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Advanced English - Hamlet Essay

Shakespeares enduring play Hamlet explores the most complex forces of humanity, taking the concept of revenge tragedy to a whole new dimension. Written at the cusp of the Renaissance paradigm, the 17th century play presents a fascinating protagonist Hamlet, whose philosophical curiosity reflects societys quest to seek answers. It is Hamlets modern humanist qualities, that is, his moral sensitivity and ability to reason, that conflicts with his primitive task of revenge. Through Hamlets complexity, Shakespeare makes transcending observations about humanity and presents an array of contextual values. Written during a period of tense transition between the barbarity of the medieval world and the secular intellectual movement of the Renaissance culture, Shakespeare defied the simple structures of Aristotle and Senecan revenge tragedies through implementing another element; a reluctant Elizabethan avenger. Hamlet is presented as a noble, self-aware forerunner of modernity, expected to avenge his fathers foul and most unnatural murder. He is therefore reluctant, as the pragmatic task conflicts with his inherent nature to act strictly on rationality, evident as Mary Salter describes, Hamlets nature is philosophical, reflective, prone to questioning and therefore aware of the larger moral implications of any act. Through the theatrical device of Hamlets various soliloquies, Shakespeare transforms Hamlet into a reflective analysis of human nature and explores his modern existentialism, evident as Hamlet identifies the complexity of the human condition, What a piece of work is a man!. The metatheatrical quality of Shakespeares writing assists to expose Hamlets humanist Renaissance qualities. Hamlets sophistication is contained in his existential nihilism, which is reflective of human nature. He suffers from an obvious disenchantment with humanity, exemplified as he breaks the fourth wall to reveal human struggles in his soliloquies, How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable / Seem to me all the uses of this world! His existential angst connotes his melancholia and raises the motif of disorder and an unweeded garden that sustains Denmark. In Hamlet, the theme of revenge is therefore refined to more than just a personal condemnation of Claudius to his purgation, but involves politically freeing Denmark of a metaphorical unweeded garden/ That grows to seed, things rank and gross in nature. His unprevailing woe leads him to contemplate suicide, in the synecdoche, O that this too too solid flesh would melt. Yet, suicide is a sin within the Christian framework, with the Everlasting... gainst self-slaughter, creating a biblical contrast that identifies Hamlets volatility and undefined sense of self. His preoccupation with suicide, To be or not to be?, is beset by his fear of the undiscovered country of death. His inability to kill himself is reflective of his incapacity to seek revenge, as it is our sense of morality that prevents action, And thus the native hue of resolution / Is sicklied oer with the pale cast of thought. Hamlets complex contemplation of life, death and morality provokes his very human, and therefore fascinating, conflict between emotion and rationality. Hamlet is self-conscious of how his rationalistic ideologies prompt his delay. Revenge requires the virtues of barbarism however, as a young humanist Hamlet constantly procrastinates, evident as David Ritchie expresses in his Harlos Productions program, that Hamlet is where the liberal humanist confronts the bloody and barbaric imperatives of feudal clan duty. In his soliloquies, Hamlet battles with his duty to seek revenge and his
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morality, consistently berating himself for his inaction, as he is metaphorically pigeonlivered who, Like a whore unpack my heart with words. To his shame, Hamlets quest for revenge is mirrored by the subplots of his stark foils, Fortinbras and Laertes, both of whom passionately seek vengeance for their deceased fathers. This parallelism reveals Laertes challenging hell in, To hell allegiance... I dare damnation. Shakespeare uses the motif of heaven and hell, so relevant to a Christian Elizabethan audience, to reveal Laertes relentless passion for revenge, as he disregards his possible purgatory. As a man of contemporary thought, Hamlet struggles to condone the immorality of murder, revealing his displacement in the medieval world. Yet he is self-aware of this moral complexity, and it is this reflection of the human condition that fascinates audiences. The human notion of deceptive appearances is highlighted through Hamlets self-initiated battle between appearance and reality. Shakespeare clouds the reality of the play through an emphasis on seeming, as various characters assume facades to achieve their ambitions. The most notable portrayal is Hamlets antic disposition, used in his philosophical quest to prove Claudius deception, revealing further procrastination. He claims he is only mad in craft. Yet, his dialogue reveals witty puns and mind games that contribute to his realistic facade, The body is with the king, but the king is not with the body. Audiences are left perplexed as to whether Hamlets melancholy actually drove him to ecstasy, as there are various references to Hamlets dark clothing, such as nighted colour and an inky cloak. Such imagery supports Polonius claim that the apparel oft proclaims the man. Hamlets convoluted, yet logical plan of feigned madness, furthers his intriguing persona through addressing a multifarious humanity related theme of appearance versus reality. Furthering Hamlets complexity is his acceptance of providence in the final act of the play, contradicting his previous illusion of choice. He returns from England with a new fatalistic attitude, as revealed in a truthful colloquy with his confidante Horatio, Theres a divinity that shapes our ends. Interestingly, Hamlet does not cite a soliloquy in the final act, symbolising his resolve to finally take vengeance. As a central Christian value, Shakespeare raises the idea of destiny to reveal the inevitability of death, absorbing an Elizabethan audience. Shakespeare conforms to tragedy conventions in Hamlets death, as Horatio restores his nobility, Now cracks a noble heart, as his actions stemmed out of moral obligations. This superior human quality is a product of the Renaissance rationality and attracts sympathy. Shakespeares Hamlet exposes the transcending qualities of the complex modern man, represented through the characterisation of Hamlet. Hamlet is faced with the human struggle between his duty to avenge his father, and his modern humanist qualities that have derived from the new Renaissance ideals. His delay is therefore not an act of cowardice, but rather he is a sensitive new age man placed in a situation where barbaric virtues are necessary. Through Shakespeares philosophical exploration of humanity, presented through a variety of universal themes, he establishes a complex persona who holds a timeless relevance.

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