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Shannon Davis
Mrs. Carter
AP Literature
5 February 2014
Interpretation of Hamlets character
In the play, Hamlet, Hamlets character could be interpreted several different ways, but
mostly as melancholic. Melancholia was once a type of disease and was described as a person
who would dwell on his difficulties, could move from the antic to the melancholic frame of
mind on a moments notice and could become maniacal, reacting impulsively and violently. This
description is a basis for Hamlets character. While attempting to be the attention-grabber by
acting crazy, Hamlet battles with a state of depression and self-questioning, to a state of anger
and revolt throughout the entire play.
William Shakespeare first introduces Hamlet as being in a state of depression. His father
just died, his uncle, Claudius, took the throne and married his mom, Gertrude. Because of this,
Hamlet feels no need to live anymore and feels that life is now weary, stale, flat and
unprofitable (H.I.ii.133) to him. He expresses his mourning when he metaphorically says his
life is an unweeded garden / That grows to seed (H.I.ii.135-136). But when spoken to by his
mother or new father, he is aloof and sarcastic. He thinks his mom moved on too quickly when
she re-married and feels she post[ed] with such dexterity to incestuous sheets (H.I.ii.159)!
Hamlets character is gloomy and despairing in the beginning and he emphasizes these feelings
towards the people who care about him. However, these feelings quickly change.
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As Hamlet has self-concluded that revenge is the only way he will get his justice, his
state of mind has quickly shifted from depression to hate and revenge. He realizes he needs to
forget about everything except for the revenge of Claudius and making Gertrude feel guilty and
does just that. He becomes determined and starts asking the people in heaven and earth to hold,
hold, [his] heart (H.I.v.93-94) and bear [him] stiffly up (H.I.v.96) in order for him to go
through with it.
When Hamlet realizes he isnt following through with his plan, he becomes melancholic
again. He begins asking himself rhetorical questions as a way of accusing himself for being a
coward. He asks, Who calls me villain? Breaks my pate across? / Plucks off my beard and
blows it in my face? / Tweaks me by the nose? Gives me the lie i th / throat / As deep as to the
lungs? Who does me this? (H.II.ii.531-535). He starts to hate himself and accuse himself of
only being able to unpack [his] heart with words / And fall a-cursing like a very drab, / A
scullion (H.II.ii.548-549) instead of seeking revenge for his father. But in his same line of
thought, his mood changes once again. He suddenly comes up with a plan to catch the
conscience of the king (H.II.ii.567) by setting up a play with the same setting of his fathers
murder.
Hamlet suddenly returns again to his self-defeating thoughts as he contemplates suicide
when talking alone to himself. He says that death is a sleep that end[s] / The heartache and the
thousand natural shocks / That flesh is heir to (H.III.i.62-64) and Thus conscience does make
cowards of us all (H.III.i.85). Meaning, there is no reason to fear death because it would end the
many internal, as well as external, struggles he is going through.
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soliloquy more.
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This constant switch of mood in Hamlets character throughout the entire play conveys
the description of the disease, melancholia. He struggles with his emotions because he is in a
state of melancholy. He even expresses sudden violence when he attempts to kill Claudius, but
he re-thinks the situation and decides against it. Again, getting angry at himself for this and
stating: from this time forth, / My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth (H.IV.iv.66-67)!
This quality of Hamlets character stands out against most others because it is constant
throughout the play and is the most revealing of his conflicting inner emotions.









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