Hamlet, the Existentialist

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Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a tragic play about murder, betrayal, revenge, madness, and moral corruption. It touches upon philosophical ideas such as existentialism and relativism. Prince Hamlet frequently questions the meaning of life and the degrading of morals as he agonizes over his father’s murder, his mother’s incestuous infidelity, and what he should or shouldn’t do about it. At first, he is just depressed; still mourning the loss of his father as his mother marries his uncle. After he learns about the treachery of his uncle and the adultery of his mother, his already negative countenance declines further. He struggles with the task of killing Claudius, feeling burdened about having been asked to find a solution to a situation that was forced upon him.Death is something he struggles with as an abstract idea and as relative to himself. He is able to reconcile with the idea of death and reality eventually.

Hamlet appears to be a rather philosophical character. He is skeptical and expresses views that nowadays can be described as existential and relativist, but those terms did not exist in Shakespeare’s time. Existentialism analyzes existence and the way humans appear to exist in this world. It is concerned with the individual; finding oneself and finding a meaning to life by one’s own measures.That is exactly what Hamlet is going through. Presented with the jarring conflict of avenging his father’s death, Hamlet finds his meaning to life shortly before dying himself among others tangled in this mess. He was tasked by the ghost of his father to kill Claudius in an act of vengeance, which would be considered noble (though in this case, it is a regicide avenging a regicide; treason for treason). The ideals of society demand that he...

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.... Life is typically lived by deception and death is something we do not understand and thusly try to ignore. Life is chaotic and has only the meaning you apply to it. Once suspended in that false order, Hamlet finds himself facing the true chaotic nothingness of life and death after the murder and betrayal of his father. The ghost of king Hamlet requests the societal norm of vengeance and prince Hamlet finds himself wrestling with the whys and hows of this plot. He is able to see that society is built upon falsities. ‘Noble’ action is a constructed notion and relative to each person. He comes to accept the idea of death and faces it.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2009. Print.

"Existentialism: A Philosophy." All About Philosophy. N.p., 2012. Web. 22 Feb 2012. .
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