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Hamlet: Emotions of Despair, Sadness, Anger, and Inner Peace

 

 

        The character of Prince Hamlet, in Shakespeare's "Hamlet," displays

many strong yet justified emotions. For instance, in Hamlet's "To be Or Not

To Be" soliloquy, perhaps one of the most well known quotes in the English

language, Hamlet actually debates suicide. His despair, sorrow, anger and

inner peace are all justifiable emotions for this troubled character.

 

        Hamlet's feeling of despair towards his life and to the world

develops as the play moves on. In Hamlet's first soliloquy he reveals that

his despair has driven him to thoughts of suicide; "How weary (horrible) …

His law 'gainst self slaughter." Likewise, when Hamlet talks to his friends,

Rosenerantz and Guildenstern in Act 2 scene 2, Hamlet wishes they tell the

King and Queen that he has "lost all mirth," in this world so "foul and

pestilent." In his "To be or not to be" soliloquy, he expresses his despair

through thoughts of suicide, suggesting that suicide is an easy way to end

life's conflicts. But luckily he concludes that the fear of an unknown

afterlife is what keeps us living. All of Hamlet's thoughts of despair can

be understood when one looks at the horrible conflicts Hamlet goes through.

 

        Sorrow, perhaps the most evident emotion, is very well developed

throughout the play. Initially, the only cause of Hamlet's sorrow is his

father's death. However, after reading Act 1, scene 2, we see in Hamlet's

asides that another source of his melancholy is his mother's hasty marriage

to Claudius, the new king of Denmark. Further, when Queen Gertrude asks her

son why his father's death "seems" so important, he replies, "Seems, madam?

Nay it is. I know not 'seems'." In addition, Shakespeare reveals another

source of sadness; now Hamlet is alone, with the most loved character in

his life, Ophelia, rejecting him. This cause is well brought out in

Hamlet's soliloquy in which he states; "Now I am alone. O, what a rouge and

peasant slave am I!" Finally, when Hamlet discovers that Ophelia has died,

new reasons for Hamlet's extreme feelings of sorrow are added. In fact, his

sorrow is so great that "Forty thousand brothers/Could not (with all their

quantity of love) Make up my sum." Thus, Hamlet's well developed sadness,

is reasonable throughout the play. Unfortunately, Hamlet's thoughts of

mourning are replaced by those of anger.

 

        Most readers of Hamlet agree, to some extent or another, that

Hamlet is well justified in expressing anger. Perhaps the first incident of

Hamlet's true expression of anger is during his scene with the ghost in Act

1. He states, "I with wings as swift as thought…sweep to my revenge."

Furthermore, in spite of his love for Ophelia, when he discovers she is not

being truthful with him in Act III scene 1, he becomes outraged, dismissing

his love for her. "I loved you once," and then "loved you not."  Thus, "to

a nunnery go."  He continues to abuse the ideas of marriage and womanhood

to Ophelia in his feigned madness until he finally leaves. These attacks on

marriage and womanhood should not have been directed to Ophelia, but rather

perhaps to Queen Gertrude for her incestuous marriage. Following Hamlet's

talk with Ophelia, there is a small play acted out, with the purpose of

determining Claudius' guilt. When Hamlet's doubt is dismissed, he reveals

more thoughts of anger and outrage towards Claudius. "O heart, lose not thy

nature, let me be cruel."  One of the most revealing scenes about Hamlet's

anger can be found where Claudius is praying to absolve his sins. Hamlet,

with his sword drawn, declares that Claudius should die in a state of sin,

not under prayer. His father was killed before being able to ask for

forgiveness and now Hamlet shall do the same to Claudius. Thus, he

concludes hell will be the destination of his uncle's soul. This shows that

not only was he outraged with his father's murder but also that he wasn't

given the opportunity to absolve his sins. Later, in scene 4, we learn that

Hamlet has killed Polonius after mistaking him for Claudius. This

exemplifies his anger toward Claudius and when Gertrude denounces his

murder, he states it's just as bad to "kill a king and marry his brother."

Furthermore, when Hamlet sees Fortinbras risking 20,000 men to revenge a

death, it pushes Hamlet to action. Finally, after the Queen has been killed

by the poison Claudius meant for the Prince, Hamlet takes a very decisive

action and in a fit of justified outrage strikes the king with his sword

while denouncing him. In sum, after having his mother and father killed as

well as his lover die, Hamlet is well justified in expressing his anger.

 

        Throughout the play, among Hamlet's other emotions, the reader

observes a sense of peace within Hamlet. Certainly, after his revenge is

carried out, he is allowed to feel it. When Hamlet says, "Your fat king and

your lean beggar…(are) two dishes, but to one table" he is implying that

death is the great equalizer of all men and no one man can avoid being

placed upon the same 'table' of death. By saying this, we see Hamlet is

losing his fear of death and feels only that he must free the spirit of his

father. Likewise, in Act 2 scene 2, when Hamlet expresses his regret for

his earlier anger towards Laertes in the gravedigger scene and asks Laertes

to pardon his behavior, we see a growing peace within. And perhaps he is

getting ready to "shuffle off this mortal coil."  Moreover, when Hamlet

says "Since no man knows aught of what he leaves what is't to leave

betimes? Let be," He is showing he is prepared for his destiny and that he

doesn't fear death. Finally, upon Hamlet's "deathbed," instead of fearing

death, he is at peace and bids his dead mother farewell. He also asks

Horatio to tell the story of Hamlet's burdens to let Fortinbras, a rival to

the kingdom, rule over Denmark. Therefore, he died in peace, after all

revenge had been fulfilled.

 

        In conclusion, Prince Hamlet develops strong emotions of despair,

sadness, anger and inner peace. With further insight upon the burdens of

his life, we see that these strong emotions are well justified, no matter

how extreme they may seem.

 

 

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