Of all the characters in the play, Hamlet by William Shakespeare, the character of Hamlet is without a doubt the most complex. His emotions are never stable, his feelings are constantly changing, and his behavior is confusing and inconsistent. Hamlet is described as "a half a dozen characters rolled into one" (Shaw 344) and with as many adjectives in one sentence as "cruel, angry, tender, depressed, clownish, manic, and filled with loathing for women, humanity, life, and himself" (Epstein 329). When put into perspective, however, perhaps this harsh description of Hamlet is justified. With all he has had to deal with (apparitions, deaths, deceit, and interference in his personal life,) it would be very odd if Hamlet's personality and beliefs did not fit the description above.
Hamlet is also thought to possess a melancholic temperament. According to the Elizabethans, a melancholic temperament was marked by its instability. The melancholic person, in this case Hamlet, is prone to sudden bouts of nervousness along with other sporatic mental changes. Also, Hamlet is subject to an erratic type of demeaner characterized by extreme and spontaneous mood fluxuation (Bradley 100). It has been said that melancholy accounts for Hamlet's inaction since the immediate cause of that is feelings of apathetic discouragement. The body is simply inert, and thus not prone to act (Bradley106).
Hamlet, due to such melancholy, can also be deemed fickle in that he goes from one emotion to the next. He goes from mad to lucid such as when he exhibits calmness and content behavior when in his dear friend Horatio's presence to downright cruel and crude when he is in his once beloved Ophelia's presence. One minute ...
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...Leonora, and Laura Rozakis. Monarch Notes: William Shakespeare's Hamlet. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1997.
Clemen, W.H. Quote. Literary Companion to British Authors: William Shakespeare. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1996. 113.
Epstein, Norrie. The Friendly Shakespeare. New York: Penguin, 1993.
Freud, Sigmund. Quote. Ed. Norrie Epstein. The Friendly Shakespeare. New York: Penguin, 1993. 349.
Gibson, Mel. Quote. Ed. Norrie Epstein. The Friendly Shakespeare. New York: Penguin, 1993. 336.
Harbage, Alfred. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. New York: Penguin, 1957.
Literary Companion to British Authors: William Shakespeare. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1996
Mehl, Dieter. Shakespeare's Tragedies: An Introduction. New York: Cambridge, 1986.
Shaw, George Bernard. Quote. Ed. Norrie Epstein. The Friendly Shakespeare. New York: Penguin, 1993. 344.
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