The Central Question of Hamlet

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The Central Question of Hamlet Hamlet's tragedy is a tragedy of failure-the failure of a man placed in critical circumstances to deal successfully with those circumstances. In some ways, Hamlet reminds us of Brutus in Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar." Hamlet and Brutus are both good men who live in trying times; both are intellectual, even philosophical; both men want to do the right thing; both men intellectualize over what the right thing is; neither man yields to passion. But here the comparison ends, for though both Brutus and Hamlet reflect at length over the need to act, Brutus is able immediately to act while Hamlet is not. Hamlet is stuck "thinking too precisely on th' event-". Hamlet's father, the king of Denmark, has died suddenly. The dead king's brother,Claudius, marries Hamlet's mother and swiftly assumes the throne, a throne that Hamlet fully expected would be his upon the death of his father. Hamlet's father's ghost confronts Hamlet and tells him that his death was not natural, as reported, but instead was murder. Hamlet swears revenge. But rather than swoop instantly to that revenge, Hamlet pretends to be insane in order to mask an investigation of the accusation brought by his father's ghost. Why Hamlet puts on this "antic disposition" and delays in killing Claudius is the central question of the play. But Hamlet did not swear to his dead father that he, detective-like, would investigate. Hamlet swore revenge. And he has more than enough motivation to exact revenge. Does it not, think thee, stand me now upon- He that hath killed my king, and whored my mother; Popped in between th' election and my hopes, Thrown out his angle for my proper life, And with such cozenage-is't not perfect cons... ... middle of paper ... ...play that is flawed, not our understanding of it. The central question of the play is, then, a question without an answer if one is seeking the answer within the play. Shakespeare was supposed to supply us with an answer, or at least with a reason why there is no answer. He offers us neither. Instead, this most celebrated of Shakespeare's plays offers us a literary mystery which has captured the attention of all who have come into contact with it. It's time to file the question under "Unsolved Mysteries." But for those who persist in analyzing the plot of the drama, or Hamlet's psychology, or both in order to explain this particular enigma, I suggest that you're looking in the wrong place. Try history. Works Cited *A. C. Bradley, "Shakespeare's Tragic Period-Hamlet," Shakespearean Tragedy, MacMillan and Company Limited, 1904, pp. 70-101

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