The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark Character Analysis: Hamlet In William Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet,” the main character, Hamlet is portrayed without a set position in society as well as in his personal life. Through careful observation the reader is able to analyze the complexity of Hamlets mysterious character. The complexity of Hamlets character is portrayed through one aspect that makes William Shakespeare’s ability to step away from a conventional one-dimension character by utilizing a single character to represent various stages of human complexity.
As the plot develops the reader notes that Hamlet is aware of his evolving character. For example, the reader notes early in the play: ’Tis not alone my inky cloak nor customary suits of solemn black, Nor windy suspiration of forc’ breath, No, nor the fruitful river in the eye, Nor the dejected havior of the visage Together with all forms, moods, and [shapes] of grief, That can [denote] me truly. ” (1. 2. 81-85) Through this dialogue Hamlet insists that he is an individual with many psychological and philosophical facets, though he himself will demonstrate difficulty in understanding and accepting all of his layers.
Throughout the course of the play, Hamlet affirms his complexity and cautions the other characters against reducing him to a single, predictable type. The lesson that Shakespeare conveys, then, is that human beings are both good and bad, and that their complexity should not be negated, but rather explored. In addititon, Hamlet is a character who is very much driven by emotion and impulse. After his father’s ghost reveals his dark secret, Hamlet declares what he will do: I’ll wipe away all trivial fond records, All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past ………………………………………………………………. And thy commandment all alone shall live
Within the book and volume of my brain, Unmix’d with baser matter…. (1. 5. 105-110) Hamlet is able to understand that he is the one who needs to see through his father’s wish, though he curses this responsibility. Hamlet commands Horatio and Marcellus, who witnessed the ghost’s revelation, to avoid acknowledging him, and to swear on his sword to not speak of what they have seen. Once Hamlet has dedicated himself to this singular task of avenging his father’s death, other people find it increasingly difficult to relate to Hamlet because he has become complex in a way that challenges their former understanding of him.
For instance, Polonius finds Hamlet’s responses confusing, and exclaims, “…How pregnant sometimes his replies are! ” (2. 2. 216-217). Polonius goes on to observe that Hamlet’s speech is confusing because he speaks a language that sane people cannot understand. Hamlets character is also obscure and surprising, and, therefore, confounding because he degrades others’ expectations and never reacts with a response that can be predicated about his own emotions or the expectations of other characters.
In addition, it is worth noting that it is not only Hamlet’s curious speech that alienates others. Hamlet’s obsessive pessimism also begins to affect all of his relationships and becomes a large part of who he is as a character. In conversation with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlet insists that the world has become a prison with “Denmark being one o’ th’ worst. ” (2. 2. 248), and he presses the men to explain why they would want to visit him in the place where he feels tormented. Hamlet’s relationship with his mother is also troubling.
Hamlet is justified in questioning her decision to marry Claudius before her husband’s corpse has even cooled, Hamlet is sarcastic and demeaning towards her, provoking her to ask “What have I done, that thou dar’st wag thy tongue / In noise so rude against me? ” (3. 4. 44-45) These brief and often sarcastic interactions with other characters help define Hamlet as a pessimistic character and cause the reader to anticipate that his way of perceiving events will be, almost always, shadowed with this characteristic darkness.
Despite the intensity of his emotion, Hamlet is also thoughtful and almost obsessive with respect to details of all sorts. For instance, although Hamlet believes that Claudius murdered his father, he investigates in depth his suspicion in order to confirm it, and he sets up an elaborate plan that is intended to provoke and bring out Claudius’ guilt. “—the play’s the thing / Where in I’ll catch the conscience of the King. ” he says at the end of Act II, Scene II (553-553). The play that Hamlet arranges is cleverly designed and he guides the players as skillfully as a director with an almost frantic sense of purpose.
He urges the actors to convey the authenticity of their characters, issuing the directive that they should, as stated in the beginning of Act 3 Scene 2: Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you,… ………………………………………………………… Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand, …in the very torrent, tempest, and,… …whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness. (3. 2. 2-8) Still, even his seemingly singular dedication to bringing the play to the stage is not entirely straightforward. Hamlet is deeply conflicted about the choices he is making to avenge his father’s death.
In a moving soliloquy, Hamlet pauses and takes the time to examine his motives and his very character: But I am pigeon-liver’d and lack gall ………………………………………………………. Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave, That I… ……………………………………………………… Must, like a whore unpack my heart with words, And fall a-cursing, like a very drab, a stallion. Fie upon’t, foh! (2. 2. 604-616) In sum, one of the most interesting and compelling aspects of Hamlet as a tragic character is that he is not quite sure who he is and spends the play working on developing a sense of self—a difficult task given his circumstances.
Hamlet is one of the most mysterious characters in any of Shakespeare’s work. Even after careful observation, there is still difficulty in getting a sense of knowing much about Hamlet. In more than one instance he directly states to other characters that there is more to him than meets the eye. When Hamlet speaks he is theoretical and reflective, he often questions things that cannot be answered with any assurance. Aside from this, he constantly acts carelessly and irresponsibly, all of these factors that create Hamlet makes it difficult to really know what he’s thinking.
Clearly, Hamlet is still in the process of learning about his own complex identity, and is struggling with his own acceptance. It was not until the last moments before his death that he built up the courage and anger to finally kill Claudius. These are the very things that make his character so interesting to watch and learn about throughout the play. ? Work Cited Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Eds. Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine. New York; Folger Shakespeare Library, 1992.