December 10, 2012
Hamlet the Philosopher
Shakespeare's play, Hamlet, is an Elizabethan tragedy. Hamlet, a young Prince of Denmark, suffers a dilemma between the unrelenting ambition of revenge and clashing moral standards. This is very much a play about revenge, but the reason that it continues to intrigue literary and theatrical audiences for almost 400 years, is because of the underlying philosophical meanings. Hamlet is more a philosophical play than it is a play about revenge. Throughout the play, Hamlet analyzes the uncertainty that death brings, questions the final arbiter in judgement and defies society's belief in the great chain of being.
Hamlet is surrounded by death. However, he is the only character that confronts death philosophically. Despite the revenge he is planning, Hamlet considers taking his own life. He strives to extract revenge upon Claudius, but the more guidance he seeks, the more lost and indecisive he becomes. Hamlet seriously questions if life is worth living from his life crisis. This is seen in Hamlet's most famous soliloquy, that is said at the kingdom of Elsinore, before being spied upon by Claudius and Polonius. "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? To die, to sleep— / No more—and by a sleep to say we end / The heartache and the thousand natural shocks / That flesh is heir to—’tis a consummation/ Devoutly to be wished! To die, to sleep. / To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub, / For in that sleep of death what dreams may come / When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, / Must give us pause. There’s the respect / That makes calamity of so long life. / For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, / Th' oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely, / The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay, / The...
References: "Existentialism." n.d. Wikipedia. 06 December 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existentialism>.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Toronto: Harcourt Canada Ltd., n.d.
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