The aspect of Shakespearean Hamlet that Is most Interesting to me is the playwright’s intimate depiction of Hamlet’s daily struggle against the world. Through soliloquies and characterization, we see that Hamlet’s world Is a cold, political one, unreceptive to his grief, and this fundamental Incompatibility Is ultimately what creates and drives the plays great drama behind his struggle, his murderous plot, uncertainty, and finally his thoughtful, accepting resolve at the end of the play.
Early in the play we see this great incompatibility between Hamlet and his society emerging, as he, tricked with grief, is surrounded by cold political plotters. Shakespeare revels in his use of irony, as Claudia utters the oxymoron “lawful spills”, and Polonium, evangelism that “this above all else: to thin own self be true”, endeavourers with “this bait of falsehood” to “by indirections find directions out” and thus “take this carp of truth”. Hamlet continues this tradition of fish-related metaphors in accusing Polonium of being a “fishmonger”, a claim which reflects his own struggle to comprehend how cold and contriving his society is.
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Hamlet even wonders how “a beast that wants discourse of reason would have mourned longer” than his mother, Gertrude, the “pernicious woman” whose “salt of most unrighteous tears” falls from merely “galled eyes”. That she could be “Like Nibble” Is a twisted classical allusion which adds to the sentiment of tension which Hamlet feels against his society, which, in the disillusioned wake of his grief, he has found is superficial and immoral, especially as “one may smile, and smile, and be a villain”, while “virtue itself of vice must beg” and “rank corruption… Inning within… Infects unseen”. Thus this great tension forms an integral part of the early part of the play and drives the drama which underlies Hamlet’s characterization, and his struggle to find where he belongs in this morally void society. Hamlet’s soliloquy at the end of Act II reveals how this tension has acted upon his soul. He questions his own sanity, asking If It Is, in fact, the “pleasing shape” of the devil, which ;abuses me to damn me”.
This particular tension between Hamlet and his world Is what reveals several Important character elements In Hamlet. That the Player could Invoke such passion In such a superficial “fiction”, and “for Hectic” at that, while Hamlet sits statically racked with indecision, is reflective of the superficiality which frustrates him and drives him to see himself as a “dull and muddy-mottled rascal”. It drives him inwards to consider what kind of person he is, and how best to resolve the tension which has evolved as a result of his society’s immorality.
Yet as the soliloquy changes tone dramatically, and marked by Hamlet’s cry of “Oh, vengeance! “, the apostrophes appeal to Nemesis herself reveals an early tempt to break free from these chains of indecision and uncertainty set upon him due to his struggle. Thus the tension between him and his Immoral peers is what ultimately produces this first change of heart, from “pigeon-liveried” to the successful invocation of the mythical figure, the “rugged Papyrus”, out to “drink hot blood”, whom he struggled to portray and rehearse earlier In the scene.
That the tension Is so central to this first episode of self-realization, and subsequent ascents to personal conviction, reflects how truly crucial his struggle and journey towards self- ginning with the Act Ill soliloquy not long after, is another seeming affliction brought on by this grievous tension with the world around our hero. That the world could so easily forget a human life, and that this life was that of a king, brings on a deep sense of Peoria for the young prince, as he struggles to reconcile the significance of life with the great ease with which it is forgotten when lost.
His turn to “what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil” forms part of the plaintive introspection revealed by this soliloquy as he searches for truth, away from he “pangs of dispersed love” for which he was informed that “to persevere in obstinate complement is… Unmanly grief”. His obsession with death throughout the play and in this soliloquy is hence marked as a decided escape from the constant tension with his society and its many unknowable uncertainties, as portrayed by a play whose opening line is “who’s there! “.
Death plays the role of the only certain, pure truth, as symbolized by the memento moor of Act V, the skull held in Hamlet’s hand which in all its graspable physicality and feeble permissibility becomes a source of finality, and retainer for the young prince. His tension with society is characterized by great inaction and uncertain angst, but in death, all souls return to absolute dust. Whether they bear the “pate of a politician” or the “skull of a lawyer” is insignificant in this regard, for “nee so”, even the great Alexander “looked o’ this fashion thirtieth”.
He finds great solace in the promise of this finality away from the contractors moods of his “comrades”. This characterizes the self-reckoning which ultimately leads him to his final resolves and faith by which he stands ready to once more face his society ND his fate, whatever it may be. With this sentiment he remarks “there is Providence in the fall of a sparrow… Let be”. Lastly, Hamlet and Aphelion’s relationship with the world reveal analogous tensions which manifest in different ways and provide interesting insights into the dramatic consequences of this tension.
Aphelia and Hamlet’s relationship is torn apart by Polonium’ meddling. Hamlet’s proclamation that “frailty, thy name is woman! ” foreshadows the way that we soon see Aphelia being influenced to a great extent by her filial, obedient devotion to Polonium, so much so hat, struggling to reconcile her personal integrity and her duty to her family, she descends into her own madness, “divided from herself and her fair Judgment, without the which we are pictures, or mere beasts”.
Polonium, the “fishmonger”, tells her that her love is that of “a green girl”, and her submission to such worldly expectations is what begets her destruction. Yet even in her insanity she finds a resolve which, though markedly more frenzied, mirrors Hamlet’s own. Her flowers are each symbols of denouncement of the court’s treacherous figures, whose “rue with a preference” Aphelia insists they must acknowledge for their most distressing actions.
There is thus a great tension which arises out of the persistent degradation of the lovers’ relationship, and their final destruction at the hands of Alerts for Hamlet, and in the river for Aphelia. These elements are undeniably integral elements of the play which drive its enduring drama and converge to form a crucial part of Hamlet’s textual integrity. Thus we can see that the tension of the world, manipulative, cold and immoral, as it acts on the fundamentally honest, if perhaps naive prince, is the resource of the great drama which underpins Hamlet’s struggle through the play to pit his own psyche against that of his peers.
This tension time and time again proves to character evolution which sees him descend into the murky depths of his world’s uncertainty. It is only with the realization and grasping of truth, whether he finds this in the finality of death or the power of fate, that Hamlet ascends once more to the safe anchorage of sanity and resolve, and finds the courage and conviction needed to face his society once more, and finally his death.