Hamlet-identity Crisis

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Shakespeare’s Hamlet is arguably one of the best plays known to English literature. It presents the protagonist, Hamlet, and his increasingly complex path through self discovery. His character is of an abnormally complex nature, the likes of which not often found in plays, and many different theses have been put forward about Hamlet's dynamic disposition. One such thesis is that Hamlet is a young man with an identity crisis living in a world of conflicting values.

An identity crisis can be defined as 'a psychosocial state or condition of disorientation and role confusion occurring especially in adolescents as a result of conflicting internal and external experiences, pressures, and expectations and often producing acute anxiety.' (www.dictionary.com) It was apparent that Hamlet did indeed have an identity crisis because of his conflicting internal and external experiences and the pressures and expectations from those in the Royal Court of Denmark. He endures conflicting internal and external experiences such as the ghost of his father requesting him to exact revenge on Claudius and in doing so contradict all of the morals he has formed. Pressures to accept the dubious marriage of his mother to his uncle, pressure to accept Claudius as the new king and expectations from the court to be emotionally strong in spite of his father's demise and from the ghost of his father to avenge his death by killing Claudius all challenge Hamlet's strength of self. His anxiety is caused as a result of these external pressures.

Hamlet lives in a country of different worlds. At the time, Denmark was in a state of transition between three metaphysical worlds; the heroic world, where a man's honour was foremost, killing was not accepted but expected, might was power, the Machiavellian world, an amoral world where politics and mind games were employed ruthlessly, the ends justified the means, and the Christian world of love and forgiveness. Hamlet was a Christian living in a dying Heroic world which was succumbing to the Machiavellian world. Hamlet's father, King Hamlet, belonged to the heroic world, and so for him revenge was of the utmost importance, shown by the fact that "but two months" (1:2, 136) after his death he returned to instruct Hamlet to avenge his murder. Hamlet's disgust at his mother's marriage to his uncle before "the salt of most unrighteous tea...

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...ing madness to sanity are reminiscent of a bi-polar disorder such as manic depression. It is possible that Hamlet put on his antic disposition to allow himself freedom from the usual constraints and etiquette of the court so that he could use different means to discover Claudius' guilt without being discovered himself. Or his feigned madness may have been a reaction to the stress of his predicament, because in doing so he frees himself from having to make decisions on courses of action and he effectively becomes a spectator in the running of his own life.

Hamlet is a man with an identity crisis because of the conflicting emotions he is feeling and expectations being thrust upon him. His eventual plunge into a state of insanity was a direct consequence of stress. The stress between worlds destroyed his moral base, the actions of his mother and his consequential treatment of Ophelia left him with no 'north point' to follow and his constant changing of moods either caused his crisis or were as a result of losing his way. Hamlet to this day remains a complex character in the centre of perhaps the finest play in the history of the English language.
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