Character analysis on hamlet - Essay Example

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The play’s exploration of the human condition in respect to questions of meaning, loyalty, and death continue to have relevance for contemporary society…
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Character analysis on hamlet
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Hamlet: Character Analysis William Shakespeare’s play ‘Hamlet’ is recognized as one of the foremost works in the Western literary tradition. The play’s exploration of the human condition in respect to questions of meaning, loyalty, and death continue to have relevance for contemporary society. While the play’s lasting impact has a variety of reasons, one of its most seminal aspects is the brilliant means Shakespeare develops the characters, with the protagonist Prince Hamlet the most complex. Indeed, T.S. Eliot noted, "We find Shakespeares Hamlet not in the action, not in any quotations that we might select, so much as in an unmistakable tone..." (Eliot, p. 32). This essay is a character analysis of Prince Hamlet.
In examining Hamlet one of the most pervasive understandings is that his character changes throughout the play. Still, there is a general degree of despondency that is clear from the beginning. Consider Claudius when he asks Hamlet, “How is it that the clouds still hang on you?” (Act I, scene ii). This statement indicates Hamlet’s general despondency even before he discovers that his father has been murdered. As the play advances Hamlet is revealed to have further character dimensions including great intelligence and wit. Perhaps the most complex consideration in these regards is the extent that Hamlet is truly insane or faking his insanity. In these regards, it appears that in specific circumstances Hamlet has used his intelligence as a means of concealing his true character. One considers his interaction with Polonius as a strong indicator of this perspective. Still, in other instances, such as his violent outbursts, Hamlet appears to be clearly insane.
Another central aspect to Hamlet’s character is the nature of his unwillingness to act. While early on in the play Hamlet vows to kill Claudius and avenge his father’s death he perpetually refuses to carry out this action. One insight into Hamlet’s character is the argument that he is subject to Oedipal repression. It’s argued, “The call of duty to slay his uncle cannot be obeyed because it links itself with the call of his nature to slay his mothers husband, whether this is the first or the second; the latter call is strongly "repressed," and therefore necessarily the former also” (Jones, p. 74). In these regards, Hamlet is motivated out of love for his mother, yet has psychoanalytically repressed this love so is unwilling to kill Claudius. In other instances, Hamlet appears to be motivated out of a general rational desire to determine Claudius guilt. He has a play performed, noting, “The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king” (Act II, scene ii). Ultimately, it’s clear that Hamlet is subject to a variety of competing impulses and psychological dimensions.
In conclusion, this essay has presented a character analysis of Prince Hamlet. The essay has examined Hamlet’s despondency and psychology. While there are characteristics that are universal for Hamlet throughout the play, it’s clear that he resists easy characterization. Ultimately, it’s argued that Hamlet’s characterization – from his despondency to his insanity and deliberations – is the product of a complex array of competing impulses and psychological dimensions.
Eliot, T.S. The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism. New York Templeton Press. 1971.
Jones, Ernest. ‘The Oedipus-Complex as an Explanation of Hamlets Mystery: A Study in Motive.’ The American Journal of Psychology, Vol. 21, No. 1. (Jan., 1910), pp. 72-113.
Shakespeare, William. "Hamlet: Entire Play." shakespeare. N.p., 2010. Web. 13 Dec 2011. . Read More
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