Response to John Jump's Criticisms of Hamlet by William Shakespeare in the Article "Hamlet (Selections)"
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Upon reading the sampling of "Hamlet" criticisms in John Jump's "Hamlet (Selections)" I disagreed with a few of the critics, but my analysis was the most different from Wilson Knight's interpretation. He labels Hamlet as "a sick, cynical, and inhumane prince" (Jump, 124) who vitiated a Denmark which was "one of healthy and robust life, good-nature, humor, romantic strength, and welfare." In his book, The Wheel of Fire, he continues this line of thought to conclude that Claudius is "a good and gentle king, enmeshed by the chain of causality linking him with his crime. And this chain he might, perhaps, have broken except for Hamlet" (Jump, 125).
Although Knight's views of Hamlet and Claudius are almost the extreme opposite of my interpretation, I understand how he developed this interpretation. Hamlet becomes sick and cynical after the death of his father, whom he greatly admired, and the hasty remarriage of his mother to his uncle. Hamlet thinks his father was an "excellent king," who loved his mother so much "that he may might not beteem the winds of heaven/ Visit her face to roughly" (I, ii, 140-141). However, his mother mourned for "a little month" and then she married a man who was "no more like [his] father/ Than [he] to Hercules" (I, ii, 153-152). These extraordinary events cause him to launch into a state of melancholy and depression in which he desires "that this too too solid flesh would melt" (I, ii, 129). In this melancholy, Hamlet loses becomes disenchanted with life, and to him the world seems "weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable" (I, ii, 133). Later in the most famous of his soliloquy's, Hamlet contemplates committing suicide because he is troubled by "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" (III, i, 58). His disinterest for life, and his wishes for death are a definite indications of Hamlet's sickness.
Hamlet's sickness is also shown through his strong relationship, bordering on obsession, with his mother. Throughout the play he constantly worries about her, and becomes angry when thinking of her relationship with Claudius. In his first soliloquy, Hamlet becomes enraged when he thinks about her "incestuous sheet," and in frustration he makes the irrational generalization that, "Frailty, thy name is woman!" (I, ii, 146). In the closet scene, Hamlet treats his mother cruelly, and he accuses her of being involved in the plot to kill his father. Once again, he dwells on her "enseam'd bed/ Stew'd in corruption" (III, iv, 92-93).