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Character of Hamlet.

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Introduction

Character of Hamlet "Wer gar zu viel bedenkt wird wenig leisten" -Schiller " He who reflects too much will accomplish little" It is impossible to attain completeness in the assessment of any one's character and more so in the case of Hamlet's, for its note are complex and mysterious. But on rigorous study, Hamlet's character can be described though partly but adequately by the above quote. 'Hamlet' is the most famous, the most popular play in the English language. But to quote T.S.Eliot -"So far from being Shakespeare's masterpiece, the play is most certainly an artistic failure.... And probably more people have thought Hamlet a work of art because they found it interesting, than have found it interesting because it is a work of art. It is the "Mona Lisa " of literature." "The grounds of Hamlet's failure are not immediately obvious."T.S.Eliot in his essay "Hamlet and His Problems", says this and after his analysis he concludes that in order to understand Hamlet - the play and the character - we need to understand things, which Shakespeare did not understand himself. A similar view is aired by A.C.Bradley who says that the character of Hamlet as one can understand from the play cannot answer several questions which pertain to the logic and rationality of Hamlet's deeds like his idea to pretend madness and in order to get a reasonable answer one must try history where we find the story of Amleth,the Prince of Denmark which inspired Shakespeare to write this "Mona Lisa " of literature. ...read more.

Middle

The entry of Old Hamlet's ghost into Hamlet's life reveals the purpose of living to him. The ghost discloses to him the 'truth' behind the death of Old Hamlet and pleads for revenge. Hamlet at once believes in the disclosure of the apparition and comes to the conclusion that Claudius is the villain: " O villain,villain,smiling,damned villain ! ...That one may smile and smile and be a villain;" (Act I Sc v) He also takes an oath to avenge his father's death in 'writing' " So,uncle,there you are.Now to my word, It is," Adieu, adieu! Remember me:" I have sworn't" (Act I Sc v) To understand why Hamlet requires proof of guilt of Claudius after taking oath to avenge his father's death, we need to consider his mental state at the time he meets the apparition. He detests Claudius right from the beginning. Now punishing Claudius after listening to the apparition (since it is no concrete proof) would mean acting with a prejudiced mind that hated Claudius. Hamlet believes Claudius is the serpent that stung his father, but refrains to be overtaken by a prejudiced mindset. This is an indication of unquestionable wisdom on Hamlet's part. Hamlet has the quality of emancipating himself from personal prejudices , which is rare among humans. Does the instantaneous oath taken by him show that Hamlet is driven by impulses? Yes, Hamlet in fact , according to me acted by the impulse that the revelation of 'truth' brought in him. ...read more.

Conclusion

Because of the great intellectual activity ,he makes things more difficult to execute. To quote Coleridge - "In Hamlet, we see a great ,an almost enormous, intellectual activity ,and a proportionate aversion to real action consequent upon it, with all its symptoms and accompanying qualities. This character Shakespeare places in circumstances under which it is obliged to act ... " "... but he vacillates from sensibility and procrastinates from thought ,and loses the power of action in the energy of resolve."(A.W.V.). The word 'sensibility' here refers to sensibility as perceived by the whole world. Hamlet is essentially a tragic figure. He is a failure (at least in the worldly sense) in life because he fails absolutely in fulfilling the task laid on him ,but fulfilling at appalling and needless cost. And this failure is tragic in highest degree because he is one of whom the highest was hoped. Hamlet knows what he has to do. Though he has the capability of accomplishing the deed, he does it at the cost of his own life and the life of his dear Ophelia. The other six deaths may be, by some means can be held as a retributive justice against them for their own deeds. Except the deaths of king Claudius and 'his' Queen ,all the rest happen due to their involvement with the king. These deaths could have been avoided.But,once the death casts a shadow on someone," the rest is silence". Note: The actual age of Hamlet is in question due to evidences based on various grounds. In my opinion the knowledge of Hamlet's age can help in understanding his complex character to perfection. ...read more.

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