Hamlets Defeat Essay, Research Paper
Hamlet is continuously wanting to do something but does nothing. He is forced to make decisions based on his moral and religious beliefs.
Hamlet is as little of the hero as a man can be. He is incapable of action, and is only hurried into extremities on the spur of the occasion when he has no time to reflect. At other times, when he is bound to act, he remains puzzled, undecided, and skeptical. He dallies with his purposes, until the occasion is lost.
Hamlet’s first scene with his mother reveals a weakness other than his father’s death. The quote, “I have that within which passeth show, / These but the trappings and the suits of woe,” is used by Hamlet to mock his mother for her lack of grief for his father, her dead husband. At this point in the speech, Hamlet may merely mean that his grief for his father is genuine, but may also mean that he has some sort of feeling that can not be shown by his black clothing and cloudy face. These feelings that may very well be hidden from his own conscious are a truth to his indecisiveness on anything he attempts. Indecision in a man, or woman, for that matter, is a strong symbol of his/her lack of perception.
Hamlet says that the King is “My father’s brother, but no more like my father/ Than I to Hercules.” This comment made by Hamlet, makes it appear that he does not consider himself particularly strong or heroic. If one does not have confidence in his own self, how can any other person have confidence in him?
At one point in the play, Hamlet makes the quote, “O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!” There are two points to this quote. One being that Hamlet blames himself for lack of passion. If one is to be strong and carry through his ideas, he must contain the passion to set these goals in action. The mentioning of a peasant slave brings about the second point to this quote. When one thinks of a slave, he thinks of a quiet, weak, humble servant; someone who cowers down to his master. Hamlet accuses himself of his own cowardice. We can compare his constant analyzing to the manner of a slave. Hamlet is cowering to his own would to his master.
Hamlet’s weakness is also shown forth in his many puns and paradoxes. He attempts to hide his misery by making fun of others. Why does one often do this in a time of mourning? Usually, this is because he is not strong enough to look such things as death in the face and accept it. His first words in the play are toward Claudius. He says, “A little more than kin, and less than kind.” These words state a paradox: Claudius is twice related to him, as uncle and stepfather, but not really his kin or kind at all. Hamlet is allowing Claudius to know that he is not fond of the new king of the marriage to Hamlet’s mother. Though Hamlet makes it known that he does not like Claudius, he never acts upon his remarks.
Another pun Hamlet states is, “Thrift, thrift, Horatio! the funeral baked meats/ Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.” Hamlet bitterly jokes that the real reason his mother’s remarriage came so soon after her husband’s death was so that she could save money by serving the leftover funeral refreshments to the wedding guests. Although the pun seems funny at first, if one contemplates it, the meaning becomes a little morbid. Hamlet has a recurring act of speaking of death and such fatalities. As mentioned earlier, there is more than just a weakness in Hamlet’s character. In the quote “To be or not to be,” Hamlet is contemplating suicide. No man in his right mind rationalizes this. It can be determined that Hamlet is afraid of what is in Heaven and Hell. He wants to know what happens after death, yet he does not. Many are uneasy at the thought of death, but they do not dwell on the subject. Those who are right with God have an immediate understanding of life after death. They know they will go to Heaven. Hamlet really has no idea where he would go. The fact that his father’s ghost was in purgatory did not help the matter.
Yet another scene that brings forth the character of Hamlet is his confrontation with Polonious. Death is conveyed in this conversation as well. From the beginning, Hamlet makes fun of Polonius’ ignorance. “Excellent well; you are a fishmonger,” says Hamlet, in response to Polonuis’ question, “Do you know me, my lord?” This is the first of a series of bitter jests that Hamlet directs at the uncomprehending Polonius. The basis of the jests is apparently Hamlet’s intuition that Polonius forced Ophelia to leave Hamlet. In Hamlet’s opinion, Polonius sacrificed his daughter’s happiness in order to please the King. Hamlet then makes his insult sharper by wishing that Polonius was as honest as a fishmonger, which is to say that Polonius is lower than the lowest of the low. Hamlet goes on to say, “to be honest, as the world goes, is to be one man pick’d out of ten thousand,” and then says what Polonius probably thought was a very absurd and crazy thing: “For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a god kission carrion -Have you a daughter?” The meaning of this can be controversial, but the way it is used the quote has one main meaning: it is not surprising that Polonius is such a hypocrite, because the life-giving sun can produce all kinds of disgusting things, especially from other disgusting things. As the conversation carries on, Polonius asks the question, “Will you walk out of the air, my lord?” Apparently the chamber is drafty, and Polonius is inviting Hamlet to go to a warmer room. The response given by Hamlet is, “Into my grave.” Hamlet is implying that he’s sooner to be dead than go anyplace with Polonius. Moments later, Hamlet makes a comment that sounds similar, but expresses a great weariness with life. Polonius says goodbye with, “My lord, I will take my leave of you.” Hamlet replies, “You cannot, sir, take from me anything that I will willingly part withal: except my life, except my life.” Hamlet means that he is very willing to be free of Polonius, and that he is even more willing to be free of his own life. How can someone think this man is strong? Anyone who makes these about death, must be weaker than usual. He professes to take revenge on his father’s murderer, but at the same time, he wants to die. How is he to take revenge if he is dead? The only possible motive to his wants of death are his weakness and fears.
The entire play could be imagined as a sort of delay for Hamlet. A delay for him to “think” things through for the revenge of his father’s death. In the beginning, when Hamlet talked to his father’s ghost, he seemed charged and full of eagerness to complete his task. He said, “Haste me to know’t, that I, with wings as swift/ As meditation or the thoughts of love,/ May sweep to my revenge.” However, at the end of the scene, he does not seem to be in a big hurry. He leaves saying, “The time is out of joint: O cursed spite,/ That ever I was born to set it right!”
Throughout the play, Hamlet had opportunities to fulfill his goal, but he did not. If given the chance to think things through, Hamlet never carried out his plans. By the time the actors come to Elsinore, it has been a while since Hamlet promised the Ghost that he would take revenge. The actors play out the death of Hamlet’s father. The first actor weeps as he tells the story of Queen Hecuba’s grief for her murdered husband. This makes Hamlet ask himself why he has not carried out his revenge. To Hamlet it seems that the first actor feels more strongly about Hecuba than Hamlet does about his father. Hamlet then calls himself a coward, and tries to work himself up into the white heat of hatred. But as he is calling King Claudius a “bloody, bawdy villain,” Hamlet realizes that he’s still talking rather than doing:
Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,
That I, the son of a dear father murder’d,
Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words,
And fall a-cursing, like a very drab,
A stallion! Fie upon’t! foh!”
Despite all of his ranting and ravings, Hamlet decides that instead of taking revenge right away, he will find out if the Ghost is really telling the truth. This is the first time he has expressed any doubt about the Ghost. It seems Hamlet feels that revenge should be taken, but he does not have his heart in it. A strong character with a purpose would not let things just fall through the floor as Hamlet is doing. He cannot decide on anything. All he can do is analyze and think. He has no willpower at all!
Such is the incident when Hamlet thought Claudius was praying. Hamlet was going to kill him, but he had time to analyze the situation and decided against death. His reasoning for not following through with his first thoughts was that if Claudius was praying and asking forgiveness for his sins, he would then go to Heaven if killed. Hamlet wanted to kill him in the act of a sin where he would go to purgatory as Hamlet’s father did. This was only an excuse for Hamlet to delay. So what if he did not go to purgatory! Hamlet would succeed in Claudius’ death. The most ironic thing is, Claudius was not praying. He was actually worrying about the recent events and the thought of murdering his own brother being revealed.
Though the end of the play is depressing, it is necessary to reveal Hamlet’s true, weak character. During the whole play, Hamlet has been trying to devise a perfect plan to kill King Claudius. Every chance given, he has backed out of it. As Hamlet and Laertes are fencing, the Queen unknowingly drinks the cup of wine with poison. As she falls to the ground and dies, Hamlet realizes that Claudius had meant to kill him. Only in a fit of rage did Hamlet kill Caucus. One can see that only when Hamlet is emotionally charged, he acts. At this point, he is emotionally charged. In the end, his long thoughts of various ways to take revenge on King Caucus were useless. If he had been strong, certain deaths may have been avoided. If he had killed Caucus the first time he talked to the Ghost, Aphelia, Poloniums, Lacerates, his mother, and he would never have died. But they all died because of his weakness of indecisiveness and death.
Obviously Hamlet was an intellectual being who did not have the nerve to carry out a revenge for the father he loved. There are many unanswered questions to this play, and it will always be controversial. Hamlet’s ruling passion is to think, not to act: and any vague pretext that flatters his propensity instantly diverts him from his previous purposes.