Hamlet as a Young Man, a Hero? or a Mania? Analysis of Hamlet's Personality

In Hamlet, King Hamlet's Ghost, who appears to Hamlet and directs him to punish Claudius, personifies fate. The Ghost reveals that Claudius, by killing his own brother, has committed a "murder most foul" and deserves to die. Hamlet can choose to obey his fate or ignore it and then face the consequences. Hamlet consistently avoids making this choice by refusing to act. However, his need for self- determination, driven by his psychological conflicts, finally forces him to take vengeance into his own hands. He finds that the forces of the primal world (which value "an eye for an eye") and the enlightened world (which legislate "Thou shalt not kill") equally compel him. The Ghost has ordered Hamlet to act against his conscience, and the diametrically opposed commands paralyze him.

Hamlet clearly spends a lot of time thinking about religious duty. When he first meditates on the temptation to suicide, he expresses the wish that it was not a sin in the eyes of God to kill oneself. Hamlet also experiences religious doubt, however. In his famous soliloquy beginning 'To be, or not to be,' Hamlet ponders on this question, he realized that it leads to more questions rather than answers. Hamlet restated his question by adding dreaming to sleep. He says that the dreams that may come in the sleep of death could be intimidating so much so that they “must give us pause.” In other words, Hamlet realizes that the bigger question in suicide is what will happen to him in the afterlife?

Hamlet is afraid to die because of the uncertainties of the afterlife. But his choices all boil down to death –suicide or killing his uncle Claudius. He tried to end his inner struggles by turning to religion to seek valid reasons to either commit suicide or find the strength to kill Claudius. When religion does not suffices, he uses philosophy by asking the immortal line “to be or not to be” to be able to come up with the right answer but still find the reasons insufficient. These words emphasized Hamlet’s inner struggle to cope with two opposing forces operating within him which are preserving moral integrity and the need to avenge his father's murder. This scene is important because it reveals the quality of Hamlet's mind. He is deeply passionate by nature. He could be impulsive, rash and thoughtless but at times he appears to be logical, wise, reasonable and noble.

By the end of the play, the fair punishment to each one of them appears, each one is sinful on his|her own way.

Hamlet has a chance to kill Claudius in the castle chapel, but cannot bring himself to do it. While waiting outside, he gets into an argument with his mother. Someone moves behind a curtain and Hamlet, thinking it is Claudius, stabs him. It turns out that he has killed Polonius

Ophelia is dead, possibly by suicide, which means she doesn't even get a nice burial. To get Hamlet killed, Claudius gets Laertes to fight with a sword that has poison on the blade and brings some poisoned wine in case this does not work. The swordfight begins. After some fighting, Laertes wounds Hamlet and poisons him. During a break, the swords are mixed up and Hamlet ends up fighting and wounding Laertes with the poisoned sword. Laertes shows regret for what he has done and tells Hamlet about the poison as he dies. Meanwhile, Gertrude drinks the poisoned wine by mistake and dies. Realizing that he is also dying, Hamlet stabs Claudius with the poisoned sword and forces him to drink the rest of the wine. In his last moments, Hamlet tells his friend Horatio that Fortinbras, a Norwegian prince, should be named as the next King of Denmark. We see God's justice at the end, each person is responsible for his|her own actions not controlled by supernatural suggestions, they will be accountable for their deeds alone!


Hamlet as a Young Man, a Hero? or a Mania? Analysis of Hamlet's Personality


Throughout the play, Hamlet’s insanity is questioned, whether or not he is truly mad, or only pretending to be. Hamlet’s despiteful remarks. In the play, the only persons who regard Hamlet as really mad are the king and his henchmen, and even these are troubled with many doubts. Polonius is the first to declare him mad, and he thinks it is because Ophelia has repelled his love. He, therefore, reports to the king that "Your noble son is mad", and records the various stages leading to his so- called madness. Though it suits the king's purpose to accept this pronouncement of Polonius, he is never quite convinced of its truth. His instructions to his henchmen, "Get from him why he puts on this confusion", imply that he understands it as pretense and not real lunacy. He soon admits that Hamlet's actions and words do not indicate madness but melancholy:

"What he spake, though it lacked form a little.

 Was not like madness."


Hamlet's madness is an act of deception, concocted to draw attention away from his suspicious activities as he tries to gather evidence against Claudius. He reveals to Horatio his deceitful plan to feign insanity.


But it serves his wicked purpose to declare him a madman and to make this the excuse for getting rid of him by sending him to England. In this as in everything the king is insincere and seeks not the truth but his own personal ends.


Ophelia's view that Hamlet has gone mad for love of her is of no value on the point. Gertrude is the only one knows Hamlet very well when Polonius declares Hamlet's mad, she says, its because of his father's death, and our hasty marriage.

Hamlet tells Horatio that he plans to feign madness before the King and the court. The madness will render him invisible so that he might observe and discern the best way and time for his revenge. Hamlet's meaning here remains ambiguous. Is his madness a mask? A costume? A lie? The answer to this question provides the key to Hamlet's characterization, and an actor playing the role must decide what that "putting on" signifies. In some portrayals, Hamlet pretends to be mad; in others, while he may believe he is pretending, he is quite mad. In still others, Hamlet's madness grows as he develops. In others again, Hamlet is a child who can't grow up and accept the burdens of adulthood, which include his duties to his slain father. Shakespeare seems to have deliberately left Hamlet's ruse ambiguous enough so that the performances of the role may vary.

concluding whether Hamlet is mad or merely pretending madness determine all the questions about Hamlet's nature? Could a madman manipulate his destiny as adeptly as Hamlet turns the tables on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern? Perhaps he is crazy like a fox... calculated and criminal. Or perhaps his own portrayal of madness — his "antic disposition" — that he dons like a mask or a costume actually drives him.

Could Hamlet's madness be his tragic flaw? Or is the flaw that he believes he is pretending to be mad? Are words his tragic flaw? Or could his tragic flaw be that he possesses the same hubris that kills all the great tragic heroes — that believes he can decide who should live and who should die, who should be forgiven and who should be punished? Then, perhaps, is the ghost a manifestation of his own conscience and not a real presence at all?

"Hamlet is a thinker not a man of action." With particular reference to Hamlet's soliloquies and actions, how far do you agree with this statement? Hamlet's one mission in the play is to revenge the death of his father by killing Claudius, however, his procrastination leads to his untimely death, the deaths of many others in the Danish court and the relinquishment of Denmark to Fortinbras. Hamlet's first words show a desire of revenge towards Claudius "A little more than kin and less than kind." But later in his soliloquy we see that he is actually closer to killing himself than killing Claudius or the perpetrator: "O that this too sullied flesh would melt, Thaw and resolve itself into a dew," He doesn't even contemplate killing Claudius; he hopes that the situation will resolve itself, which it never will, showing his unwillingness to act. This soliloquy also shows that he is not the bravest of people, as he cannot tell his mother how he really feels, another restrictive character trait when trying to revenge someone: "But break, my heart for I must hold my tongue." In his soliloquy, straight after Hamlet's conversation with the Ghost, he seems determined to kill his uncle, "thy commandment alone shall live". When he contemplates action, he thinks about it and finds reasons not to act. The first time he contemplates suicide, he decides not to act because it is against canon law.



Hamlet's soliloquies are foremost in bringing the idea of his delay to our notice. His soliloquies show that he is himself pre- occupied not only with thoughts of revenge but also with the problem of his procrastination and resolution. We might, then, agree that it is Hamlet's tendency to think too much and his constitutional incapacity for pre- meditated action which explain the delay in his taking his revenge.

Hamlet's irresolution in relation to the delay in avenging his father's murder may now be explained thus: Hamlet is a man with a melancholic temperament, an explicit moral sensibility or idealism, and an intellectual genius. As a result of his mother's hasty remarriage, his natural melancholy has been deepened. This man then receives a violent shock. The shock comes with a sudden disclosure from the Ghost, of his mother's true nature and of the fact that his father had been murdered by his uncle. As a result of this shock to his moral being, he begins to sink further into melancholy; and in this state of deep and fixed melancholy, he indulges in the endless and futile mental analysis of the deed of revenge which is required of him. The futility of this process and the shame of his delay further weaken him and enslave him to his melancholy still more. A man with a blunt moral nature and with a lesser intellectual capacity would not have felt the disclosure made by the Ghost so keenly.


It is not, therefore, right to say that there was anything in Hamlet's external situation or circumstances to delay the revenge. The revenge is delayed on account of the peculiar temperament and character of Hamlet, and not on account of anything inherent in the circumstances in which Hamlet found himself. It is contrary to the facts to assert that any external difficulties prevented Hamlet from proceeding with his revenge. It has been said that Claudius was surrounded not merely by his courtiers but by Swiss bodyguard and that it was not possible for Hamlet to get at him easily. It has also been said that Hamlet wanted to prove Claudius's guilt publicly so as to be able to take his revenge by exposing him to the people at large and to bring him to justice through the prescribed procedures. But the fact is that Hamlet never at any point in the play makes the slightest reference to any external difficulty. On the contrary, Hamlet always speaks as if there were no external difficulty at all in the way of his killing the king. When, for instance, he spares the king's life because the king is at his prayers, he thinks of killing the king on some other occasion, and he speaks of several such occasions when he might kill him. This means that in no situation does Hamlet visualize any external obstacle in his way. Furthermore, Hamlet does not stage the play in the hope that the king would betray his guilt to the open court. He stages the play in order to convince himself by the king's reaction that the Ghost had spoken the truth. If he had killed the king and by doing so antagonized the courtiers, he could still have appeased the people at large and even the courtiers by explaining to them all his reasons for the murder. His stoke was high, and the people would have believed him. In any case, he nowhere mentions any such handicap. Hamlet's main difficulty is internal, something that is part of his own mental make- up.

When Hamlet first receives the orders from his father’s ghost to get revenge for his father's death he is shocked and outraged and he promises his father's ghost that he will kill Claudius as an act of revenge. However, he soon begins to lose his impulsive desire to strike immediately and replaces it with the more reasonable action of thinking his way through his father’s unfortunate fate. By doing so Hamlet soon becomes consumed in seeking out more concrete proof of his father’s death when he states “my words fly up, my thoughts remain below: words without thoughts never to heaven go”. Hamlet needs more proof than just the ghost’s word, what he really wants to fill his doubts is to get Claudius’ own words to implicate him. So in order for this to happen, he sets up a plot to watch the response that Claudius has when he sees the reenactment of his father’s death. After seeing Claudius’ reactions Hamlet is convinced that it was indeed Claudius who was responsible for his father’s death but he still continues not to act because of his obsessive thoughts. This is represented by the quote “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”. This tells the reader that Hamlet wants to keep digging and thinking out of fear that he doesn’t miss something either good or bad.

 Although Hamlet seems slow to react to avenge his father’s death he still does have the predilection to act. Although he is a man of thought when he is uncertain when he does decide to act he does it impulsively and irrationally. An example of this side of Hamlet would be when he mistakenly stabs Polonius to death behind the arras thinking it was the King. He erred because he was so angry he didn’t even bother to think that the person he thought was Claudius could be someone else. As Hamlet cannot have his revenge perfect, that is, according to the most refined idea which he has about it, he declines it altogether. He is fully conscious of his own weakness; he scolds himself for it, and he tries to reason himself out of it. His very speculation on his own weakness only affords him another occasion for postponing action. It is not because of any want of attachment to his father or because of any hatred for the act of murder that Hamlet is thus dilatory; it is more to his taste to indulge his imagination in reflecting upon the enormity of his uncle's crime, and in refining on his schemes of revenge, than to put them into immediate practice. His ruling passion is to think, not to act; and any vague pretext that flatters or feeds this passion at once diverts him from his purpose.

As Hamlet cannot have his revenge perfect, that is, according to the most refined idea which he has about it, he declines it altogether. He is fully conscious of his own weakness; he scolds himself for it, and he tries to reason himself out of it. His very speculation on his own weakness only affords him another occasion for postponing action. It is not because of any want of attachment to his father or because of any hatred for the act of murder that Hamlet is thus dilatory; it is more to his taste to indulge his imagination in reflecting upon the enormity of his uncle's crime, and in refining on his schemes of revenge, than to put them into immediate practice. His ruling passion is to think, not to act; and any vague pretext that flatters or feeds this passion at once diverts him from his purpose. The tragic end to all characters Polonius- Hamlet killed him by accidentally stabbing him, Ophelia- drowning/suicide, R&G- killed on the ship to England because Hamlet switched the orders in the letter, Gertrude- drank the poison in the cup, Claudius- Hamlet made him drink the poison cup/intentional death, Laertes- Hamlet hit him with the poison sword, Hamlet- was hit with the poison sword.











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