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Social and Psychological Influences on Hamlet

Satisfactory Essays
Hamlet: Social and Psychological Influences

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the influence of Hamlet’s psychological and social states display his dread of death as well as his need to avenge his father’s death. In turn, these influences illuminate the meaning of the play by revealing Hamlet’s innermost thoughts on life, death and the effect of religion. Despite the fact that Hamlet’s first instincts were reluctance and hesitation, he knows that he must avenge his father’s death. While Hamlet is conscious of avenging his father’s death, he is contemplating all the aspects of death itself. Hamlet’s decision to avenge his father is affected by social, psychological and religious influences.

Once Hamlet has learned of his father’s death, he is faced with a difficult question: should he succumb to the social influence of avenging his father’s death? The Ghost tells Hamlet to “revenge his foul and most unnatural murder” (1.5.31) upon which Hamlet swears to “remember” (1.5.118). Hamlet’s immediate response to this command of avenging his father’s death is reluctance. Hamlet displays his reluctance by deciding to test the validity of what the Ghost has told him by setting up a “play something like the murder of (his) father’s” (2.2.624) for Claudius. Hamlet will then “observe his looks” (2.2.625) and “if he do blench” (2.2.626) Hamlet will know that he must avenge his father’s death. In the course of Hamlet avenging his father’s death, he is very hesitant, “thinking too precisely on the event” (4.4.43). “Now might I do it…and he goes to heaven…No” (3.3.77-79) and Hamlet decides to kill Claudius while “he is drunk asleep, or in his rage, or in th’ incestuous pleasure of his bed” (3.3.94-95). As seen here, Hamlet’s contradicting thought that Claudius “goes to heaven” (3.3.79) influences him to change his plans for revenge. Hamlet eventually realizes that he must avenge his father’s death and states “from this time forth my thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth” (4.4.69). From this, Hamlet has succumbed to the social influence and has vowed to avenge his father’s death.

Hamlet’s psychological influence demonstrates his dread of both death and life. In Hamlet’s famous soliloquy, “To be or not to be” (3.1.64), he refers the “be” to life and further asks “whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” (3.1.65.66). By this, Hamlet is asking himself the question of whether to live or die.
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