Essay, Research Paper: Hamlet Prince

Shakespeare: Hamlet

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William Shakespeare created Prince Hamlet of Denmark to be the epitome of the
moral man in the play Hamlet. This flawless morality can be envisioned to act
both jointly and independently as a perfection and imperfection of the
Prince’s character. This dually unblemished and tainted trait of Hamlet’s is
revealed to the reader through the Prince’s concept of time. Contrary to the
beliefs of many critics, procrastination is not an attribute of Hamlet’s
character; but the time in which it takes Hamlet to act should be more
accurately referred to as a necessary delay. There are numerous reasons to
explain Hamlet’s ‘use’ of time, the three most important of which are his
intelligent, analytic mind, his righteousness and finally the revenge code.
Hamlet uses all these idiosyncrasies as well as his acerbic wit to manipulate
all the people around him in an attempt to reach an unattainable goal of a
weeded garden. These factors combine to create a compelling uniquely universal
man who is uncertain of himself, thus creating indecision and the procession of
time. The intellectual genius of Prince Hamlet can arguably be considered
unmatched by any character in all of Shakespeare’s plays. Hamlet’s
outstanding astuteness of mind allows him to discern the true nature of the
people that would try to deceive him and buy time so that he may exact his
revenge against them; there is a myriad of this type of person in the play
Hamlet. Were it not for this keen sense surely Hamlet’s downfall would have
occurred much earlier in the play; his death would have been imminent upon
arrival to England had Hamlet not deciphered the motives of Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern. Hamlet’s insight to note that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are
but sponges in the world that soak all that the King offers them in a vain
attempt to climb an infinite social ladder. Hamlet’s swiftness and acuteness
of intellect made him act quickly in changing the letter to the King of England,
once again laying to shame the criticism of Hamlet’s procrastination. This
point is repeated by the considerations of Wylie Sypher, who wrote a work based
on the use of time in Shakesperean plays; The ingenuity of his fabricated letter
sending Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to death, for they do not touch his
conscience. (Sypher, 1976,71) This reflects the complex workings of Hamlet’s
mind, since his decision to create this letter was swift and decisive, even
though it meant the death of two former friends, once again displaying excellent
use of time. The most remarkable display of Hamlet’s intelligence is no doubt
apparent in his antic disposition; allowing him to speak his true feelings to
the other characters in the play without offense and gain much needed time. An
unparalleled example of the use of his antic disposition occurs during
Hamlet’s conversation with Polonius, while Claudius hides behind the arras.
Hamlet’s wit is in full effect when he says, “ Excellent well, you are a
fishmonger.”, he continues on to refer to Polonius as a useless old man that
has an undeniable lack of wit and understanding. Hamlet’s plan of attack
worked perfectly, his antic disposition created a state of confusion amongst the
other characters allowing Hamlet time to prove the origin of the ghost. Perhaps
a greater understanding of this point can be gained by the thoughts of Alfred N.
Whitehead; Intelligence is quickness to apprehend as distinct from ability,
which capacity to act wisely on the thing apprehended. (Fitzhenry, 1993, 239).
This remark almost ideally reflects the state of mind in which Hamlet lives.
Hamlet’s intelligence is what grants the reader a deeper understanding of the
length of time it takes him to accomplish his goal of honoring his father, King
Hamlet. The moral qualities pertaining to the character of Hamlet are undeniably
the most unique part of his personality. Hamlet appears to have a deeply rooted
disgust for any thought or action that is immoral, “for there is nothing good
or evil, but thinking makes it so:”, this is the greatest cause for the
passage of time before Hamlet attempts to put his revenge into action. The moral
question Hamlet is plagued by is whether or not the ghost of his dead father is
a good spirit or an evil demon seeking to damn him to hell for all eternity.
This form of delay is exemplified by the fact that Laertes character is nearly
the precise opposite to that of Hamlet; To hell, allegiance! Vows, to the
blackest devil! Conscience and grace, to the profoundest pit! I dare damnation:
to this point I stand, That both worlds I give to negligence, Let come what
comes: only I’ll be reveng’d Most thoroughly for my father. (IV,V,129-133)
Hamlet does have some concepts in common with Laertes, he is dedicated to
revenge the death of his father, but the primary characteristics are contrasts.
Other characters also create a great contrast with the virtue of Hamlet: the
hasty marriage of Claudius and Gertrude, the conniving ways of Polonius, and the
crooked betrayal of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. The purpose of these
disparities is to persuade the reader to comprehend the fact that it is
imperative to Hamlet’s moral code for him to wait and prove the validity of
the Ghost before committing any murders. A true understanding of the play Hamlet
is to grasp the fact that it is an impossibility in the mind of Hamlet to act
out the revenge plot before learning the truth about his father’s murder.
Hamlet is living by the expression put forth by a very influential man in the
plays of Shakespeare, Seneca, he stated that “ Time discovered truth”. If
only three words were used as an explanation for Hamlet’s delay, the words of
Seneca speak volumes beyond any others. The revenge code is needed primarily to
explain why Hamlet did not avenge King Hamlet during the ‘prayer’ scene in
which Claudius is at his most vulnerable state. Hamlet had the perfect
opportunity to slay Claudius while he was on knees with his back turned, however
one of the conditions set forth by the Ghost that Claudius should die without
repentance. Now might I do it pat, now a’ is a-praying; And now I’ll do it,
and so he goes to heaven, And so am I reveng’d. That would be scann’d; A
villain kills my father, and for that, I, his sole son, do this same villain
send To heaven. O, this is hire salary, not revenge. (III,IV,73-79) Hamlet
believed that Claudius was praying to God to forgive all of his sins and
therefore if killed would be sent to heaven. Hamlet wanted justice for his
murdered father and killing Claudius during prayer would not be exact justice
and thus he is forced to delay until he is certain that his uncle is in sin when
he dies. It is very important to Hamlet that both the revenge and the justice
for his father fit together, it is further explained by C.F. Sisson, who writes
about justice in Hamlet; It is customary to describe Hamlet as a
Revenge-Tragedy. It is less frequently realized how closely vengeance and
justice are allied in men’s thoughts, though Bacon’s definition of revenge
as ‘wild justice’ is now proverbial. (Sisson, 1963, 58) To combine both of
these factors jointly takes a great deal of time and effort both of which Hamlet
is more than willing to do and the reason for which he is accused of
procrastinating before killing Claudius. Once again the contrast with Laertes is
apparent when his father is killed he instinctively his ready for bloodshed,
contrary to the actions and scheming of Hamlet which take time and lead to his
tragic downfall. The revenge code introduced by Hamlet is conceivably the most
misunderstood aspect of this play, it can be used to explain the majority of
Hamlet’s delays and dispute most arguments from critics about procrastination.
Hamlet’s perfect and imperfect means of acting and thinking create a scenario
where, “The time is out of joint; O cursed spite, That ever I was born to set
it right!”, this statement is a mindset of a morally determined man. In fact,
Hamlet pays the ultimate price for his dedication to his morals, his death is
the direct result of his delay, that must be regarded after examining all the
factors as essential. After all, time runs at a different rate for each and
every person according to their needs, perhaps Hamlet’s excellence creates a
situation whereby time is not even considered.BibliographyFitzhenry, R.I. The Fitzhenry & Whiteside Book of Quotations. Markham:
Fitzhenry and Whiteside Ltd, 1993. Sisson, C.F. Shakespeare’s Tragic Justice.
London: Methuen & Co Ltd, 1963. Sypher,W. The Ethic of Time. New York: The
Seabury Press, 1976. Hamlet: Time is out of Joint ENGOA Mr. Cummings March 26,
2000 By: Mike Van Adel
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