The complexity and workings of Hamlet’s mind is an issue that scholars and critics have mused over for many years. Hamlet has so many conflicting emotions and feelings, which he expresses within the soliloquies. This makes him very difficult to comprehend. In contrast to this however Hamlet can read other people very well and because of this he considers himself, who he cannot understand to be a mental outcast. As the play starts we find Hamlet brimming with mixed emotions and considering suicide because it appears to him that the world is “an un weeded garden” ruled by things “rank and gross in nature”.Order now
He is frustrated that he cannot escape his miserable existence, as this would condemn him in the eyes of God. However the nature of the character of Hamlet is thus that we doubt whether or not he would go through with it even if God had not “fixed his canon ‘gainst self-slaughter”. It is likely that this is just another excuse, as we go through the play we see that Hamlet is a great procrastinator, always coming up with excuses for not taking action. Hamlet’s gloomy perception of the world branches from the suspicious death of his father and the hasty remarriage of his mother to his uncle Claudius.
Hamlet is outraged that his mother has not, in his eyes sufficiently mourned the death of his father. He sees her as weak for marrying his uncle with what he considers to be “most wicked speed”. Driven by great frustration and anger he exclaims, “Frailty, thy name is woman” tarring the whole of womankind with the same brush as his mother. This is an example of Hamlet universalising his problems, similar to him referring to the whole world as an unweeded garden when in fact as far as he knows it is really just his own life that has such problems.
He draws comparisons between his father and his uncle, Claudius a “satyr” compared to the mighty “Hyperion” that his beloved father was. He harbours suspicions that his uncle had feelings for his mother before his father passed away and tries to distance himself from Claudius by calling him his “father’s brother” instead of his uncle. Hamlet makes lots of references to the short time span between his fathers death and his mother’s remarriage “But two months deadâ€¦within a monthâ€¦A little month” this suggests that it is playing upon his mind very much.
Because of the inconsistent rantings of Hamlet it would appear that he is exaggerating the time passed the true amount we cannot be sure of This is an early pointer that maybe the unfortunate circumstances that have befallen Hamlet have done some deeper damage to his mental well being. Hamlet is informed that his father’s ghost has been seen, all in arms stalking around the castle gates but he decides that he should see this apparition with his own two eyes before taking any further action. He needs more evidence and is confident that truth will out.
After Hamlet has met the ghost he is very mixed up. He had harboured thoughts previously that some foul play was involved in his father’s death and refers to his “prophetic soul”. His exclamations “Oh earth! ” indicate internecine conflict in his mind. It would go against his personal ideology to murder somebody, but his society firmly believes in avenging deaths. As only then can his father’s soul be at peace. In his passion he rashly swears to avenge his father, that he will clear his mind of all thought but killing Claudius.
This, however, is doubtful as it would be very unlike Hamlet indeed impossible for him not to ponder upon other matters and lend his mind to one sole cause. Hamlet however does not make good his rashly sworn oath and we find him again equivocating. He criticises his own indecision calling himself a “rouge” deeming himself untrustworthy as he cannot even trust himself to carry out actions he has sworn upon. He is a “peasant” the lowest of the low; good for nothing. However at the root of such self criticism is self pity.
Hamlet mourns that no-one could ever understand the workings of his mind. Comparing himself to an actor in the court he finds further grounds to criticise himself. The actor who can show such passion, such anger such sorrow! All for Hecuba, who isn’t even real! Hamlet considers what the manner of the player would be if he had “the motive and the cue for passion” that he has. “He would drown the stage with tears! ” Hamlet imagines he would scream out to the whole world this mighty injustice and horrify all.
All these passionate actions Hamlet is considering; he loves them, he loves the drama of them, the sheer tragedy of it all. He can imagine himself doing them. He can see himself screaming wild eyed thrashing the air with his arms making known to everyone his suffering. But then Hamlet is brought firmly back down to earth. The iambic pentameter is broken with his trailing comment “Yet, I” this is the transition in his mind between considering the actor and himself. He sees the romantic actions he considered in his head smashed against the rocks by the waves of his own weakness of spirit.
He calls himself a “John-a-dreams” a ‘wishy-washy’ individual who cries to him self of injustices but never has the “gall” to act upon his own words. If he were a stronger man then the birds would be feeding off that foul “slave” Claudius’ “offal”. Thinking of his treacherous uncle spurns Hamlet into a fit of rage against Claudius. But he stops himself, seeing that he is just doing it again. Unpacking his heart with words “like a whore”. However from this deep well of despair and criticism there forms an idea in the troubled mind of Hamlet. He will get the actors to act out a scene similar to his father’s death.
He will observe Claudius’s reaction and from this determine whether or not he is guilty of the murder. Then he will have grounds firm enough. Still even after all this Hamlet is looking for more evidence! So much for his prophetic soul! Hamlet ends the soliloquy quite pleased with him self impressed by his own cunning. This is a shocking contrast to his mood at the beginning of the soliloquy and demonstrates Hamlet’s inconclusiveness. Later Hamlet again considers suicide. He wonders why anyone would choose to reside in this cruel world we live in.
He questions the whole point of existence “to be or not to be, that is the question” Should he continue this tortured existence? Or “take arms” against his troubles and “by opposing them end them”. He repeats “to die, to sleep” almost wistfully but at the same time with all the cogs and gears whirring round inside his head. He worries that he as he dreams of his woes in his normal sleep he might dream of them in this eternal sleep. He reasons that the only reason that people, “bear the whips and scorns of time” is the fear of the “undiscovered country” that lies upon the other side.
People would rather stay with the problems they have here then to fly to new ones. He concludes, “such conscience does make cowards of us all”. His negative view of the world lends itself to his reasoning here and yet again any chance of Hamlet acting upon his thoughts are strangled by thinking too deeply into the matter. Later this disposition of thinking too deeply into matters is shown again very clearly. Hamlets spies Claudius alone kneeling praying. Immediately Hamlet is ready to take action to finally avenge his father.
But then he begins to procrastinate. He considers the circumstances, what if Claudius is praying for forgiveness? He would be sending him straight to heaven. What kind of a punishment is that for a murderer? This is a plausible excuse; it is definite that Hamlet would want Claudius to suffer for what he has done. But again considering the character of Hamlet would he have the guts to do it anyway? It’s ironic that no matter how much Hamlet hates his Uncle he can’t bring himself to kill him. Hamlet is frustrated again at his own unwillingness to act.
He is determined to suppress his thoughts and declares, “My thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth” We have heard similar oaths before though. He has finally realised that the only thing that has stopped him acting is his own self-analysis. This is the final soliloquy and it seems as if now finally there is a chance that Hamlet will act. All his complicated feelings and thought are now united under his hatred for Claudius. In conclusion we can see clearly that Hamlet is a very deep thinker and because of this very unlikely to ever take action.
However, in contrast to this he can be very inconclusive during fits of passion making rash promises. Both of these factors lead to him being very self-critical. He looks back and sees the unfulfilled promises he has sworn and thinks himself pathetic. He thinks that if anyone else was in the same situation they would have killed Claudius long ago; this is not the case. Hamlet’s indecision, his frustration and his pains are universal. Everyone can relate to them even if their father wasn’t King and hasn’t been murdered by their uncle!
He compare himself to Fortinbras and how he can invade countries and fight great battles without a second thought whereas he is too weak to even avenge his own father. Hamlet’s situation is very different to that of Fortenbras’s though. It is personal whereas the great warrior’s actions are very impersonal. Hamlet has everything bottled up inside. This leads to a subtle self-pity, which is at the root of his self-criticism. He believes No-one could ever understand him and what he’s going through. This teenage like way of thinking is Hamlet’s downfall.