Shakespeare’s play The Tragedy of Hamlet explores humanities complex processes and the condition of which we live. In this play, the concept of revenge is studied cohesively with the ability of humans to make judgments over their actions and human’s curiosity toward seeking answers. Shakespeare, having written this play in the 17th century, creates the protagonist Hamlet as a forward thinking character with a philosophical quality and moral understanding regarding his ability to reason. These traits conflict against the crude revenge task at hand in the play.
Through Hamlet’s complexity, Shakespeare makes direct opinions about the human condition and what it is to be human. Hamlet is presented as a noble, self-aware precursor of modernism, who is expected to avenge his father’s ‘foul and most unnatural murder’. He is therefore thrown about through a hardheaded task which conflicts with his nature to act rationally and strictly. These instances of questionable rationality are evident through Hamlet’s numerous soliloquies as Shakespeare transforms Hamlet into a reflection of human nature and mans ability to conform as a free spirit.
These soliloquies also explore the human condition in-depth, such as when Hamlet describes ‘What a piece of work is man! Hamlet’s sophistication is continued through his philosophy of atheism, which is also reflective of human nature. He suffers from an obvious lack of connection with the rest of humanity, illustrated through his soliloquies once again, stating ‘How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable / Seem to me all the uses of this world! Hamlet continues to challenge human nature and in turn his situation becomes preoccupied with the thought of suicide, or revenge.
This is seen through the famous soliloquy ‘To be or not to be? ‘ which in turn discusses human’s inability to act stupidly through our sense of morality as it disallows us to act quickly in times of self-sacrifice. Hamlets contemplation of life, death and morality aggravates his obvious human ability to conflict between emotion and rationality. The human conception of illusive appearances is highlighted through Hamlet’s self-initiated madness and his further battle between the way he acts and reality.
Shakespeare changes the reality of the play through an emphasis on the differences between true and false as numerous characters adopt facades in order to achieve their objectives. The most notable portrayal of this is Hamlet’s ‘antic deposition’, used in his journey to prove Claudius’ trickery. Hamlet claims he is only ‘mad in craft’, yet his dialogue adopts clever mind games that contribute to the realistic appearance of his facade. Audiences are then left confused as to whether Hamlet’s behavior actually drove him insane. There are also numerous references to Hamlet’s choice of clothing, which was considerably dark and gloomy.
This imagery supports Polonius’ claim that ‘the apparel oft proclaims the man’ meaning that Hamlet was still emotional and also crazy. Hamlet’s ingenious plan of faked madness furthers his characters intriguing personality through showing a mixed humanity related theme of appearance versus reality. Hamlet’s complexity is only continued during the final act of the play as he begins to accept the sense of the situation. He returns from England with a new attitude and allows himself to undertake Horatio’s guidance, ‘There’s a divinity that shapes our ends’.
Interestingly, Hamlet does not partake in a soliloquy in this final act, symbolising that he is now ready to finally take revenge against Claudius. Shakespeare in this final scene also reveals to the audience that destiny will inevitably expose death in possibly more ways than one. The way in which he has displayed this thought throughout the play begins with the death of Polonius and ends with the death of Hamlet. Shakespeare then turns to tragedy upon the death of Hamlet as Horatio is given the responsibility to tell the story of his vengeful ways and controls Hamlets emotions as his moral obligations had faded.
The human quality of tragedy is well recognized in this play as it attracts large amounts of sympathy, however sympathy is not felt for all of the characters. Shakespeare when exploring the human condition within the play creates the characters with excessive flaws, determining that even under better judgments, the decisions made are still flawed. Shakespeare notably creates Hamlet with easily identifiable flaws, allowing the audience to connect with him immediately.
Through further exploration however, all characters possess flaws including Polonius and his conversations toward his daughter Ophelia about Hamlet stating ‘You speak like a green girl, / Unsifted in such perilous circumstance. ‘ Claudius also possesses these traits seen from the discovery of how he murdered Hamlet’s father from the players and the manner in which he presented himself to the crowd. Shakespeare identifies his characters with many flaws in order to signify the importance of perfection within society and how the human condition explains imperfection.
Without flaws, people generate suitable situations and condemn themselves into boredom, however with flaws, everybody is seen for whom they are and people can begin to make rational judgments and decisions based on their own views and flaws. This system is evident in the play and creates a favourable theme of flawed judgments versus realistic perfection. Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Hamlet exposes the exceeding qualities of how complex the human condition and modern man are, through the characterization of Hamlet.
Hamlet is faced with numerous struggles between the need to avenge his father and his own human qualities that were derived from the human condition. His delay of completing the revenge task is therefore not an act of cowardice or a lack of ability but rather his idealistic morals controlling his ability to become barbaric and fight for his revenge. Through Shakespeare’s creation of such a complex personality being Hamlet and his exploration of the human condition through numerous different themes, he has allowed Hamlet to hold a timeless relevance within any society.