Essay MP 1

Submitted By DiannaJeong1
Words: 2733
Pages: 11

Dianna Jeong
AP Literature
12 March 2015
Hamlet and Meursault
The literary pieces, Hamlet by William Shakespeare and The Stranger by Albert Camus, revolve around existential characters Hamlet and Meursault who are put into similar, tragic circumstances. The nature of the characters, leads to different, significant downfalls. Shakespeare’s intent was to tell a classic tragedy caused by a man’s hubris; he gives Hamlet a heroic ending by giving him the means to find his own essence and set him free. Camus on the other hand wanted to show that living life is futile, and that once a man is conscious of the inevitability of death and embraces the fate, he is free. Hamlet and Meursault deal with an existential crisis from the absurdity of life, which leads them to their demise. Existentialism is a philosophy that promulgated in the 20th century. This idea holds that every person exists first and his essence comes later through the way in which he chooses to live his life. This “drives out of this world a god who had come into it with dissatisfaction and a preference for futile sufferings. It makes of fate a human matter, which must be settled among men” (Camus par. 31). To find one’s essence often takes place with the start of an existential attitude: the feeling of agitation and confusion as one is faced with the absurdity of a meaningless world. However, this world is made meaningful through this absurdity as a man creates his own essence and liberates himself. The prominent theme of the absurd brings forth the existential attitudes from Hamlet and Meursault and pushes the plot to a redemptive ending. The play Hamlet begins with the tragedy of Hamlet’s father’s death and his mother wedded to his uncle. He feels great sorrow and disgust in his “weary, stale and unprofitable…/ world” but continues to live because his religion compromises his wishes “that the Everlasting had not fixed/ His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter!” (I. ii. 136-137, 131-132). This despair continues to worsen over time; after he speaks with his father’s ghost, “his consciousness works in terms of Death and the Negation of Cynicism. He has seen the truth… of humanity, of the universe: and the truth is evil” (Knight). Hamlet seeks to avenge his father by the means of killing his uncle-father, but his thoughtful nature and the voice of Denmark, a commandment of his warlike father, leaves Hamlet stuck in an internal battle for his soul. His soliloquy, “Hamlet the scholar says…/ But Prince Hamlet, the soldier-son of a warlike king scoffs at thinking too precisely” causes numerous people to league against him because “they are puzzled by him or fear him” (IV. iv. 38, 48, Knight). His existentialism-filled soliloquys such as “to be, or not to be,” resonates because “they describe so well a certain spiritual region through which most of us have passed and anyone in his circumstances might be expected to pass;” they show us our universe “divested of illusions and lights, man feels an alien, a stranger. This divorce between man and his life, the actor and his setting, is properly the feeling of absurdity” (III. i. 63, Lewis, Camus par. 6). However, Hamlet’s story is not told in vain. When going through his existential attitude, he asks himself:
What is a man,
If his chief good and market of his time
Be but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more.
Sure, he that made us with such large discourse,
Looking before and after, gave us not
That capability and godlike reason
To fuse in us unused.” (IV. iv. 35-41)
He then actively seeks his essence because he was tired of, “longing for tomorrow, whereas everything in him ought to reject it” (Camus par. 10). His first act to find himself is when he sees that his love Ophelia—whom he has been severely rejecting—had died, he jumps into her grave and asserts his identity to Laertes, who claims that Hamlet did not love Ophelia. He says, “This is I,/ Hamlet the Dane” (V. i. 234-235). This proclamation has numerous