Essay on Hamlet's Grief

Essay on Hamlet's Grief

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"’Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother, / nor customary suits of solemn black / [ . . . ] but I have that within which passeth show; / these but the trappings and the suits of woe” (Shakespeare 1.2.76-73, 85-86) says Hamlet when confronted about his way of grieving over his father’s recent death. Shakespeare’s play Hamlet is a remarkable tale that is centered on the idea of death and grief. While death is a universal occurrence, meaning every person will deal with it, how we grieve after a loss is completely individual. To look at a formula of grief, most turn to the five stages of grief developed by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, a psychiatrist, who studied the topic in her book On Death and Dying. This model consists of denial, anger, sadness, bargaining, and acceptance, although the duration and order of the stages are different for every person. In Shakespeare’s play Hamlet the stages of grief are evident in his sadness, anger, and finally acceptance.
Sadness is the first emotion that is usually related to death. In the play, Hamlet does not try to disguise his sorrow after his father’s murder. This sadness is intermingled with disgust for the others around him who moved on with their grief and criticized him for continuing to mourn. After being criticized by Gertrude and Claudius, Hamlet chooses to talk to open space to reveal his feelings (1.2.129-158). Hamlet clearly shows the sadness in his heart, as well as the idea of bitterness. He continually attacks his mother’s quick grieving: “O God, a beast that wants discourse of reason / would have mourned longer” (1.2.150-151). This sadness continues in his fake madness, seeping into conversations that show his need for escape. In a confrontation with Polonius, Hamlet ends the con...

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...assing on his vote for Fortinbras and requesting that his story be passed on by Horatio (5.2.349, 356-357). This desire to move on shows the acceptance of Hamlet’s faith, and the final stage of the Kubler-Ross model.
Throughout Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, the characters clearly describe the grief they are experiencing through their poetic lines. Using the Kubler-Ross model, the audience can dissect the grief process to better understand Hamlet’s intentions. In the play, Hamlet experiences strong emotions concerning grief, including his examples of depression, anger, and finally, acceptance. The play shows that while the model was created in 1969, the essence of grief has never changed over the years.

Works Cited

Kübler-Ross, Elisabeth. On Death and Dying: What the Dying Have to Teach Doctors, Nurses, Clergy and Their Own Families. London: Routledge, 2009. Print.

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