Thematic Expressions of Conflict in Shakespearean Hamlet

Despite being long and unorthodox, Hamlet by Shakespeare is one of the most famous classical plays. The story features several complex themes and revolves around the naturalistic elements of death and destiny. However, one character, in particular, catches the attention of the audience due to the paradox of his nature. Hamlet, the story’s main character, is presented as a dark and suicidal individual who detests his fate and existence. The character is a victim of several atrocities brought upon him by human society and his temperament. Despite his decision to revenge for his father’s death, his conflicting dispositions allow him to procrastinate until the end, when he suffers additional pain and nearly fails in his mission. Therefore, this essay discusses the roots of Hamlet’s conflicts and their implications on his decision-making ability. Seemingly, Hamlet’s conflicts with himself and his surroundings were the cause of his failure to act on time.

Hamlet’s ghost is one of the root causes of his internal conflict because it robbed him of the opportunity to mourn and instead advised him to avenge his father’s death. Thus, the ghost took advantage of his weakness and advised him to act against his intuitive wishes. Kirsch explains that the essence of mourning is to facilitate internal processes by which the ego naturally heals and differentiates itself from its loss (p 27). Nevertheless, the ghost stood in the way of Hamlet’s mourning by precluding him from forgetting his father. Instead, “The Ghost tells Hamlet that if he loved his father, he should remember him; he tells Hamlet of Gertrude’s incestuous remarriage in a way which makes her desire, if not the libido itself, seem inseparable from murder and death; and finally, he tells Hamlet to kill” (Kirsch 27). The ghost further describes the evil ways of Hamlet’s uncle and his relationship with the queen, thus exasperating his emotions. Eventually, Hamlet falls into a stance that interferes with his actions, reasoning, relationships with other people, and inner peace.

Subsequently, after deciding to finally get revenge for his father’s murder, Hamlet’s personality and nature come in the way of his mission as they conflict with his intentions, actions, and the outcomes of his execution. Although Hamlet is presented as an angry, depressed, brooding, and dejected maniac in most scenes of the play, he is also brought out as a critical thinker, a respectable decision-maker, and an exhilarated character that perceives life according to his terms and makes relevant choices. However, his complex nature and approaches to reasoning escalate his internal conflict as he is indecisive about whether or not he should murder his uncle. Ahmad and Shami point out that “right after the death of his father, Hamlet grapples with the issue of taking revenge but he is unable to decide till the end of the play; his procrastination seems to be the result of his inner state of mind rather than of external circumstances” (12). Therefore, although Hamlet is good at making decisions, conflicts between his decision and his personality result in postponing his mission until he nearly misses the opportunity to fulfill his father’s ghost wish.

As the play progresses, the plot informs the audience of the implications of Hamlet’s conflict since he is unable to execute his mission until the end. Hamlet is the central figure of the story, with only one responsibility. However, he is unsuccessful in quickly avenging his father’s death and instead acts in a way that sets a crisis in motion. Thus, the play’s outcomes result from Hamlet’s indecision to act at the right time. Although the character had a good chance of killing his uncle once and for all, he stalled and was lost in soliloquy. Mellon states that “Hamlet’s soliloquy is a pendulum swinging between action and non-action, ultimately to ‘lose the name of action’ and postpone the success of his revenge” (120). Hamlet mused about how he would avenge his father’s death without becoming a cold-hearted killer. As a result, he devised tactics to arouse guilt in his uncle, which only escalated the issue. Consequently, he watched his mother and many other people die before he finally killed his uncle. Thus, his obsession with reasoning and his approach to justify his actions led to his loss and untimely death.

Hamlet is a play that receives more attention than most plays written by Shakespeare during his era because of its approach to thematic expressions and its ability to captivate an audience. From the beginning, the play introduces the theme of sorrow, loss, and differences between the main characters. However, as the story progresses, Shakespeare reveals that the indecisive nature of individuals and their conflicts with self or surroundings can lead to more adverse outcomes than anticipated. Hamlet is a character who guides the story’s plot through the conflicts he experiences. Although he is decisive and energetic, he is gullible to external influences, allowing his father’s ghost to take advantage of his thoughts, resulting in internal conflict. In addition, his personality did not support his ambitions, which further aggravated his conflict, resulting in his failure to achieve his mission on time. Therefore, the story sheds light on how an individual’s indifference to self, society, and environment can limit them and potentially result in adversities.

Works Cited

Ahmad, Fatima and Sajjad Haider Shami. “Hamlet’s Fear of Freedom: An ‘Existential’ Attitude”. Scholedge International Journal of Multidisciplinary & Allied Studies ISSN 2394–336X, vol. 6, nr. 2, 2019, p. 9. Crossref, Web.

Kirsch, Arthur. “Hamlet’s Grief.” ELH, vol. 48, no. 1, 1981, pp. 17–36. JSTOR, Web.

Mellon, Lorna. “Death and the End of Testimony: Trauma Theory in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.” Journal of the Wooden O 6 (2006): 116-123.

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