Hamlet

This play forms part of the 2013/2014 Grade 11 curriculum.  Student posts will be added once the play is studied; so please check back from time-to-time.

Hamlet’s Humanity

Hamlet, in the play Hamlet by Shakespeare, can be described as a fully-human character. Even with limited exposure to the play, one can immediately identify with Hamlet. Hamlet is the Prince of Denmark, deeply grieved by his father’s death and worsened by his mother’s disgustingly quick remarriage. These events cause Hamlet to show vulnerability, be wracked with emotion, and seek vengeance. Through his experience of these basic human traits, the spectator or reader is quickly drawn into and able to identify with his true humanity.

Hamlet reveals the depth of his vulnerability in his soliloquy in 1.2. 155-162. He does not shy away and hide behind the image of an invincible character but instead shows grief and vulnerability, showing that he is no greater than any other human. “Than I to Hercules” 1.2 156, Hamlet compares himself to the Greek god but in such a way that he puts himself beneath the great Hercules, again emphasizing his humanity. This is so important in the play as it facilitates the development of the viewer’s connection to Hamlet and encourages compassion for Hamlet. This compassion enhances the quality and effectiveness of every line!

A secondary supporting example of Hamlet’s humanity, is his open demonstration of emotion. Immediately in his soliloquy, he allows the reader into his thoughts and feelings. The drama and exaggeration allow for his humanity to shine through. He is no longer a two-dimensional character but a three-dimensional human being, with his own thoughts, and layers of emotion. Shakespeare does this so effectively by using imagery which helps the reader associate personal sensations with the character. A prime example is found in 1.2. 138-140:

“ Fie on’t! O fie! ’tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature Possess it merely. That it should come to this!”

This compares Hamlet’s feelings of corruption and misery in the world to an image of an overgrown, weed-filled garden. In this example, parasitic behaviour thrives and corruption is rewarded, all being very similar to the recent trauma Hamlet has experienced.

In conclusion, Hamlet can not only be recognized as a human-like character, but also a representation of human emotion and functionality. He is to be a reminder of the true ability and effects of imagery. Shakespeare’s use of imagery is what allows each individual reader to relate and grow a complex and layered attachment to Hamlet. All of these factors make Hamlet’s heartbreaking death even more impactful.

Hamlet’s Humanity

Anguish can alter even the soundest parts of one’s humanity. In the play, Hamlet by William Shakespeare, Prince Hamlet, immensely distressed from the death of his father, falls into a heartbroken state, resulting in the eventual madness in the play. Through literary devices such as tone and diction, Shakespeare creates a character that cannot be seen by the reader as fully-human.

In the first lines of the play, it is explicitly clear to the reader that the tone of Hamlet’s soliloquy is of immense anguish, so much as wishing to go against the natural order, “O that this too too solid flesh would melt, / Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew! / Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d / His canon ’gainst self-slaughter!” (1.2 132-135). By aspiring for “self-slaughter” and wishing that his “flesh would melt”, Hamlet reveals his inhuman desires to go against the natural order created by the “Everlasting”, namely, God. Only a few lines further, the tone of the soliloquy has turned from depressed to anger to Hamlet’s mother:As if increase of appetite had grown / By what it fed on: and yet, within a month,— / Let me not think on’t,—Frailty, thy name is woman!” (1.2 146-149). The image of feeding, expressed in the quote exhibits Hamlet’s inhuman thoughts of his mother’s insatiable hunger for power. Similarly, the anger, disrespect, and lack of compassion expressed towards his mother, Queen Gertrude, further shows Hamlet’s lack of humanity. By expressing Hamlet’s juxtaposing emotions of depression and anger in the same soliloquy, Shakespeare creates a tone that is not just one of anguish, but of inhuman madness that continues throughout the course of the play.

By using depressing and controversial diction in Hamlet’s soliloquy in Act 1, Shakespeare further expresses Hamlet’s inhuman disposition. This is exemplified in line 136, “How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable / Seem to me all the uses of this world!” (1.2 136-137). By using melancholy words such as “weary” and “stale”, it becomes clear to the reader of Hamlet’s harsh view of the world. Hamlet further describes the world with revolting diction, “… things rank and gross in nature / Possess it merely.” (1.2 139-140). Hamlet’s lack of joyous words while describing his mother’s marriage show his harsh and inhuman disposition, as seen in the quote, “She married:— O, most wicked speed, to post With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!” (1.2 159-60). Diction such as “wicked” and “incestuous” continue to showcase the cold-heartedness of Hamlet’s nature.

In the play, Hamlet by William Shakespeare, Prince Hamlet, distressed from the death of his father, falls into a heartbroken state, resulting in the eventual madness in the play. Through literary devices such as tone and diction, Shakespeare creates a character that cannot be seen as fully human.

Hamlet can be described as a fully-human character

In this passage from Hamlet (1.2.132-162), Shakespeare uses strong language and figures of speech to portray the titular character as a devastated, anguished young man, and a fully-human character.

Hamlet’s devastation is clearly seen in the very beginning of the passage in the lines, “O that this too too solid flesh would melt, / Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew! / Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d / His canon ’gainst self-slaughter!” (134-135). The repetition of “too too” emphasizes his frustration at his being unable to end the suffering resulting from his father’s death and the lack of decency that humanity inflicts upon him. He wishes that he could cease to exist, without killing himself, and committing a mortal sin. This is a theme that repeats itself throughout the play, notably in another soliloquy, where he wonders whether it would be better “to be or not to be” (3.1.64). While the death of his father is a tragedy, Hamlet seems disproportionately affected, mourning for an extended period of time, and wallowing in self-pity.

Hamlet describes the world as an “unweeded garden”, in which “things rank and gross in nature / Possess it merely” (1.2.138, 139). By this, he seems to mean that everything in the world is devastating, that there is nothing but the foul deeds of petty people, particularly his mother and his uncle. He shows his frustration with his mother in the line “Frailty, thy name is woman!” (1.2.149). He thinks of her marriage to his uncle as an incestuous affair, his disapproval exacerbated by the short interval of time between his father’s death and his mother’s marriage, and the fact that his father and his uncle could not be more dissimilar. Hamlet says “My father’s brother; but no more like my father / Than I to Hercules”, likening himself to Hercules to emphasize the difference.

The emotions Hamlet expresses — frustration, grief, devastation — and despite the fact that they are greatly exaggerated by his self-pity, are ones that make him a very human character.