Death: when the heart stops beating, the brain shuts down, and never wakes up again, and the pain the deceased was feeling when alive, is transferred to their loved ones in the form of grief. This pain and suffering can be exhibited in a multitude of different ways. From rage to calmness, the effects are different from person to person. According to Freud’s Model of Bereavement, the bereaved is letting go of many attachments that are involved in the relationship they had made with the deceased, while at the same time they are reaching and searching for those attachments that have been lost.
One may experience a sense of melancholia, or a profound presentation of depression involving a complete loss in all or almost anything, which could ultimately result in an individual losing their sense of identity. One may no longer feel as themselves, because they feel a disconnection from their loved one that is no longer around in human form. In the tragedy of Hamlet by William Shakespeare, there are a multitude of deaths, from the murder of Old Hamlet, to the final scene, where everyone dies.
Following each of these deaths, there is a period of grief, experienced differently by each haracter that was most closely related to the deceased. In the case of Hamlet, the king Old Hamlet is murdered via poison by his brother, Claudius. According to the article “Loss, Change & Grief” by Dr. Kirsti A. Dyer, the death of Old Hamlet is considered a traumatic death. Also known as, a death that is sudden, unanticipated, violent, mutilating or destructive, and random or preventable. Deaths that would fall under this category include but are not limited to; freak accidents, suicide, and homicide.
Following a traumatic death, the survivors may experience greater grief than the survivors of a death that was anticipated, uch as old age, or long term illness. The death of his father has a great impact on Hamlet, as he turns to contemplating the importance of his life after his father is no longer living. He says how weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable/ Seem to me all the uses of this world! ” (1. 2. 133-134), here, within Hamlet’s first soliloquy, the main character is asking himself if his existence is important in the world.
As mentioned above, the death of a loved one may result in an individual losing their sense of identity, because they no longer know how to live, or what to do without the deceased. Later on in the tragic play, in the famous “To be or not to be” speech, Hamlet is again contemplating suicide and ending his life after the death of his father, as well as searching for himself and his personal identity without the attachment he had with Old Hamlet. According to “Psychology: Tenth Edition in Modules” by David G. Myers, grief is especially severe when a loved one’s death comes suddenly and before its expected time on the social clock (page 219).
Due to the fact that Old Hamlet died so unexpectedly, the grief Hamlet is feeling is more severe than it would have been had his father died of natural causes, nd not murder. If the deceased had died from more natural causes, the grief would be a lot less severe and the death would be easier to comprehend and accept. On the other end of the grief spectrum, is Gertrude. She has also lost someone dear to her heart, but instead of responding to his death through depression and thoughts of suicide, Gertrude marries the man who killed her husband, within weeks of Old Hamlet’s death.
Her son condemns these actions by stating “Within in a month, ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears had left the flushing in her galled eyes, she married” (I. 2. 153-156). It was easier for Gertrude to get over the death of her husband because she did not have the same kind of attachment to Old Hamlet as their son did. Old Hamlet and his son had a connection that most fathers and sons have, which can be described as an “inseparable bond” While Gertrude and Old Hamlet were only bound by marriage. She was more attached to the idea of the kingdom and being queen, then being attached to Old Hamlet as a person and as her husband.
Therefore, instead of grieving when he died, she instantly remarried to his brother, in order to keep her crown and keep the kingdom. On page 220 of “Psychology: Tenth Edition in Modules”, it is stated that reactions to the death of a loved one range widely, as displayed in Hamlet and Gertrude. Reactions can vary individually and culturally. Some cultures may encourage public weeping, well others condone it and hide their grief. The same differences can vary among individuals, based off their personal connection to the deceased and their reaction to death, some grieve hard and long, while others grieve short term.
Hence why the two (Gertrude and Hamlet) had such different reactions to the death of someone so close to them. Another essential death in Hamlet is the death of Polonius, who was stabbed by Hamlet when he was discovered listening in on a conversation between Gertrude and her son, as Hamlet believes he is Claudius. As with the death of Old Hamlet, there are two very different reactions to the death of Polonius by the two characters closest to him, his children, Ophelia and Laertes. Ophelia always had a strong connection with her father, and told him anything and everything he wanted to know.
At one point in the play, Hamlet enters Ophelia’s closet to express his love, going against the wishes of her father to leave Ophelia lone. Following this incident, Ophelia immediately runs to her father, as she believes he must know. This inclines Polonius to have a great trust in his daughter, strengthening their relationship. In Hamlet (IV. 5) Ophelia enters hysterical over the recent death of her father. She begins singing about his recent death. Within this song, she mentions the symbolism of different flowers and what they represent to her.
Such as rosemary-remembrance, pansy-thought, fennel and columbine- adultery, rue-repentance, daisy-unhappy love, and most importantly, the violets representing faithfulness. Ophelia says “I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died” (IV. 5. 174-175). In her lifetime, Polonius was the only attachment that she had that remained constant. He remained faithful to her no matter the circumstances. Hence why the two had a strong bond, and why she reacted the way she did to his death. Ophelia had a similar reaction to her father’s death as Hamlet did to the death of his father.
They both responded in lunacy, driving those around them to believe they were going crazy. As Gertrude responded with solitude to King Hamlet’s death, Laertes also responded with a sense of solitude to the death of Polonius. However, he did have a slightly more in depth attachment to Polonius then Gertrude did to King Hamlet. He seeked revenge, but not go crazy such as his sister and Hamlet did. His call for revenge states, “cry to be heard, as ’twere from heaven to earth, That I must call’t in question” (IV. 7. 05-206).
Here, Laertes has decided that to avenge the death of his father, he must kill Hamlet-who killed his father and caused him a great deal of pain and grief. According to the book “Emotions and Feelings” by Stephen Gislason, it is proven that anger and evenge are antidotes to the self-destructive possibilities that come hand in hand with the concept of grief. The question is, do you hurt yourself in order to end the pain and sorrow you are feeling, or do you hurt those that caused you the pain and sorrow? Or both?
Most will make a decision, while others will turn to self-harm, self-deprecation, or even suicide. Or, they will take the other road and inflict harm on those who are in some kind of relation to what caused them their sense of grief. For Laertes, he chose the cause pain to others road. As he pledged to take revenge upon Hamlet. Here, we see a few similarities to ow Hamlet and Laertes responded to the deaths of their fathers. They both pledged to avenge the one who had murdered their father, yet Laertes had no intentions of hurting himself, only intentions of hurting Hamlet.
While Hamlet questioned whether or not he should kill himself, or kill Claudius for causing him such pain and sorrow. When one finally is able to accept the loss they have experienced, their ego, or the part of the human preconscious that seeks balance between the demands of the ID and the restrictions of the superego, is said to accommodate the loss. Which in turn will allow the bereaved to search for a new ttachment to replace the one they lost (Freud’s Model of Bereavement). In Hamlet the bereaved all struggle with being able to accept the loss, and in the case of one, it was never accepted.
Hamlet for instance, partly accepted that his father was gone, and was able to start building an attachment to Ophelia. This attachment was then torn apart when Ophelia died, because she was unable to accept the loss, so her ego was never given the chance to enable her to make new attachments. As for Gertrude, she accepted the loss very quickly, because she was never really attached to King Hamlet in a loving way. Finally, Laertes was also never able to accept the loss of his father before he himself died, instead, he challenged Hamlet to a fencing duel in an effort to rid him of the world.
With the cases of Ophelia and Laertes, the demands of their ID or the part of the minds preconscious that is made up of everything the superego disapproves of, overpowered the restrictions of their superego, which in turn kept their ego from being able to allow them to let go, and make new connections to others in their life. Grief: deep sorrow, especially caused by someone’s death. Grief is a strong influence on the mental health and the actions f one following the recent or past death of loved one.
For some, it may take years to get over the death of someone they had close attachments with, while others will take months, and some will only take weeks, or even days. As for Hamlet, William Shakespeare was able to incorporate a multitude of different reactions to death and to grief, while at the same time bringing the idea that while grief may be different for all individuals, there are some aspects of what one does while grieving that are similar to another. As Queen Elizabeth II once said, “grief is the price we pay for love”.