Hamlet: Growing PainsIn the epic tragedy Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, Prince Hamlet isentrapped in a world of evil that is not of his own creation. He must opposethis evil, which permeates his seemingly star-struck life from many angles. Hisdealings with his father’s eerie death cause Hamlet to grow up fast. His family,his sweetheart, and his school friends all appear to turn against him and toally themselves with the evil predicament in which Hamlet finds himself. Hamletmakes multiple attempts to avenge his father’s murder, but each fails becausehis father’s murder, but each fails because his plans are marred by very humanshortcomings.
It is these shortcomings that Hamlet is a symbol of ordinaryhumanity and give him the room he needs to grow. The Hamlet that Shakespeare begins to develop in Act I is a typicalmortal, bowed down by his human infirmities and by a disgust of the evils in aworld which has led him to the brink of suicide. Hamlet voices his thoughts onthe issue: O that this too too solid flesh would melt. . . ‘ (I.
ii. 135). Heis prevented from this drastic step only by a faith which teaches him that Godhas fix’d/ His canon gainst self-slaughter’ (I. ii.
131-2). To Hamlet appearshis dead father’s spirit, and he must continue to live in the unweeded garden,/ That grows to seed’ in order to fulfill the obligation he has to his father(I. ii. 135-6).
Making Hamlet more a story of personal growth than a dark murder mystery,Shakespeare emphasizes the emotional, rather than the physical, obstacles thatPrince must face in accomplishing his goal. Immediately, Hamlet must determinewhether the ghost speaks the truth, and to do so he must cope with theologicalissues. He must settle the moral issue of private revenge. He must learn tolive in a world in which corruption could be as near as the person who gavebirth to him.
He also must control the human passions within him which arealways threatening his plans. There are no more sobering issues than thesewhich would catalyze growth in any human. Hamlet’s widely recognized hamartia, or tragic flaw, is his inability tomake decisions on subjects with consequences of any weight. That he is aware ofhis stagnation in such situations does prove to be helpful in defeating thisflaw. After passing up three oppotuities to entrap Claudius in the third act(the nunnery scene on which the king was eavesdropping, during The Murder ofGonzago, the scene in Gertrude’s closet), Hamlet berates himself because of hisindecisiveness: Why (must ) I live to say This thing’s to do; / Sith I havecause and will and strength and means / To do’t’ (IV. iv.
44-46). Hamletrealizes that his strength and opportunity are of no avail until he feelsmorally right in following through on his vengeful task. Looking towardsHoratio as a model of the Christian stoicism he needs to pull himself throughthe play, Hamlet comments on him: . . . thou hast been / As one, in sufferingall, that suffers nothing, / A man that fortune’s buffets and rewards / Hastta’en with equal thanks.
. . . Give me that man / That is not passion’s slave,and I will wear him / I my hearts core’ (III.
ii. 70-79). Hamlet must become likeHoratio. He must learn that evil is a necessary part of the harmonious orderthat God created.
When Hamlet can become impervious to the blows of fortune,his mission will be accomplished. The impending dark period Hamlet must endure is represented by thesympathetic fallacy of the state of nature in Denmark. Francisco notes, ’tisbitter cold, And I am sick at heart’ (I. i.
8-9). This readies the audience forthe appearance of the ghost which will represent the perversion of theharmonious order that Hamlet must restore. Hamlet’s reactions to his father’s questionable death begin to revealhis immaturity. Suffering from an unnatural grief over his father’s death,Hamlet lets his immaturity be revealed when he says the death was a will mostincorrect to heaven’ (I.
ii. 129). As of now, Hamlet has a . . .
heart unfortified,a mind impatient, / An understanding simple and unschool’d’ ( I. ii. 96-97). Heis, therefore, unable to bear the brunt of something tragic as his father’sdeath. Unable to see the god in things, Hamlet views the, world, God’s owncreation, as merely a place of corruption: How weary, stale, flat andunprofitable, / Seem to me all the uses of tis world!’ (I. ii.
133-134). Ittakes a mature man to delve deeper into a particular situation to find some good,and Hamlet can find nothing. Although continuing to be very mentally distraught, a sign of growthoccurs when Hamlet bursts into Opelia’s closet. Ophelia, in relating the sceneto her father, says, He took me by the wrist and held me hard’ ( II.
i. 98). This description of the occurrence proves that he has grown enough since thefirst act to realize that he needs the help of others in order to stay strong. Hamlets short-lived relationship with Ophelia did not fare well, and it diessharply when he finds out she is conspiring against him. A sign of growthoccurs as he shows his willingness to accept the situation as it is.
He says, I never gave you aught’ ( III. i. 96). Not wholly mature at this point, Hamletdoes revert to some immaturity when he makes threats on many peoples’ lives.
Knowing of the presence of the eavesdropping Claudius, Hamlet makes a mistakewhen he declares, I say, we will have no new marriages: those that are marriedalready, all but one, shall live’ (III. i. 153-5). This statement only proves tomake the situation more difficult to Hamlet because it gives Claudius plausiblereason to ship him to England. Later in the play, Gertrude calls her son into her closet for what s tobe a lecture to discourage the pranks’ he had been pulling.
He finallymentions to Gertrude that he believes she had some underlying part in hisfather’s death. She, in turn, is astonished, As kill a king?’ (III. iv. 30). This response corroborates the accumulating evidence of her innocence.
Due toHamlet’s excess of passion during this scene, however, this victory is marred byhis inadvertent killing of Polonius. Now, his the importance of his mother’swell being is heightened. His Christian concern for his mother’s salvation asopposed to his uncles damnation shows immeasurable growth. After all, he doesinvoke the soul of Nero’ to assure her safety. At this point, Hamlet is taken to England by two of his friends turnedbetrayers, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
During this trip, he seems to smotherfear with his newfound blanket of faith in God. This is a principal mark in thedevelopment of his trust in God. He writes to Horatio of his dramatic escapefrom the voyage to England and has this to say: There’s a divinity that shapesour ends, / Rough-hew them how we will’ (V. ii.
10-11). It is in this fifth actthat Hamlet has fully submitted to the will of God, and this very submissionallows him to make the Final push to accomplish his goal. He is confused nolonger and feels obligated to kill Claudius when he says, He hath killed myking and whored my mother, / Popp’d in between the election and my hopes. .
. /To let this canker of our nature come / In further evil’ (V. ii. 64-5, 69-70)?He can now view Claudius’ death not as a sinful act of vengeance, but as a dutyto the subjects of Elsinor.
When Horatio suggests that the duel that Claudiushas arranged with Laertes may bring about Hamlet’s demise, Hamlet’s reply showshe has taken on Horatio’s stoicism: If it be now, tis not to come; if it benot to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet will come: readiness is all. . . . Let be’ (V.
ii. 231-5). The ineffective schemer of the first three acts is no more. Through thetragic events that Hamlet endures, his character has evolved into arguably hisgreatest asset. Now he can put the final touches on the restoration of orderwhich must be done to successfully end the catastrophe in any Shakespeareantragedy.
As Hamlet forces the poisoned cup to the king’s lips, Laertesemphasizes that, in order for harmony to be restored, evil must destroy itself: He is justly served; / It is a poison temper’d by himself’ (V. ii. 338-9). Thenow fully grown Hamlet attains salvation after he is poisoned, and this ishinted at by Horatio: Good night, sweet prince; / And the flights of angelssing to thee thy rest’ (V. ii. 370-1).