Shakespeare’s tragic play titled “The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark” (commonly shortened to “Hamlet”) is a well-known classic. The story follows a complex protagonist named Hamlet who faces a challenge that would end up changing his life. He is given the ultimatum to avenge his father’s death or to simply let it be. Hamlet is a character that appears to be insane, but in reality, he has reasons for his actions. Although he seems mad, he only acts this way in front of certain people. He knows it is what he has to do to avenge his father’s death by killing his father’s murderer.
During the story, the ghost of Hamlet’s father appears and tells him the truth about how he died. He explains to his young son that he was murdered by King Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle. Hamlet is commanded by the ghost to seek revenge on Claudius and regain order to Denmark. The prince of Denmark is eager to get his vengeance on his father’s murderer when he first hears the news, but he contemplates what he should do because he knows his actions would not be moral. Eventually, he decides to get his revenge and kill the king because it is what his father wished him to do.
Although there are various themes portrayed throughout this text, the theme of revenge is arguably the most significant; more specifically, the theme of morality. The theme of morality and revenge ocurrs very early in the play. It is first manifested when the protagonist of the story, Hamlet, speaks with his father’s ghost. When the ghost explains to Hamlet how he was murdered, Hamlet becomes outraged and feels that it is now his responsibility to avenge his father’s death now that he knows the truth.
Being his father’s only son, he feels it is his obligation to do what is morally right. These feelings are expressed in the following quote, “A villain kills my father, and for that, I, his only son, d this same villain send to heaven. ” (Shakespeare, Act 3 Scene 3). Because of this, he must decide what decision is honorable and morally right. He must face the decision to avenge his father’s death by finding and killing his murderer. Having to make that choice quickly made Hamlet go insane. Furthermore, it led to the destruction of his own life and the ones he once loved.
Becoming a murderer himself is clearly not a moral act, nor is the act of going against his own mother. “How I stand then, that I have a father killed, a mother stained, excitements of my reason and my blood, and let all sleep. ” (Shakespeare, Act 4 Scene 4). This quote from the text conveys that Hamlet’s tragic flaw is his failure to take action. He is so sure that it is his responsibility to avenge his father’s death, but he cannot bring himself to do so. The indecisiveness of Hamlet are what makes his character seem almost innocent.
He is constantly battling himself with his different thoughts on what he should do. After all, morally speaking, it is not right to sabotage his mother’s life, marriage, etc. , and it is especially not right to kill another person regardless of his reasoning for it. Hamlet’s quandary over what he should do is apparent during his famous soliloquy. It states, “To be, or not to be, that is the question: whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles aby opposing end them. ” (Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, 55-59).
In this quote, he is questioning whether to be just (moral) or not to be. He is deciding whether he should revenge his dead father and go against his mother, or to just live with the knowledge that his father was murdered. More so, he is deciding to be honorable to his dead father or to his live mother. Along the way to getting his revenge, Hamlet even managed to murder others that he wasn’t intending to kill in the beginning of his conquest. Ophelia, Polonius, Laertes, Gertrude, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern all ended up paying the ultimate price of death.
Perhaps Shakespeare intended to demonstrate that revenge comes with a price. Hamlet chose to avenge his father’s death, but he ended up helplessly killing others while doing so. Ultimately, murder as revenge isn’t justified no matter how immoral the crime was. Although it is not known for sure, perhaps Shakespeare’s inspiration for writing the tragic play was his son’s death. His son’s name was Hamnet, and he was eleven years old. Hamnet was Shakespeare’s only son, which left Shakespeare in a state of hopelessness and despair.
There is a quote in the story Hamlet that states, “If it be now, ’tis not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come—the readiness is all. ” (Shakespeare, Act 5 Scene 2). It is a possibility that Hamlet was written by Shakespeare to convey the idea of sudden death. This quote exhibits the notion that if something, death for instance, doesn’t happen now, it will eventually happen. Shakespeare, himself, could be questioning how one could prepare for the ultimatum of death. In other words, how he would be able to prepare for the death of his son, Hamnet.
This idea is connected to the overall theme of morality because Hamlet was forced to make his decision of whether to take his revenge on Claudius or to let him live. Additionally, it represents the notion of how one can prepare not only for death, but the moral judgement that would change one’s whole life; or for Hamlet’s case, it is a decision to end someone else’s. The play “Macbeth”, also written by Shakespeare, exhibits a similar theme of moral judgement. The theme of Macbeth shows how one’s lust for what they desire can prevail over one’s sense of morality.
Although Hamlet believed what he was doing was the right decision because he was obeying the ghost of his father’s commands to avenge his death, Lord Macbeth’s reasons for destroying his life as well as the lives of others differed. Ambition and temptation were key themes in the story of Macbeth. His motive for his actions were centered around greed because he wanted to become King of Scotland to obtain more power and wealth, no matter the cost. Macbeth is a good leader and has likeable qualities. Because of this, the audience may even take pity on Macbeth for his downward spiral in behavior.
This is similar to Hamlet because he also slowly became mad. Shakespeare conveys morality to the audience of Macbeth by demonstrating the consequences that would result in making immoral decisions. These two stories are very similar. In Macbeth, the witches’ prophecy to kill King Duncan. Macbeth begins to have doubts about killing the king. These ideas emerge in Hamlet as well when Hamlet must decide if he is going to kill King Claudius. Instead of a prophecy, the motive for the murder is the request of his father’s ghost.
Additionally, Macbeth realizes the immoral decision he is about to make by committing murder. … Besides, this Duncan Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been so clear in his great office, that his virtues Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued against The deep damnation of his taking-off. ” (Shakespeare, Act 1 scene 7). Still, Macbeth chooses to go through with the crime, just as Hamlet decides to do. In both plays, Shakespeare proposes the understanding that you should not be too ambitious in your actions because it will cloud your moral judgement. Overall, Hamlet’s choice to avenge his father’s death was a test of morality.
His struggle in making his decision shows the indecisiveness of his character. He was given knowledge that would eventually change, and possibly ruin, his life forever. Ultimately, he made the decision that he believed to be moral. He would rather get his vengeance for the death of his father and risk going against his mother in the process, rather than let his father’s wishes go unnoticed. Hamlet’s tragic flaw is not within his character, but rather in the decision he makes to obey the ghost of his father’s wishes to avenge his death and kill King Claudius.