Essay, Research Paper: Hamlet Feelings

Shakespeare: Hamlet

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Everyone contains a tinge of Hamlet in his feelings, wants, and worries, and
proudly so, for Hamlet is not like the other tragic heroes of his period. He
stands apart from other Shakespeare's heroes in his today much discussed
innocence. Is this supposed tragic hero maybe an ideal hero - one without the
tragic flaw, which has been a part of the formula for the tragedy since the
Golden age of Greece?; is a question that has been the field for many literary
critics' battles. The main, and, most often, the only flaw that has been
attributed to Hamlet is his delay. This seems to constitute the central part in
Hamlet. Critics seem to cling to this detail, as if trying to save the status of
Hamlet as a typical Elizabethan tragedy of revenge. By the definition of
tragedy, there should exist a flaw in the character of the main hero, who is a
great personality that is engaged in a struggle that ends catastrophically
(Stratford, 90). If Hamlet had no flaw, what kind of tragic hero is he? No
doubt, Hamlet is a tragical drama, for it has many characters "from the
top" ending up losing their lives. But the play wouldn't lose its tragic
tone if Hamlet was a an ideal hero instead of tragic one, which is exactly the
case. If just all critic realized this, maybe today we wouldn't have that much
trouble trying to "decipher" Hamlet's character, just like Elizabethan
audience never raised any questions concerning Hamlet's delay. It was only in
the last two centuries, that the audience and their perceptions have drastically
changed, which causes this confusion concerning the character that was created
by Shakespeare for common people, some ignorant ones among them, perhaps. Hamlet
is like a soldier that is thrown into a war where he has to do some things he
rather would avoid doing, but under the given circumstances he bites his teeth
and carries himself well (Stratford, 128). In this war, the circumstances
brought on by Claudius's murdering of King Hamlet are Hamlet's enemy. His dead
father is the destroyed country, painful truth which leaves so much hatred and
resentment in his heart. Being a loyal prince and son, and one whom entire
kingdom respected, he should seek revenge and bring justice back in the royal
court. The whole play would be very simple if this murdered was an open
assassination. But no, Shakespeare made sure that this assassination was secret,
that no one, except maybe Claudius, knew about it. This puts in a completely
different context the play that was written by Thomas Kyd, a play titled
Ur-Hamlet, which Shakespeare used as a basis for his Hamlet (Grebanier,
111).This way, Shakespeare accomplished very different development of action,
and ultimately one of the best plays in the history. Along with that,
Shakespeare created disagreement concerning reasons why Hamlet waited so long
before killing Claudius. A careful reader can notice that more than two months
pass between Hamlet being told by the Ghost about the evil deed, and Hamlet
following through his plan. One can argue that from this follows that Hamlet
procrastinated, having that one flaw - being passive, not daring to act. But
Shakespeare never payed attention to this time interval. An audience wasn't
aware of it, because Shakespeare didn't want it to be - the rather large time
interval was of no consequence, and truly one cannot notice this without a
conscious calculation (Grebanier, 179). More critics, especially during
popularity of Freud, have tried to explain Hamlet's delay exclusively from
psychological point of view. But how can one psychologically analyze a character
that doesn't exist in physical world; whose existence is dependent merely on his
actions and reactions to the events and other characters from play? J. Dover
Wilson summarized it by saying that Hamlet is a "character in a play, not
in history" (Weitz, 107). From the point of view of these critics, it
follows that character preceded the plot, thus shaping it for its needs. But
Shakespeare, not to mention all the other play writers, followed Aristotelian
view that drama is imitation of life, of the actions of man. Plot is a way to
organize the action, and thus, plot precedes character in Hamlet (Grebanier,
108). This, without even knowing Aristotelian method, can also be deduced from
knowing that Shakespeare adopted plot of Ur-Hamlet, and changed it just
slightly. A slight change in the plot, however, hardly slightly affects the
characters. But one should notice that "preceding" means "comes
before the other one", and it does not mean "eliminates the
other." Therefore, the cause of Hamlet's fall cannot be ascribed
exclusively to the situation. That would mean eliminating every element of
tragedy, and even drama, from Hamlet - Hamlet would thus have become a mere
collection of fate-dependent events that accidentally so happened not to have a
happy ending. So, the reasons for Hamlet's actions should be understood as a
synthesis of original situation, Hamlet's reactions to it, and then again of
situation that was affected by Hamlet's reactions. Looking at Hamlet's
reactions, one detail cannot be overlooked: Hamlet does not kill Claudius in
church, while he has the best chance of doing so up until that point. This
little detail, and it is really a little detail, for if it was more important,
Shakespeare would have dedicated to it more then some 100 lines, tends to affect
the reader's evaluation of Hamlet's delay. Why didn't he kill the King?
Understanding this scene is crucial today in understanding Hamlet's delay, for
we seem to be puzzled by it (if we were in the audience, the whole scene would
have lasted only moments, but as readers, we have the freedom to ponder about
it). At least so was Professor Dowden, to name one critic, who holds that Hamlet
"loses a sense of fact" because he puts every event through his mind,
filtering it until every deed seems to have an alternative - in not doing the
deed, but evaluating it even more (Bloom, 66). Coleridge and Goethe would agree
with this, holding that Hamlet's soul is too philosophical and it lacks ability
to instinctually act on impulse, and that he is "too sensitive to avenge
himself" (Grebanier, 159). But if one only reads what goes on in the play,
Hamlet could by no means be called too sensitive or passive. After the Ghost
appears, he ignores the fears of his friends, is strong enough to break off
their restraining hold, and follows the ghastly apparition. In the Queen's
closet he follows his impulse and puts his sword to action. In the battle with
the pirate ship, he manages to win over the whole crew without anyone's help. He
is known in the kingdom as a brilliant fencer, and shows his skill in the match
with Laertes, after which he is able to cut the king and take the glass of
poison from Horatio's hand, all that while dying of deadly poison. What then is
the reason for his delay of action? Did Shakespeare make it on purpose so that
he can fill the five long acts? (Grebanier, 115).Hamlet is very brave and
impulsive Prince, but the plot seems to prevent him from finding an
"external model or a simple solution for conduct," so that he must
depend more on thinking, and less on acting (Stratford, 105). He realizes that
killing a King is a great crime. In seventeenth century, kings have divinity
about them, and hurting a king from that period cannot compare to hurting a
politician today. The proof of this is in the last scene - even after Laertes
speaks out and lets everyone that was present know that the match and poison
were only King's plan, the crowd yells, as if having an instinct to defend their
King: "Treason! Treason!" (Shakespeare, 27). Even if it wasn't that
punishable to assassinate the King, Hamlet would still not kill him in the
church. He might have taken the sword out, but one thing then went through his
mind: " If King is murdered, the truth is murdered too, and King Hamlet's
assassination would be impossible to prove". His aim is not to kill the
King and get the throne. He is primarily concerned with punishing the murderer
of his father, punishing him under the shelter of justice (Grebanier, 111-113).
So, Hamlet does delay, according to Stoll, but with purpose to create his deed
momentous when the right moment comes. This is what's behind his
"procrastination" in the church. Until he has the proof, he must be
patient. His words in church, then, are not at all excuse for delay when he says
that he must wait for King to be in act that "has no relish of salvation
in't" (1). Rather, he speaks to himself in attempt to force himself not to
use violence, but to be patient. So, instead of showing a flaw in the church,
Hamlet shows virtue, his prudent patience. He is now absolutely determined in
his plan and all of his actions are directed towards one accomplishment - to
justly punish the one who murdered his father. The proof of this is in the last
scene when he orders Horatio to let everyone know the truth, and what went on in
the kingdom in the last two months. Hamlet is the only Shakespeare's tragic hero
who doesn't have a tragic flaw, which makes him an ideal hero, instead a tragic
one. Hamlet the play still is the revenge tragedy, for Hamlet never lived to see
the full revenge. OUTLINE I. Introduction II. Hamlet's Delay 1. The situation of
the play that that surrounds Hamlet 2. Ur-Hamlet as a basis of Hamlet 3. Two
months delay question 4. Psychological only interpretation of Hamlet 5.
Aristotelian definitions of drama 6. Hamlet actions as a synthesis of character
and plot 7. The scene in church - most importatnt for the notion of delay 8.
Delay because Hamlet is passive and too emotional 9. Murdering the King is
murdering the proof 10. Virtue of patience rather than procrastination flaw III.
ConclusionBibliography1. Hamlet. The Norton Introduction to Literature, Shorter 6th Edition,
editors Bain, Beaty, Hunter, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1995. 2. Weitz,
Morris. Hamlet and the Philosophy of Literary Criticism. Chicago: University of
Chicago, 1964. 3. Hamlet. Stratford-Upon-Avon Study. London: Edward Arnold Ltd.,
1963. 4. Grebanier, Bernard. The Heart of Hamlet, The Play Shakespeare Wrote.
New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1960. 5. Hamlet. Editor Harold Bloom.New
York: Chelsea House Publishers, a division of Maine Line Book Co., 1990.
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