Hamlet Character Analysis Essay Example
Loss, it can cause a multitude of different reactions and emotions that can vary and change depending on the stage of grief the person is in. Even so, not everyone is the same, seeing that we all come from different places, backgrounds, and upbringings. For some, life goes on rather quickly after the death of a loved one. On the other hand, some people’s lives will change completely seeing that the deceased had a much larger impact on their life.
Then there are those whose lives spiral down and are driven into hysteria and madness such as though a switch was flipped. As seen in the play “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare, Hamlet claims he is going to put on a false front of madness in order to fool the new king supposedly accountable for his father's death and avenge him, as Hamlet ragingly moves on through the stages of grief.
At the beginning of the play, it is seen that Hamlet has been evidently upset by his father’s recent passing and his mother’s quick remarriage to the king's brother. When everyone is in the ballroom Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle and step-father makes a comment, “’Tis unmanly grief./ It shows a will most incorrect to heaven,/ A heart unfortified, a mind impatient”(I.ii). Claudius’ remark states that young Hamlet is correct to mourn however, not for too long, otherwise, it is unmanly and inappropriate.
Queen Gertrude, Hamlet's mother, also makes a note for Hamlet to “Cast thy nighted color off”(I.ii) but she is then hit with a rebuttal dubbing her as a whore. Hamlet then proceeds to sulk and it is then recommended by Claudius that he remains in Denmark and not return to school, for his mother. It is seen here that Hamlet reacts normally, as seen in the stages of grief, showing no signs of madness even in his first soliloquy. “O, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt,/ Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew,/ Or that the Everlasting had not fixed/ His canon ’gainst self-slaughter! O God, God”(I.ii). Though talking to oneself might seem strange, it is fairly normal for a person to speak their thoughts out loud, along with the suicidal thoughts/remarks in which might seem edgy though something to be cautious about he has no intention of actually following through with it, henceforth proving Hamlet’s sanity.
Later that night Hamlet seeks out Horatio in order to see the ghost of his father that first reported seen by Bernardo and Marcellus. When the late king finally appears, he speaks, and this time you can see sort of a shift in Hamlet's persona, he doesn’t quite become frightened as Horatio does, his interest peaks, wondering if the ghost is a demon or his actual father's apparition, “So horridly to shake our disposition/ With thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls?/ Say, why is this? Wherefore? What should we do?”(I.iv).The ghost then beckons Hamlet to follow him, so he does, ignoring Horatio and Marcellus’ warnings or second questioning whether or not the ghost is leading him to his death.
This lack of care is beginning to show the young prince’s transition into madness as he carelessly follows the ghost unknown yet demon who could possibly be waiting to take his life. The apparition spoke “Now, Hamlet, hear./ 'Tis given out that, sleeping in my orchard,/ A serpent stung me. So the whole ear of Denmark/ Is by a forged process of my death/ Rankly abus'd. But know, thou noble youth,/ The serpent that did sting thy father's life/ Now wears his crown” (I.v).
The ghost then makes the three men swear, and Hamlet takes it upon himself to find out the truth, “Here, as before, never, so help you mercy,/ How strange or odd soe'er I bear myself,/ As I perchance hereafter shall think meet to put an antic disposition on,/ That you, at such times seeing me, never shall,/ With arms encumb'red thus, or this head-shake,/ Or by pronouncing of some doubtful phrase,/ As 'Well, well, we know,' or 'We could, an if we would,'/ Or 'If we list to speak,' or 'There be, an if they might,'/ Or such ambiguous giving out, to note/ That you know aught of me- this is not to do,/ So grace and mercy at your most need help you,/ Swear”(I.v). Though a seemingly smart tactic to use, for his investigation into the king, he does seem saner than in other parts, almost as if he’s grasping onto every last bit of sanity he has left in order to avenge his father.
When the king and Polonius begin to question Hamlet, the king is beginning to suspect Hamlet, however, Polonius thinks that Hamlet is simply driven mad by his love for Ophelia was instructed not to return. Polonius nonetheless was proven wrong when she approaches him, and Hamlet lets off pent up frustration he had with his mother and directed it towards Ophelia “ Get thee to a nunnery. Why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners? I am myself indifferent honest, but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me: I am very proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offenses at my beck than I have thoughts to put them in, imagination to give them shape, or time to act them in. What should such fellows as I do crawling between earth and heaven? We are arrant knaves all believe none of us. Go thy ways to a nunnery”(III.i).
Hamlet knows he loves Ophelia however for the sake his father’s vengeance, he must keep up his antic display. Even with his love for Ophelia, he rants about women in general, suspecting that his mother is listening. If Hamlet were actually driven mad, he might not have thought to say those specific things if he didn't think anyone was listening. When one is upset with one thing they might use one of Freud's “7 defense mechanisms” in order to cope, the one being used here would be displacement, the shift of actions from the desired target to a substitute when the action cannot be placed at the original target. This reaction is one of the most common defense mechanisms in most situations whether it be the death of a family member or even as simple as someone taking one of your important belongings.
When Hamlet goes to speak to his mother, he is yet again confronted by the late king, along with another guest which whom he mistook as his uncle out of fear, only to find out it was Polonius after he was already dead. When Ophelia finds out, true madness is shown as she sings a song and hands out flowers, with a disheveled appearance “Say you? Nay, pray You mark. He is dead and gone, lady, he is dead and gone; at his head a grass-green turf, at his heels a stone. O, ho! - Pray let's have no words of this; but when they ask, you what it means, say you this: To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day, all in the morning bedtime, and I a maid at your window, to be your Valentine. hen up he rose and donn'd his clo'es and dupp'd the chamber door, let in the maid, that out a maid never departed more” (IV.v).
As she wanders through the ballroom singing a song she indirectly denounces the King and Queen, then wanders off, later to be found dead in the brook. When Hamlet returns from being sent away he sees her body lying in the grave, he seems to lose himself a bit as he rushes over to her body to mourn over her and hold her in his arms for one last time, grieving for his true love. All the while Laertes, knowing who’s is responsible for his father’s death that ultimately leads up to his sisters, is now to be used as a pawn of the king to kill Hamlet.
They challenge one another to a duel, however, what Hamlet does not know is that Laertes’ rapier is poisoned and sharpened, along with the wine that is also poisoned Laertes loses the challenge. If Hamlet were sane he might have lost rather quick, unfortunately, with his sanity keeping his life, his mother fell first into the trap, drinking the wine. Laertes then strikes Hamlet with the poisoned weapon, and Hamlet does the same, leaving Claudius. He is then “envenomed” by the rapier and the wine resulting in his death followed by Laertes.
Before Hamlet’s death, he speaks his last few words “Heaven make thee free of it. I follow thee.—I am dead, Horatio. —Wretched queen, adieu.— You that look pale and tremble at this chance, that are but mutes or audience to this act, had I but time (as this fell sergeant, Death, is strict in his arrest), O, I could tell you But let it be.—Horatio, I am dead. Thou livest; report me and my cause aright to the unsatisfied/Give me the cup. Let go! By heaven, I’ll ha ’t. O God, Horatio, what a wounded name, things standing thus unknown, shall I leave behind me! If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart, absent thee from felicity awhile and in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain to tell my story”(V.ii), repenting for the sins he committed while acting insane.