Hamlet's Softer Side

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Throughout Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the titular character Hamlet acts as an indecisive, histrionic college man, but this personality does not completely characterize him. In many instances, Hamlet proves himself to be an understanding and compassionate prince towards his confidants. Because many of his friends and family have disappointed him, Hamlet puts on a persona that divulges his conflicting nature in which he acts crazy but is really sane. Before Hamlet puts on his fictitious play, he gives an honest speech to Horatio that reveals Hamlet’s most sensitive traits.

Hamlet begins his list of praise by explicitly stating that his following words do not flatter Horatio. Since Horatio “[has no revenue] but thy good spirits/ To feed and clothe thee[,]” Hamlet sees no need to flatter him (III.ii.60-61). In what seems like an insult at Horatio’s poverty, Hamlet actually praises Horatio’s cheerful attitude. Hamlet’s clever metaphor implies that he humbles himself before Horatio’s ability to put on a happy face. This acknowledgement of a positive outlook on life exposes Hamlet’s own demeanor as a fun loving man. Hamlet wishes he could act like Horatio in the same upbeat fashion and conduct himself in his natural behavior unlike his standard pessimistic state.

He continues his masked praise with a jab at courtiers who constantly flatter Hamlet in hopes for a reward. Since Hamlet is a royal prince, he is prone to receive many compliments and bows from people with hidden agendas. To assure Horatio that he means well, Hamlet believes that only the “candied tongue [should] lick absurd pomp/ And crook the pregnant hinges of the knee” (III.ii.62-63). Hamlet’s language illustrates a young child that wants candy and flatters to achieve some an...

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... of the most vulnerable and tender moments in Hamlet’s dialogues.

As Hamlet’s softer image emerges, he adds new dimension to his personality in which he is not only the angry and crazy son but the loving and kind friend. However, Hamlet behaves more maniacally than benevolently in the play, and this speech is only a small portion of Hamlet’s speeches. Hamlet cannot linger in this exposed state and feel “[s]omething too much of this--” (III.ii.76). Although Hamlet pours his heart out to Horatio, the situation becomes slightly uncomfortable, and Hamlet moves on to his big production. These lines reveal more of Hamlet’s personality but also add more mystery as the reader never gets to know this Hamlet for very long. The most interesting part of Hamlet is overlooked and fosters an incomplete picture of Hamlet that is too often emotional and too often misunderstood.
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