“Hamlet”: Moral Responsibility and Truth
Hamlet was the son of the late King Hamlet and a nephew to the reigning King Claudius. He can be described as an enigma because no matter in how many ways he is analyzed there is no absolute truth that emerges from his character. Moreover, Hamlet is driven by revenge for his father and the belief that his Uncle Claudius had something to do with it. The rage of revenge is intensified when his mother decides to marry his uncle within a month after the death of his father. In addition to this, Shakespeare introduces Hamlet as a dramatic character with radical contradictions; he is courteous yet uncivil, reckless yet cautious, tender yet ferocious. These sentiments portray Hamlet as a complicated character with multiple attributes associated with him. Moreover, the actions of Hamlet can be argued on moral, honor, and justice grounds.
Hamlet character analysis
The death of his father consumes Hamlet with righteous indignation and outrage, yet he does not show any compunction when he is responsible for the death of the royal family. The outrage that consumes Hamlet forms his main motive to avenge the death of his father after a ghost of his late father appears to him. Moreover, Hamlet develops distrust in people around him when he believes they might be spying on him for his uncle. However, this distrust does not portray how much sorrow Hamlet feels as he states “For they are the actions that a man might play, but I have that within which passes show, these but the trappings and the suits of woe” (Shakespeare, Raffel, & Bloom, 2003). In addition to this, the actions of his mother led to Hamlet mistreating Ophelia. Moreover, it is evident that Hamlet is in love with Ophelia but due to the circumstances and the situation he was in, he did not trust anybody. Hamlet is shown taking the anger of his mother on Ophelia this is shown as he yells at Ophelia before confronting his mother. Ideally, Hamlet’s treatment of Ophelia is another act of justifying his madness.
Additionally, throughout the play, Hamlet is portrayed as a grief-stricken individual after revenge for his father. However, the method employed by Hamlet is controversial because he inherited the task of avenging the death of his father and correcting a corrupt state due to circumstances and conflicting imperatives. Nonetheless, the method employed by Hamlet resulted in death of the royal family; the result of his actions prompts a moral investigation of the hero he signifies. Moreover, the inconsistency and ineffectiveness of Hamlet’s execution of the task is a result of his personal revenge rather than civil justice. In addition to this, despite the fact that civic justice is a right path, it cannot be dispatched with the speed required for vengeance. However, if the task had been conceptualized as civic justice, it would have dulled due to the judicial process, which cannot investigate evidence provided by a supernatural witness, as noted by Hamlet, “Let Hercules himself do what he may, / The cat will mew, and the dog will have his day” (Shakespeare, Raffel, & Bloom, 2003). Moreover, if the task had been executed as justice rather than vengeance, it would have taken more time and developed sympathy other than vengeance that Hamlet wanted.
Hamlet literary analysis
Having mentioned that, it is important to note that in an effort to undertake his moral duty Hamlet portrays human errors underscoring the difficulty of taking just action. Moreover, Hamlet shows moral growth when he gains his composure. The composure can be attributed to the newer imperatives of early modern states that enjoy obedience to personal conscience and the state, and the older code is governing a heroic society. The composure further shows that there is redemption for Hamlet. Nonetheless, Hamlet portrays a dual side of “green” symbolizing a hero who is a political subordinate but capable and ready to govern Denmark. Ideally, Hamlet is both a student and a mentor of moral growth as he issues instructions that he has troubles adhering to on an ethical and personal level. Moreover, Hamlet provides an argument for his philosophical approach and moral sensibility in pursuit of vengeance by stating that he is frustrated and baffled by his inconsistency inert and impulsive actions. The inconsistency is evident as Hamlet himself states that, “I do not know / Why yet I live to say ‘This thing’s to do’. / Sith I have cause, and will, and strength, and means, / To do’t” (Shakespeare, Raffel, & Bloom, 2003). This dilemma clearly shows that the inconsistency and non-performance cannot be solely attributed to the pursuit of vengeance. Moreover, the action clearly shows that there is some justice in his actions.
Throughout the play, Hamlet fails to name what he must do “This thing” as he referred to the action betrays his dedication to the “cause.” Moreover, this shows the controversy regarding revenge on moral and justice grounds. On moral grounds, revenge can mean motive or an object of the action. However, in political spheres, revenge can denote a controversy advocated or upheld by a party or a person. Thus, it is evident that after learning about the death of his father, Hamlet has the motive to pursue justice that could be seen as an object of the action. Nonetheless, his father commands him to revenge his death shows that vengeance was treated under the law and was recourse in everyday life. This justifies vengeance as a paradigm within the law, and thus Hamlet was acting within moral and justice boundaries. Moreover, the endorsement of self-help justice signifies an eye-for-an-eye revenge as pursued by Hamlet was accepted in the sixteenth-century society.
Hamlet literary criticism
After learning the death of his father, Hamlet states that “Haste me to know't, that I, with wings as swift as meditation or the thought of love, May sweep to my revenge.” This quote shows that Hamlet has the motive to revenge the death of his father. However, in the entire play, Hamlet contemplates revenge rather than taking action. This action set him apart from Laertes and Fortinbras. Unlike Hamlet, Fortinbras is shown taking an army and regaining the land of his father. On the other hand, after Laertes learns of the death of his father, he does not sit and think about the consequences that his actions might carry, but he just acts. Ideally, both Laertes and Fortinbras show heroic actions, unlike Hamlet who contemplates about his actions. In addition to this, this shows how the truth can have negative effect on people. For instance, it is evident that Hamlet develops the rage and yearns for revenge after learning the truth about his father’s death. Moreover, the King shows how dangerous the truth can be when he tries to kill Hamlet to stop the truth from coming out. Nonetheless, the truth led to the destruction of the royal family because the truth created a division between the members of the royal family.
In conclusion, examining the moral actions of Hamlet shows the complex exploration of the ethical conflicts between the rule of reason and arbitrary will that crest the dilemma of revenge. Moreover, the examination of Hamlet’s ineffectiveness sows the difficulty of becoming a good person, a social construct engulfed by instincts for violence and self-delusion human beings are prone to while pursuing public and personal good. Ideally, the difficulty of Hamlet in self-governance and moral judgment while instructing others show the difficulties of the ethical enterprise that is affected by multiple external factors that are beyond the control of an individual, self-knowledge, and self-control. Moreover, as shown by Hamlet as an aspirant of virtue exhibiting impulse of physical and verbal violence reveals the struggle to direct and control the passion for the salutary end.
Shakespeare, W., Raffel, B., & Bloom, H. (2003). Hamlet. New Haven: Yale University Press.
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