At various times, Shakespeare has been seen by critics as presenting Hamlet as a sensitive poet, unable to endure the cruel pressures of the world, a man driven by sexual desires for his mother and a representative to a corrupt political regime.

Authors Avatar


At various times, Shakespeare has been seen by critics as presenting Hamlet as a sensitive poet, unable to endure the cruel pressures of the world, a man driven by sexual desires for his mother and a representative to a corrupt political regime.

Discuss whether his character changes after he returns from exile

Hamlet has been regarded as a sensitive poet subjugated by passion.  This is projected by his lack of action, decision-making and so displays the image of an indecisive, passive individual, and a romantic incapable of murder.  However, Hamlet has never had to deal with treachery or deception of this magnitude and his is at a loss as to how to handle it.  His father is dead, his uncle, the present King, killed him, his mother has married the murderer, Rosencrantz and Guilderstern aren’t really his friends after all as they have been instructed by the king to spy on Hamlet, Ophelia, Hamlet’s lover, seems to be against him too, but only because her father has instructed her to do so.  All of these factors combine to drive him to not only revenge, but into an all consuming hatred for Claudius.  

The character of Hamlet astounds us with many soliloquies all projecting his subjection of passion.   Throughout the play, Hamlet speaks of seven soliloquies.  These soliloquies all combine, I believe to present Hamlet as a character who is unable to endure the pains of society.  They convey the idea that Hamlet is incapable to act with so much weight being rested upon his shoulders.  Most of this weight has been self-inflicted in his tendency to over meditate ‘which makes cowards of us all’.  The language which Hamlet uses in his soliloquies is extremely wonderful.  They are his poetry, pronounced in blank verse and are sustained by varying rhythms and pace.  

Hamlet, in the first soliloquies is a man fuelled with rage, disgusted by his ‘sullied flesh’ and views the only justice that can be served is no other than death.  Nevertheless, following his exciting himself into deciding upon action, hamlet’s faith in God halts him in proceeding. “Or tat the Everlasting had not fixed/ His cannon ‘gainst self-slaughter” (Act 1 Scene2)

In the second soliloquy, Hamlet’s attitude is the same .  The nature of dilemma has altered “To be or not to be” - deciding whether to live or to die, “to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune … to die, to sleep, perchance to dream ay that is the rub” This summaries the epitome of his struggle.  The words on the page cannot be fought with, without ambiguity they say “what’s better, life or death? Should we put up with the pains of life, or fight back by ending it? It is very tempting- to just sleep and escape all of the pain.  but mentioning sleep reminds me of dreams, and there’s the catch, because how do we know that it will be pleasant over there? The afterlife may be even worse.  That’s why everybody puts up with all of the pains and indignities of life, because we’re afraid that it might be worse on the other side.  And so, if you think about things long enough, you end up doing nothing.”

In soliloquies “O what a rouge and peasant slave am I” and “How all occasions do inform against me” reveal the passionate nature of our main character’s personality.  He is asking himself, poetically, why, when presented with so many opportunities, is unable to proceed with the duty that his father’s spirit has given him, to carry out an act of vengeance.  He is doubting whether he is a good son or not.

The changes in Hamlet’s character that the theatre audience and play reader’s views via the soliloquies can be said to say to present the character as a personality unable to endure the cruel pressures of the world.

Some critics have stated that Hamlet “Seems too intelligent for his own good. He is constantly reading books, and his soliloquies seem to be fraught with profound ideas.  He suffers from an over-intellectualisation.  Keats once said that ‘the dull brain can perplex and retard.’ Hamlet holds a tendency to over meditate things and this is one contributing factor as to why he is killed, and drives Ophilia insane, gets Gertrude killed, and Polonius, and Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern, and Laertes, and Ophilia.  If Hamlet could have acted decisively, seven innocent people would survive the play, and one guilty man go punished. However, others argue that he is a rational person who seeks objective evidence before he carries out his revenge, which does trouble him.  At times he believes that he should just trust his father’s ghost (Protestants believed that ghosts were from hell), but cannot escape the need for proof: real proof. Colton makes the perfect point that Hamlet sees consequences, all consequences, and weighs them, each for their weight and effect, and finally deciding to kill his father’s murderer, “It is not for the sake of honour or revenge, or to preserve the idea of noble royalty, or even out of hatred.  It’s because he can’t live on the same planet as his father’s killer.  it is only  his own soul  hamlet thinks about, and in killing Claudius he finally decides that, somehow, in death, he can go on living.” However in 1736, Thomas Hanmer recognised Hamlet’s procrastination, he explained if Hamlet had not delayed he said ‘there would have been the end of our play.’

Join now!

Some argue that he doesn’t want to take revenge and uses madness as a vehicle of evasion because he wants to disassociate himself from reality- admits to himself that he is a weak coward in Act II Scene II line 585. Hamlet, I believe is not mad or insane.  He constantly reminds us that he adopts this ‘anticdisposition’.  He tells this to Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, his mother and Horatio.  Still the number of betrayals he falls victim to emotionally strains him: Claudius, Gertrude, Rosencrantz, Gulderstern, and Ophilia all betray him.  Every close relationship that he had fell apart, but he ...

This is a preview of the whole essay