Scarlet Santiago – Acclaim Magazine
HOW WE READ THE ENDING OF THE PLAY HAS SIGNIFICANCE ON HOW WE UNDERSTAND THE PLAY AS A WHOLE
OF COURSE the ending of a play is always the most impressionable part of the play. It can be – or not be – the deciding factor as to whether it will remain memorable or seep into the deep dark ether of bad playwriting and try-hard wannabe Shakespeare’s. Now, the ending of Shakespeare’s revenge tragedy play ‘hamlet’ most definitely has significance on how we view the play as a whole because it brings about questions that we, in our post modern secular world would call existential qualms, about the nature of being and essentially – why do we do this if everything ammounts to nothing and life goes on? Shakespeare’s play is hence, undoubtedly about the tensions between free will and providence and the ways in which human beings play a role in shaping their personal fate.
The cognitive ebb and flow theory.
Shakespeare’s revenge tragedy play ‘Hamlet’ undoubtedly explores the ideas of providence and free will and remains relevant to today’s post modern secular world, as it examines human flaws which, despite shifts in contexts, and have remained relevant to society of today. Arguably, the ending of Shakespeare’s play has great significance on how we view the play as a whole as it allows us to gain an insight into the ways of thinking during the Elizabethan context. Shakespeare clearly explores the notion of free will through the characters of Hamlet and Claudious through the linguistic form of soliloquys. Arguably, Hamlet’s soliloquys embody the renaissance ways of thinking, using language as a tool to depict their inner thoughts in order to convey themes such as free will. The choices made by hamlet, which ultimately lead to his death are all guided by his free will. This is evident when hamlet exclaims “to be or not to be, that is the question” and “Whether tis’ nobler in the mind to suffer/ The slings of outrageous fortune/ Or to take arms against the sea of troubles.” Here, Shakespeare articulates the notion of free will and choice through an ambivalent dialectical tone and emotive rhetoric to allude to the ways in which hamlet exercises his choice to postpone fulfilling his filial duty. Hamlet is often melodramatic and illogical, some critics would argue that hamlet’s inability to act is due to his suffering from uncertainty, however I would argue that it is due to his renaissance humanist moral principles which bring about his moments of pause and consideration.
A mind in turmoil
Bishop Berkley explores this idea further, suggesting that no sooner do we depart from sense and instinct to follow the light of a superior principle, to reason, meditate, and reflect on the nature of things, but a thousand scruples spring up in our minds concerning those things which before we seemed fully to comprehend, in other words, the more we think about things, the more confused we get. As the play progresses, hamlet exercises his free will and choice when he philosophically contemplates the nature of humanity when he states “what a piece of work is man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable in action, how like an angel… - and yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me…” Shakespeare deliberately uses highly emotive language, religious similies and an accumulative exaltation of mankind to highlight the significance of members of contemporary society and Hamlets view of mankind; figuratively likening humanity to dust, which is emblematic of the decay and hopelessness of man. Or in other words, the consciousness of man being reduced to dust. Arguably, Shakespeare uses hamlets character as a means of commenting on the corrupt nature of the authoritative figures in the feudalistic courts and religious leaders during the 17th century, which would have greatly resonated with audience of the Elizabethan period.