Hamlet: Fate vs Free Will

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At the heart of every great tragedy lies the universal struggle between the human inclination to accept fate absolutely and the natural desire to control destiny (Stockton). Like most of his plays, in Shakespeare’s masterpiece Hamlet one of the prevailing themes centers on the question, “Does fate and providence overrule man’s own choices and decisions?” Throughout the work, the main character Hamlet views Fortune in various differing lights as he plots and plans his revenge. This complex interpretation of Fate’s influence is also shared with Horatio, Hamlet’s most treasured friend. Their assessments seem to waver in different situations, or as they experience something in particular. Fate and Fortune, and Providence in all her ambiguity are all sometimes seemingly bound to the actions of man and other times they are inescapable.
At the start of the play, Horatio and his companions, Bernardo and Marcellus, witness the sudden and frightening apparition of Hamlet’s deceased father, former king of Denmark. The three friends are “[harrowed] with fear and wonder” as they encounter the ghost and Horatio is convinced to attempt conversation it (Shakespeare, I. I. pg. 2). Before engaging the ghost, Horatio recalls the time before “the mightiest Julius fell” when “the graves stood tenantless, and the sheeted dead / Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets.” (Shakespeare, I. I. pg. 4) In that instance, the rising of the dead precipitated the brutal and premature demise of Julius Caesar, a horrible misfortune that rocked all of Rome. Likewise, Horatio sees the parallelism in the appearance of King Hamlet’s ghost concluding that his manifestation must be Fate’s morbid signal of impending doom and disaster (Weller).
When Horatio fi...

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...s to avoid fate, a chain of unexpected unfortunate events are unleashed and a divine master plan is fulfilled. Man must simply act according to his own convictions concerning the matter and hope that if Fate is indeed existent, there might be an even balance between her and the freedom of choice.

Works Cited

Ahlman, Marti. "Hamlet Study Guide." AP English. Calvary Christian School. Georgia, Columbus. 08 Mar 2014. Reading.
Blackmore, Simon Augustine. The Riddles of Hamlet. Boston: Stratford & company, 1917.Shakespeare Online. 2 Aug. 2011. < >.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. London: Dover Publications Inc, 1992. Print.
Stockton, Carla Lynn. CliffsNotes on Hamlet. 02 Mar 2014 .
Weller, Philip. Hamlet Navigator. Shakespeare Navigators, n.d. Web. 2 Mar. 2014.
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