Hamlet's Use of Internal Meditations to Make Sense of Moral Issues in William Shakespeare's Hamlet

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Hamlet's Use of Internal Meditations to Make Sense of Moral Issues in William Shakespeare's Hamlet

Madness fascinated William Shakespeare's contemporaries, perhaps in part because it was still not entirely clear how or when madness as a disease was to be distinguished from demonic possession or spiritual ecstasy. Mad characters were a staple of William Shakespeare's stage and such figures were particularly associated with revenge plays. Hamlet's distraction, then, is notable in part because it is feigned. In Hamlet is the exploration and implicit criticism of a particular state of mind or consciousness. Shakespeare uses a series of encounters to reveal the complex state of the human mind. Critics who find the cause of Hamlet's delay in his internal meditations typically view the prince as a man of great moral integrity who is forced to commit an act which goes against his deepest principles. On numerous occasions, the prince tries to make sense of his moral dilemma through personal meditations.

Hamlet the Actor

Seems, madam! nay, is; I know not 'seems.'

'Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,

Nor customary suits of solemn black,

Nor windy suspiration of forced breath,

No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,

Nor the dejected behaviour of the visage,

Together with all forms, moods, shows of grief,

That can denote me truly: these, indeed, seem,

For they are actions that a man might play: (I ii 130-38)

How is an audience to believe a character who immediately says what he is to be truly mad? Insanity in present-day terms is often noted by denying one's state of mind and self. Yet, Hamlet acknowledges himself constantly and recognizes who and what he is and is doing. Haml...

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... her family are things he cannot live with. Yet as discussed, Hamlet is unwilling to be responsible for his own death. This is why he had to plan his own murder, or rather, manipulate someone else into killing him. He could have allowed Rozencrantz and Guildenstern to have killed him earlier, as a maniacally depressed and insane man would have permitted, yet Hamlet was keen enough to know that it wasn't yet time to die. Though an emotional character, Hamlet's mind is almost continuously collected and exceptionally sane. As a character, he has fulfilled his raison d'etre and therefore cannot exist beyond the limitations he has created for himself. Hamlet lives and dies as a sane, brilliant, scheming character whose capacity for acting, manipulation, and character assessment are beyond compare.

Bibliography:

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Oxford Edition.

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