Hamlet – Psychological Drama

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Hamlet – Psychological Drama

The only characters to soliloquize in Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet are King Claudius and Prince Hamlet, the latter delivering seven notable soliloquies with much psychological content. However, the psychological dimension of others is presented.

In the Introduction to Twentieth Century Interpretations of Hamlet, David Bevington examines the way in which the prince’s mind works – an unhealthful way which does psychological damage to the hero:

Sharing the weaknesses of those he reviles, Hamlet turns his most unsparing criticisms upon himself. The appalling contrast between his uncle and father reminds him of the contrast between himself and Hercules – although when the fit of action is upon him he is as hardy as “The Nemean lion’s nerve.” “We are arrant knaves all,” he warns Ophelia, “believe none of us.” (5)

The psychological aspect of Hamlet which is most prominently displayed is his melancholy. Lily B. Campbell in “Grief That Leads to Tragedy” explains:

If my analysis is correct, then, Hamlet becomes a study in the passion of grief. In Hamlet himself it is passion which is not moderated by reason, a passion which will not yield to the consolations of philosophy. And being intemperate and excessive grief, Hamlet’s grief is, therefore, the grief that makes memory fade, that makes reason fail in directing the will, that makes him guilty of sloth. . . . (95-96)

Hamlet is one “for whom the living things of the world about him embody and symbolize thought” (Clemen 227).His first soliloquy, about his mother, is quite depressing:

Must I remember? why, she would hang on him,

As if increase of appetite had grown

By wha...

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... “The World of Hamlet.” Yale Review. vol. 41 (1952) p. 502-23. Rpt. in Shakespeare: Modern Essays in Criticism. Rev. ed. Ed. Leonard F. Dean. New York: Oxford University P., 1967.

Rosenberg, Marvin. “Laertes: An Impulsive but Earnest Young Aristocrat.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. from The Masks of Hamlet. Newark, NJ: Univ. of Delaware P., 1992.

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995. No line nos.

Wright, Louis B. and Virginia A. LaMar. “Hamlet: A Man Who Thinks Before He Acts.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. from The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Ed. Louis B. Wright and Virginia A. LaMar. N. p.: Pocket Books, 1958.
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