Hamlet Critical Notes

Submitted By YusufAyd
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Hamlet – Critical Notes
Interest in Drama in created through tension between individuals:
One of the most important elements of Hamlet that make it an interesting play is Hamlet’s conflict as a hero – whether he should avenge his father, or simply abandon his quest through philosophical moralizing.
The demands of Elizabethan society and even our society would be that one should return an eye for an eye, most of our films and drama support this idea of righteous justice towards someone who has wronged us. Initially Hamlet also communicates this idea through the “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.” of the king. From Hamlet himself, he uses strong emotional language to swear that “I’ll wipe away all trivial fond records,” “And thy commandment all alone shall live”, clearly indicating that he knows exactly what is expected of him, and this is his role in the play and his life. What society expects is also shown through the reference to the Chain of Being, through which a false king would lead to the collapse of the natural system. Hamlet describes this in the metaphor, ’tis an unweeded garden, That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature possess it merely…” Using the garden imagery to show that a false king leads to weeds and other unnatural elements in the world. Thus at least initially, there appears to be no conflict, and Hamlet will merely be a revenge tragedy play.
However, the play gets much more interesting when it becomes clear that Hamlet wants nothing to do with revenge, in fact, he is such a philosopher and thinker that he despises what is basically another bout of regicide. The critic Henry Mackenzie agrees with this idea that the play arises from Hamlet’s nature: even the best qualities of his character merely reinforce his inability to cope with the world in which he is placed. Textually, we can see this in the various ways Hamlet forces himself to stop his murder. His doubt, “[the devil] is very potent with such spirits, I’ll have grounds/More relative than this.” Show he is unwilling to simply go out and be a traditional avenger. Furthermore, his continues this idea of him trying to escape fate, “Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell, Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words,” shows that society “heaven and hell” prompt him to go and murder his uncle, but he refuses to simply be a whore of fate – he is going to forge his own destiny. This conflict as a central element in the play can also be seen in Hamlet’s polar opposite. Laertes have his father killed, but gives no two lines about wanting to kill Hamlet – and straight away he dies in the attempt – his demand for “[daring] damnation to be most thoroughly revenged for [his] father.” not only ends his life, but draws Hamlet’s avoidance of his fate to an end, and ends up with all involved dying, and thus formatting the tragedy.
Another way that Shakespeare shows the conflict between society and the individual is through the play within a play dynamic of Hamlet. As a Avenger play, Hamlet is the tragic hero doomed to avenge his father. However, Hamlet as an individual refuses to, and this conflict, the putting off of the murder, is what makes the play philosophical and enjoyable. Unwilling Hero / Fate / Fight against Fate Both arguments are explored with excellent textual integrity by Shakespeare through a multi perspective approach of the conflict between individual and society.
Again, the concept of fate here is central – Hamlet is fated to get revenge, even if it costs him his life. His own self doubt in berating his own inaction such as “How stand I then, That have a father kill’d, a mother stain’d And let all sleep?” Uses rhetorical questions to demonstrate the conflict in his heart. However contrary to popular belief, the Elizabethan perceptions of revenge had shifted from the Old Testament ‘an eye for an eye’ stance, to the New Testament perspective on revenge, ‘Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord’, so it is arguable that