Hamlet's Lack of Belief Essay

Hamlet's Lack of Belief Essay

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"Hamlet has no firm belief in himself or anything else" (Schlegal) Discuss.

The character of Hamlet in William Shakespeare's play has been an enigma since the birth of the play. His inability to act, and his tendency to over analyse situations leads to the main events of the play. Schlegal is of the opinion that his distress is due to a lack of "firm belief in himself or anything else." Schlegal would appear to predominantly base this view on Hamlet's initial misanthropic and frequently suicidal speeches near the beginning of the play. Lines such as, "O that this too solid flesh would melt, thaw and resolve itself into a dew" certainly indicate a lack of optimism, as do his views upon the world in his first soliloquy, "How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world." He considers Earth to be like "an unweeded garden that grows to seed, things rank and gross in nature."

Hamlet is disgusted with his mother about her instant betrayal of his father's memory by marrying Claudius so hastily, and this compounds his propensity towards depression and doubt even prior to his knowledge of the ghost. Schlegal has a small basis for his critique in this sense. However, it cannot be denied that Hamlet's Christian belief in God over rides all of his actions throughout the play. He expresses the complaint, "O that the Everlasting had not fixed His canon `gainst self-slaughter. O God..." Obviously then, Hamlet possesses an avid belief in God, substantially contradicting Schlegal's argument, and this is just at the beginning of the play. Throughout, there are numerous biblical references made by Hamlet including one in which he compares a skull to "Cain's jawbone." The most significant example of how Hamlet is co...


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...here one might have cause to agree with Schlegal's view, by the end, there is no doubt that Hamlet believes in much, although as yet, it could still be said that he doesn't appear to believe in himself. In the final act though, act 5 scene 2, Hamlet prepares to duel with Laertes, and feels a premonition that he is about to meet his death. He continues however, saying "there is providence in the fall of a sparrow...the readiness is all." He plainly believes in himself at this point, seeing that in the duel ahead, he will shape the future of Denmark. It might have become apparent already then, that really, apart from the beginning of the play, Schlegal appears to be quite obviously incorrect in his claim. Hamlet may have initially seemed devoid of belief in anything, but "there's a divinity that shapes our ends" and Hamlet learns this through the course of the play.

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