Questions Raised in Hamlet

Published: 2021-07-12 01:55:05
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Category: Hamlet

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It is easy to argue that Hamlet poses a range of important questions, from the nature of life to the human responsibility to act when circumstances promote action. There are as well critical questions about how love should be honored or denied, and where a child’s loyalty should exist. At the same time, the single greatest question is based on Hamlet’s dilemma, voiced in the third Act’s first scene. In the soliloquy, Hamlet explores the questions first noted above, as in the basic value of life itself, which leads him to consider whether a person is obligated to act or, as life may be meaningless, set action aside and take comfort in the shortness of life. There are also several critical turning points, such as the killing of Polonius or the staged play, but none is likely as impactful than Hamlet’s first dialogue with his father, the ghost. In plain terms, everything is set in motion from Hamlet’s shocked learning of his uncle’s murder of the king, and his mother’s complicity in having an affair with Claudius.
Regarding comic elements, they exist throughout the play, and in various scenes and characters, Character, in fact, mainly provides the humor, as in Polonius’s tendency to make pompous speeches, which triggers Hamlet’s comedic teasing of him in the second scene of Act II. Hamlet displays irony and satire in other scenes, but no character is more comic than the one who does not exist: Yorick. At the beginning of Act V, Hamlet makes a great show of affection for the skull he holds as the remains of the court jester. Like much of the humor in the play, this is dark comedy; it does not lighten the mood so much as it reveals other, tragic aspects of the play. Still, it is essential that it run through the play, because a tragedy with no comedy at all is too intense and too monotonous.
In a very real sense, Laertes is as tragic a hero as is Hamlet. Plainly, the prince has wronged him horrifically, killing his father and causing Ophelia’s death. Laertes is also the antithesis of Hamlet. The latter consistently hesitates to act, even to the point of “testing” what the ghost of his father has revealed to him. Laertes, conversely, is a man of action. Moreover, it is unjust to consider him as a villain, despite his participation in the contrived duel and his willing use of a poisoned sword instead of a prop. The intent and action are extreme, but it is reasonable that any decent man, facing the one responsible for the deaths of those closest to him, would act in this way.
Lastly, the issue of Hamlet’s nobility of character is problematic. He does possess some virtue, in that he has the inquiring mind of a scholar and a humanist. At the same time, however, and as evident in his confrontations with both Gertrude and Ophelia, there is a weakness in him. When, in Act III, Ophelia expresses her shock at the changes in Hamlet, the emphasis is on the contrast between the beautiful, noble man she knew and the one now so strange. However, Shakespeare is not confirming any truth here, and because it seems very unlikely that Hamlet, even prior to the ghost’s news, was ever so consistent, caring, and fine a character. The Hamlet that hesitates and dismisses the concerns of others cannot be an entirely new creation, and the reader/audience has the sense that, before the traumatic events, he was most likely “playing the role” of the prince in love. This is reinforced simply because, had he any real feeling for Ophelia, he would not have humiliated her as he does. If noble at times, then, there is ample reason to believe that Hamlet’s essential character is not truly noble at all, no matter how he is tortured by ideas of right and wrong.

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