Category: Analysis
Character Analysis of William Shakespeare's “Hamlet”

“Hamlet” by William Shakespeare is one of the most influential and powerful tragedies in the world literature. The tragedy was one of the most popular works during the author’s lifetime. However, it still remains to be the one of his most-performed plays on the theatrical stage. The play portrays the entire spectrum of madness and analyzes various themes, such as revenge, treachery, moral corruption, and incest. The depth of characterization and structure of this work have caused great critical debates. There is an ongoing century-old dispute around the reason of Hamlet’s hesitancy in killing his uncle Claudius. Some critics see it as a plot tool in order to prolong the action. The others see complex ethical and philosophical issues regarding the calculated revenge, cold-blooded murder, and thwarted desire. That is why it is crucial to analyze the main character of the play, Hamlet, in order to fully comprehend the meaning of the story.

Everyone would agree that Hamlet is enigma. It does not matter how much time one spends studying this character, the truth does not emerge. This is a great Shakespeare’s achievement, because he represents the main character as a multidimensional human being. Thus, every person understands him in a certain personal way. The mystery is in his variability. As with real people, the understanding of literary characters depends on what one brings to the investigation. Hamlet is so complete as a character that he may resemble one’s relative or friend. He is different each time one meets him, and he always surprises the readers. The reader is never tired of the intrigue and mystery. Hamlet may seem as a perfect rebel in self-imposed exile from the society. At the same time, he is a people’s hero, a complimented champion of Denmark. He is depressed, dejected, brooding, enthusiastic, manic, and angry. He is a man who hates himself and his fate, as he sometimes has suicidal thoughts. Yet, Hamlet is an existential thinker who considers that life has to be dealt on one’s own terms.

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Throughout the play, Hamlet seeks revenge after his father’s death. He hesitates in the murder of his uncle, because he is afraid to make the wrong decision. That is why Shakespeare chooses to portray the death of Hamlet’s father in the play. The reaction of Claudius would give the truth away. Even when the uncle’s behavior reveals him as a murderer, Hamlet does not immediately take a step. He is held back by the excessive consideration of beliefs and religious morals. He fears to complete his knowledge with action. This indecisiveness accompanies Hamlet through a large part of the play. Only after returning from his voyage to England, he manifests an intention of immediate revenge on his uncle. Religious reasoning represents a hindrance to Hamlet in taking actions (Moody n.pag.). Such notions as afterlife and its quality occupy his mind. Contemplations about suicide show a struggle within Hamlet. Yet, he decides that it is better to continue living than go to hell after committing suicide. This is why he wants to carry out his vengeance in a moral and accepting way. Killing Claudius is impossible within these morals. Hamlet’s indecisiveness stems from this form of consideration.

Hamlet has a great experience in manipulating and twisting words. His dissertations on ambitions tangle his friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. He turns their observations around, so they start to worship beggars more than their King. This is how he persuades them to search Polonius’ body. He openly scoffs Polonius using word plays. He constantly altercates with Claudius who recognizes Hamlet’s intelligence, but he is never smart enough to defend himself against this wit. At the same time, words represent Hamlet’s prison. He examines and analyzes all the aspects of his situation which causes him to be indecisive. He sports his own wit and becomes entangled in his own judgments. There is a certain frustration in the burning desire to be a man as his father Hyperion was. The mystery of the character disappears in this nuance. Hamlet is unable to avenge his father’s death, as he is under the control of his words and thoughts.

Hamlet’s sexual identity is another topic that amuses the readers. The love to his mother appears to be an odd one. He has an unnatural love for his mother based on the psychoanalytic profile of his character. He does not tolerate the incestuous relationship between his mother and his uncle and clearly hates Claudius. It is up to the interpreter to decide whether jealousy provokes his hatred. The obsession towards his mother may also affect his inability to love Ophelia. Hamlet’s issue in love life may result from his Puritanical nature. He is strongly puritanical about sex and love. While observing his behavior, one can easily say that Hamlet clearly loathes women (Grazia n.pag.). His distaste for sexual activity may act as an equal factor, as the desire to be with his mother, considering Hamlet’s hatred to Claudius’ and Gertrude’s relationship. One may assume that he is terrified of women; he may be a classical misogynist terrified of love. While verbally abusing Ophelia, Hamlet uses sexual subtext and mockery. For instance, he stimulates her to go to a nunnery.

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Another issue surrounding Hamlet’s character is his madness. It may be his tragic flaw, or he may simply pretend to be mad. There is also no certain answer to his actions. Hamlet may have the same arrogance that killed all of the other tragic heroes. He supposes he has a right to decide who should be punished and who should be forgiven. It is a god complex, if a person determines who should live and who should die. If one looks at Hamlet from this point of view, than his father’s ghost does not represent a real phenomenon. It may simply be a manifestation of Hamlet’s own conscience. Thus, there arises the question, if Hamlet is a tragic hero at all. This type of person has great power and flaws. His set of qualities will overthrow him into the abyss sooner or later, with all the people around. Hamlet does not have apparent strengths, yet, he certainly takes everyone with him when he falls.

In conclusion, Shakespeare represents the main character as a multidimensional human being. He is different each time one meets him, and he always surprises the reader. Hamlet has a great experience in manipulating and twisting words. At the same time, the words appear to be Hamlet’s prison. He is torn between the fundamentals of morality and the desire to avenge. It remains a mystery whether madness is his tragic flaw, or he simply pretends to be mad. This character heavily contributes to the main ideas of the story, such as the revenge and struggle to be a worthy son of his father. While Hamlet suffers from thinking too much, which causes indecisiveness, he finally succeeds in overcoming this flaw. Hamlet is depressed, manic, brooding, enthusiastic, dejected, and angry. He is a man who hates himself and his fate. Yet, he represents a classical tragic hero who eventually destroys his life and everyone who surrounds him. Hamlet is a hero, because, as everybody else, he is at once both trapped and confused by the endless dilemmas that appear in everyone’s minds.

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