not married with other people and that to demonstrate her chastity by going to a nunnery. Furthermore, in Act V Scene I, at Ophelia’s funeral, Hamlet fights with Laertes and claims, “I loved Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers could not with all their quantity of love” (Shakespeare 1178). However, his revenge brings his love tragedy as David Smith states, "Hamlet's cruelty to Ophelia is one of the most powerful and moving dramatic gestures anywhere in Shakespeare". Hamlet fails to learn to understand Ophelia’s desperate feeling and makes her crazy to the death. He does not even seem to feel guilty about her death. Although their romance could have been sweet one; however, it ends up with dramatic tragedy because of Hamlet’s revenge for his father. He learns the complex of romantic love through his revenge on the father of his love.
In addition to his romantic love, Hamlet learns dealing with parental love as son’s responsibilities. Hamlet seems to be very indecisive and obedient to his mother at the beginning of the play when his mother asks his to stay in Denmark instead of going back to Wittenberg to continue his study. However, his behavior towards his mother completely changes after discovering the true reason of his father’s death. Hamlet challenges to finish the sprit of his father’s wish that to become independent from his mother, Gertrude and even orders her to stay away from the King and to confess her incest. Hamlet insists his thoughts to change his mother’s mind instead of just following her opinion. On the paly of Murder of Gonzago, he embarrasses his mother in front of public in order to confirm whether Claudius murdered Hamlet’s father or not. After the play, he strongly blames her fault and tells her the truth of his father’s death. He looses to control his anger at his mother and makes his mother guilty. However, he calms down and convinces his mother to resist against Claudius because of the spirit’s reminder that Hamlet must not hurt his mother. Although Hamlet understands that his mother loves him and does love his mother, he changes to become more independent and responsible in order to accomplish the sprit of his father’s wish. In fact, these experiences shape him into a wise, independent, and decisive man.
Hamlet not only leans about love, but also friendship. By interacting his old friends, Horatio, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern, Hamlet leans what true friendship means. According to Hamlet and friendship, Keith Doubts argues that three types of friendship in Hamlet, which are the loyal friendship that Horatio sustains with the Prince, the ultimately self-serving friendship extended by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and the friendship that the dying Laertes offers. Hamlet trusts Horatio the most and learns faithful and selfless friendship by him (57). Horatio helps Hamlet see the sprit of his father and remind of his father’s character to heal hamlet’s grief. At the end of the play, Horatio demonstrates his loyalty to Hamlet by attempting suicide when he realizes hamlet will die soon. Hamlet leans a true loyal friendship by interacting with his best friend, Horatio through his desperate situations during his revenge.
Although Laertes is less perfect than Horatio, he is a good candidate for friendship with Hamlet. In Doubt's view, Laertes's friendship is the most meaningful because it is the most charitable. He argues, “Laertes, more than anyone, has the experiences which allow him to emphasize with Hamlet’s rage and indignation” (61). He adds, “If the highest achievement of friendship is the understanding of another through the act of forgiveness, then Laertes and Hamlet, an enemy in the eyes of Laertes, die on the threshold of friendship” (61). Hamlet leans forgiveness through his experience of friendship.
In contrast to Horatio’s loyalty and Laertes’s generousness towards Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are imperfect in their friendship with Hamlet because of their unfaithfulness and selfishness. Their priority seems their benefits on the top instead of their friendship with Hamlet. They obey Claudius’s order and spy on Hamlet. Eventually Hamlet realizes they are sent by Claudius and becomes suspicious about his old friends. Hamlet leans to observe his friends and to judge them whether they are true friends of him or not. Later on he criticizes his old friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern about their wrong friendship with Hamlet. Hamlet has come to realize that they need to be punished and believe his true friend, Horatio. As a result, both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are killed after they arrive in England. By his old friends’ betrayal, Hamlet becomes more aware of friendship and judgmental to be a leader.
As Hamlet learns a lot through friendship, he also leans to be more careful, wise, and mature through politics. His political responsibility develops by fighting with his enemy, the king Claudius. After he discovers the truth about his father’s death, he carefully makes plans to confirm whether Claudius killed his father or not. He tactically plans “to put on an antic disposition" (Shakespeare 1106) in front of everybody to not make Claudius think there is another reason for Hamlet ‘s unusual behavior. He leans to find effective ways to fight against the powerful King, Claudius and to determine deceitful behavior of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern who were sent by the King. In Dangerous conjectures: Madness in Shakespearean Tragedy, Duncan Salkeld argues "Madness in Shakespearean tragedies is depicted not as a dissolution into the crazed but secure inferiority of its characters, but as a means of personal and political survival” (86). Although Hamlet was in danger to be killed by Claudius, he responsibly tries to eliminate the immorality of the royal Denmark as the sprit of his father wishes. Moreover, Hamlet succeeds to prevent form being executed in England and to trick Claudius by replacing the Claudius’s original letter to execute Hamlet with his forged letter to execute Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. This shows his abilities of political strategies and writing political documents. At the end, he wisely supports Fortinbras to be the king of Norway and lets Horatio speak with Fortinbras to strengthen the friendship between Denmark and Norway. Hamlet selflessly sacrifices himself to exchange the bright future of Denmark. He used to be an immature kid of the queen at the begging of the play; however, by the end of the play, he turns to be a political leader as the prince of Denmark through his fight against the powerful King Claudius.
As the experience of fight against Claudius develops Hamlet as a political leader, he also leans what heroism and death mean to him. When Hamlet faces the dramatic fact of his father’s death and his mother’s quick remarriage, he believes that people who face harsh realities stay alive rarely because death is unknown. However, he gradually understands maturely about heroism and death through his experience. According to CliffsComplete Shakespeare's Hamlet, "Before leaving for Denmark, Hamlet encounters Fortinbras's army bound for Poland. Hamlet Questions the validity of war and certain death. Still, he thinks, if man can accept the risks involved with battle, he can accept the risks involved with revenge" (Tubach 149). Hamlet used to be an immature, helpless, and indecisive kid; however, he becomes an independent, responsible, and brave man as a hero of Denmark through his experiences after the returning from Wittenberg.
Hamlet has been obsessed with the physical reality of death since Act 1; however, here he finally seems to get the philosophical implications. In Hamlet’s Heroism, Bert Hornback argues that “Hamlet lives-and dies-by his wisdom,” and “Hamlet's self is thus worthy: his self is thoughtful, principled, and wise. And he remains nobly, heroically true to it“ (7). He realizes that fate plays part in everything; no one has absolute control. This frees him to realize that all he can do is the best he can, and this attitude allows him to go into the sword fight with Laertes and to be ready for anything. Unfortunately, the attitude doesn't save him, but he is at least able to avenge his father's death. His perspective of heroism changes, as it cannot overcome the power of death. Even great heroes like Alexander the Great and Julie Cesar eventually died and became dust or clay. According to Jamieson, Hamlet’s “emotional turmoil has been replaced by perspective, and his anxiety replaced by cool rationality. By the final scene, Hamlet has come to the realization that killing Claudius is his destiny. Perhaps Hamlet’s new-found confidence in fate is little more than a form of self-justification; a way to rationally and morally distance himself from the murder he is about to commit.” He leans to accept his death and his destiny as he develops his philosophical thinking.
As the famous remark, "There are a thousand Hamlets in a thousand people's eyes" by English poet and playwright William Shakespeare, we as readers or viewers learn a lot by observing different aspects of both Hamlet the character and hamlet the play by William Shakespeare. Although our everyday lives are not such dramatic ones as Hamlet’s, we can learn to deal with love, friendship, and death critically and to think why we live in the world. Hamlet tells that people have choices to live or die for something they want. He once attempts to suicide, but he learns about death and life and to accept mortality. Hamlet bravely fights against Claudius to challenge himself to achieve his purpose. As Hamlet leans, we should have courage to challenge our struggles and to accomplish our goals.
Also, we can learn from hamlet’s character that it is important to keep in our mind to be optimistic rather than pessimistic about our lives. Hamlet struggles with dramatic events, such as his father’s death, his mother’s remarriage with his uncle, and his old friends’ betrayal. These dramas make Hamlet depressed and deeply angry, and it causes him to revenge. His madness causes him to behave impulsively, and finally it leads him to his death. His anger and impatience even involve other innocent people, such as Ophelia and Laertes to their death. In fact, his pessimism causes this entire tragedy in the play. Therefore, we should learn to not forget thankfulness to enjoy our lives even though we face unfortunate events to successfully overcome our struggles.
Hamlet teaches us a lot about our lives; similarly, other significant characters teach us a lot about our lives. Ophelia, an innocent girl, obeys her father, Polonius to give up on her love for Hamlet. Her dependence of her father and weakness cannot support herself to deal with her father’s sudden death. The character of Ophelia teaches us to be independent to be able to cope with unpleasant life events. Similarly, the Queen Gertrude’s dependence on men as a woman reminds us to keep aware of our surroundings carefully instead of just being controlled by men. In addition, Laertes is controlled by Claudius to revenge on Hamlet without logical thinking. However, at the end of the play, he admits his fault and forgives Hamlet before he dies. We can learn from Laertes to understand others’ situation and forgive them without being angry at what they have done to us. Revenge never brings us happiness and success, but understandings connect people together and develop our quality of our lives. Moreover, readers learn how money and power undermine one’s justice through the play. Claudius murders his own brother to control the authority of Denmark. Although he once feels guilty about killing Hamlet’s father, he tries to kill Hamlet to avoid the potential threat to him. This leads readers to consider how they deal with the materialistic society without undermining morality and justice. From the character of Hamlet, we can learn to believe justice and resist against influence of human cupidity in our lives.
The story of Hamlet tells us what is worst and selfish in our humanity. According to 9 Things You Can Learn From 'Hamlet', Hamlet’s “failure of commitment, his radical inhibition, his suicidal melodrama, and his violent misanthropic and misogynistic cruelty, are some of the rather unappealing aspects of our selves. Shakespeare forces us to stare at that which we do not want to look.” The tragedy in the play influences us to consider our lives philosophically and guides us to change. The play Hamlet begins with bloody complex human relationships and ends with the death of all significant characters except Horatio. It seems to suggest that the brightness and happiness of the future come to us only without weakness, darkness and immorality of human being.

Works Cited
Critchley, Simon, and Webster, Jamieson. “9 Things You Can Learn From 'Hamlet'.” The Blog. Huff Post Book. 1 July. 2013. Web 12, Apr. 2014.
Doubt, Keith. “Hamlet and Friendship.” Hamlet Studies: An International Journal of Research on The Tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Ed. R W. Desai. New Delhi: R W Desai Publishing Company Ltd, 1979. 54-62. Print.
Hornback, Bert. “Hamlet’s Heroism.” Colby Quarterly: Volume 30, no.4. Ed. Waterville, Me: Colby College. 1994. 291-297. Print.
Lee, Jamieson. “Hamlet Character Analysis: Discover 'Hamlet' with Our Hamlet Character Analysis.” Shakespeare. n.d. Web 12, Apr. 2014.
Massie, Allan. “Prince of self-pity.” The spectator. The spectator. 12 July. 2006. Web 12, Apr. 2014.
Salkeld, Duncan. “Madness and Drama in the Age of Shakespeare.” Dangerous conjectures: Madness in Shakespearean Tragedy.
Shakespeare, William. “CliffsComplete Shakespeare's Hamlet.” Act IV, Scene 4. Ed. Gregory W. Tubach.
Shakespeare, William. “Hamlet.” The Norton Introduction to Literature. Ed. Kelly J. Mays. Portable 11th ed. New York: Norton, 2014. 149-155. Print.

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