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What Makes Humans Human?

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Nick Coman March 03 C Block Mackey What Makes Humans Human What separates a human from a beast? While a beast is governed by instincts, impulses, and irrationality, a man is a creature of thought. Unfortunately, as developed as a species as we are, humans do uncontrollably revert to primitive ways. Understanding ideas such as justice, power, and revenge may guide us in our actions and be the propellant for which we use in our lives, but these values are not completely paramount over the fact that humans are descendants of beasts, and are not immune to their traits. In William Shakespeare's Hamlet, justice, vengeance, and power guide characters such as Hamlet, Laertes, and Claudius towards the goal of murder. In the end, all of these characters are left dead as a result of a lapse in rationality and thought. These miniscule glitches are exemplified in Claudius' response to the "Mouse Trap", Hamlet's impulsive murder of Polonius, and in Laertes' search for vengeance. Moreover, the protagonist gives a candid reflection on this topic in his soliloquy following his coincidental meeting with Fortinbras. Thus, Shakespeare is sending the message that as we have the ability to think the greatest thoughts, dream the greatest dreams, and value the greatest values, humanity does have a downfall. ...read more.


After basically saying that a man who is too scared to take action is a beast (4.IV.35), he continues on a course of self degradation. Hamlet then says,"A thought which, quartered, hath but one part wisdom ever three parts coward" (4.IV.40). Thus, for every thought that he comes across, they are one fourth human wisdom and three parts instinctual fear, and to Hamlet, fear is three times as powerful as wisdom is. Also, at multiple points in the soliloquy, Hamlet lists the virtues of man held by no other creature such as "strength", "will", and "large discourse", but they all go unused. He recognizes himself that a possible reason for this is "bestial oblivion" (4.IV.35). In summary, the demise of Hamlet or all humans is not his lack of intelligence, willpower, or strength, but the reversion to primal emotion. While Hamlet was ruined by the wrath of fear, Laertes is set under the commanding influence of the predatory desire for flesh. At first, Laertes was interested most in avenging his father's death, but as human emotion gave way to the need to kill, his courses of action changed. Claudius, who proved to be very keen in his observance of Laertes' downward spiral, fabricates a story about a Norman fighter who told him how adept Laertes was with the rapier. ...read more.


The deceptions that involving withholding information does not work out such as both instances of Polonius hiding behind a curtain. Also, Claudius' attempt to use Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as spies is quickly recognizable. All of these attempts can be characterized as man using wit to overcome another's mind. Unfortunately, the mind is not the vulnerable part of the human, instinct is. Two successful ploys, Hamlet's mouse trap and Claudius' ability to coerce Laertes to do his dirty work both play off of this notion. They assail the human where he is most weak, and end in triumph. Humanity has achieved greatness far beyond any other group to inhabit the Earth. Technology, society, intelligence, and understanding may be the qualities that have given us a new level of existence, but no matter to what heights they take us, we are still but another species of animal with all the same instincts and flaws. In essence, that is what makes humans human. We are vulnerable to that which our minds cannot explain. Shakespeare recognizes this, and in his celebrated play, Hamlet, this message is broadcasted loud and clear: that humans do indeed have an Achilles heal. We truly are no different than anything else that lives. ...read more.

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