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A Critical Analysis of Hamlet’s Character

An Analysis of Hamlet as a Prince and an Avenger

Hamlet and Othello are complex characters that have remained a subject of analysis for critics through generations. However, it is a difficult question to answer that which one of the two is more tragic. Othello has been made a cuckold, and Hamlet is bearing a bigger ignominy. His mother is wed to his father’s killer after his death. Still, Hamlet seems more complex among the two because while Othello’s tragedy is more straightforward and understandable, Hamlet is quiet as puzzling as he is puzzled in himself. The critics have analysed Hamlet’s character from various angles. To some while he appears a confused coward, for the others he is an innocent subjected to an undeserved fate. Still, the appeal of the drama rests largely on his character’s complexity. Apart from it, Shakespeare’s masterful use of language makes the drama fantastic from every angle. Hamlet’s complex behavior and traits are deeper than they appear. From whichever angle you analyze him, there are contradictions in his traits that can amaze you.

He is faced with a tragic situation since his father’s death. Hamlet had not imagined the situation when he was busy with his studies. The news of his father’s death leaves him badly confused and miserable. Things become murkier when his father’s ghost appears and informs him that it was his uncle who murdered him. Adding to his misery is his mother’s marriage to his father’s murderer. However, the bigger trauma is that his desire for revenge does not let him act or rest. His soul has lost its peace following his father’s murder and he is at an absolute loss over which way to act.

He finds it difficult to rely upon the ghost because the entire event appears to him puzzling and unreliable. Many critics have also interpreted Hamlet’s indecisiveness as his cowardice. However, it sounds equally true that Hamlet is baffled at the turn of events and someone like him who is not a part of regular courtroom drama would be confused at it. Hamlet cannot act blindly because he cannot be mindless. His intellectual background stops him from acting. It is why it takes him quite some time before his moral dilemma is resolved. Had things been as straightforward, the drama would not stretch for as long as it does.

Hamlet’s Oedipal complex has also remained a subject of discussion among the scholars and critics. As per the critics, his oedipal complex is a major reason that deters him from seeing clearly and responding to the circumstances. However, even tragic is the conflict between the intelligent man that Hamlet is initially and the pagan avenger he has changed into. However, Shakespeare did not just create an avenger but he also teases the fire in him through the chain of events he subjects him to.

He is confused enough to not act the right away and weak enough to escape an early death. Had Hamlet been courageous enough to kill his uncle right at the outset, the play would have lacked the moral complexity it contains. Simultaneously, he is unable to completely rely upon the ghost, for it is difficult for any sane person to believe in paranormal things. He doubts if the spirit is his real father or an evil spirit that wants him to act against his wisdom and ethics. It is why he remains reluctant to act upon its advice.

    So, his indecision emanates not from his cowardice or another weakness but because he has no experience of the situation he is faced with. The result is that while on the one hand he cannot act unjustly, on the other he feels he will not be able to find revenge. The battle between conscience and duty is a very important facet of Hamlet’s character. He wants to be fully certain of Claudius’ guilt before he can act. His intentions at a point grow as fierce as if his mind would tear out of his skull. This is the extent of madness he is pushed to by the circumstances.

He cannot kill Claudius while he is praying, which is another significant irony in the drama. It also makes readers think over Hamlet’s madness.  However, the real thing is that Hamlet does not want his uncle to die a noble death since his spirit will reach the heavens. Finally, readers see him gaining control of himself and being ready to carry out what he has planned. Thus, like most other characters by Shakespeare, Hamlet too is dipped in deep irony. At first he appears a loser, but the way he handles all the complex situations till the end, proves his mettle.

Written by Abhijeet Pratap

Abhijeet has been blogging on educational topics and business research since 2016. He graduated with a Hons. in English literature from BRABU and an MBA from the Asia-Pacific Institute of Management, New Delhi. He likes to blog and share his knowledge and research in business management, marketing, literature and other areas with his readers.

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