Existentialism 2 Essay

Submitted By Emmakate1228
Words: 1366
Pages: 6

Emma Johns
Professor J. Henderson
PHI 2010
11 March 2015
Hamlet and Existentialism The earlier themes of existentialism often dwell and focus on human beings as individuals and conscious subjects, the senses of nothingness and meaninglessness in human life, and the angst or anxiety and depression which are ever-present in all of our lives. Although existentialism officially emerged around the early and mid 1900s, many authors expressed such ideas centuries before. One such author is William Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s longest piece of work is a tragedy titled Hamlet. In Hamlet, a young prince (Hamlet) struggles with the meaning of his existence while attempting to cope with his father’s death. Throughout the tragedy Hamlet ponders on some serious existentialist thoughts and often shares ideas relating to existentialism. Questions such as “Who am I?” and “To be or not to be?” are similar to those which pervade our own minds. Throughout the entire play, Hamlet sets out to find the answers to these questions. Prince Hamlet is attending a university when he receives word that his father has passed. Upon returning home, Hamlet finds that his mother, Queen Gertrude, has quickly remarried to his father’s brother, Claudius. One dreary night, the ghost of King Hamlet seeks out his son and tells him that his brother Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle and new step-father, had poisoned the king in order to receive his wife and throne. Rather than being blinded by his emotions, Hamlet sets out to find proof that Claudius is guilty before he takes action. Hamlet is often hesitant in the course of action and constantly broods. Rather than acknowledge his intuition, Hamlet uses severe logic, which in the end, causes a delay in his revenge and eventually leads to his demise. Hamlet is a very intellectual being and puts all of his trust in logic at the beginning of the play. Upon encountering his own father’s ghost, Hamlet says, “Let me not burst in ignorance; but tell/ Why thy canonized bones, hearsed in death,/ Have burst their cerements… Say, why is this? Wherefore? What should we do?”(1.4.46-48,57). Hamlet’s brain tells him that the apparition isn’t real, while his heart tells him otherwise. Hamlet sides with his mind and sets about devising a play, ironically titled The Mouse Trap, to validate the ghost’s accusations. Throughout the entirety of the play, the young prince is forced to be the victim of a constant battle between logic and emotion. Eventually Hamlet’s logical exterior peels back layer by layer like an onion to reveal bits and pieces of the tortured young man’s feelings. In his first soliloquy, hamlet acknowledges the absurdity of the world when he says, “How weary, stale, flat, and/unprofitable/ Seem to me all the uses of this/ world! (1.2.136-137). Hamlet’s most famous line perhaps, “To be or not to be” stems from his third soliloquy, To be, or not to be: That is the question: Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And, by opposing, end them. To die – to sleep, No more: and by a sleep to say we end The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to: ‘tis a consummation Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep; To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause. There’s the respect That makes calamity of so long life; For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, Th’oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely, The pangs of disprized love, the law’s delay, The insolence of office, and the spurns That patient merit of th’unworthy takes, When he himself might his quietus make With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear To grunt and sweat under a weary life, But that the dread of something after death (The undiscovered country, from whose bourn