Summary: Hamlet's Fight with Fear Through the Play

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William Shakespeare's play, Hamlet, focuses on the actions of the young prince, Hamlet, after the murder of his father, the king of Demark. While trying to cope with the loss of his father, Hamlet faces the discomfort of the recent marriage between his mother, Gertrude, and uncle, Cladius, promoting him to the status of king. Hamlet's new father instantly asserts power over Hamlet because of his new position as king and father. Following the wedding, Hamlet allegedly encounters the ghost of his father, who accuses Cladius of his murder and persuades Hamlet to seek revenge. With no guidance, Hamlet turns to his religion for help, but manipulates God's teachings to fit his needs. He continuously struggles with whether to kill Claudius or himself. In the beginning, Hamlet allows fear to dictate his action; but once he takes control, he became one with fear. The intense pressures of the Ghost, Claudius, and religion slowly consume Hamlet throughout the play and transform his fear into madness.

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Without a father figure, Hamlet falls into a state of sorrow and cowardness. His immature mind and lack of guidance causes Hamlet’s mental state to become toxic. Claudius's cynical mentality negatively influences Hamlet. Like a snake wrapped around its prey, Claudius slowly begins to control Hamlet's life--using his newly granted power as king and Gertrude's influence over Hamlet. Claudius dismisses Hamlet's mourning and undermines his feelings by saying, 'You must know your father lost a father, That father lost him, and the survivor bound in financial obligation for some term to do obsequious sorrow' . Claudius's insensitivity toward him commences the downward spiral of Hamlet's cowardly mentality. He views sorrowful coping as 'unmanly grief'. The absence of understanding from Hamlet's new patriarch threatens his masculinity and tampers with his courage, leading him to ask “take it to heart? Fie, 'tis a fault to heaven, a fault against the dead, a fault against nature'. He believes Hamlet's grief disgraces all entities, dead or alive. Claudius's harsh words taint Hamlet's perception of himself and demolish his confidence.

Claudius dictates Hamlet's life and frantically attempts to control his behavior. He begins by marrying Gertrude. Uncomfortable with his uncle (and brother of his deceased father) marrying his mother, Hamlet wails in lament, 'O, most wicked speed, to post with such dexterity to incestuous sheets! It is not, nor it cannot come to good. But break my heart, for I must hold my tongue' . Hamlet's fear of Claudius annihilates his dignity, taking control over his life. With no guidance from his elders, Hamlet intends to return to school in Wittenberg and escape Denmark. Returning to school will be therapeutic for Hamlet because he longs for isolation from the avalanche of his life. Each pound of snow and mass of ice crush Hamlet, and when the dust settles, a new tragedy emerges. After Hamlet's request to return to school, Claudius responds with, 'dearest father bears his son Do I impart toward you. For your intent In going back to school in Wittenberg, It is most retrograde to our desire'. He requires Hamlet to stay in Denmark, for '[Claudius and Gertrude] beseech [Hamlet], bend [him] to remain, [there] in the cheer and comfort of [their] eye'. Claudius possesses immense power over Hamlet because of his position as king, likewise, through Gertrude's influence. Hamlet initially respects his mother's desires, so when Claudius convinces Gertrude that Hamlet's departure is a poor idea, the unanimous vote keeps him imprisoned in Denmark. Gertrude’s request, 'let not thy mother lose her prayers, Hamlet. I pray thee stay with us, go not to Wittenberg,' terminates his plans. Hamlet remains trapped in Denmark until Claudius sends him away out of fear of Hamlet’s emerging insanity.

To cope with the death of his father, Hamlet pretends to go mad. Claudius worries about his behavior, so he summons Hamlet's acquaintances, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, to retrieve information about his mental state. He fears that 'madness in great ones must not unwatched go'. Unable to coax information from Hamlet, Claudius settles his anxieties involving Hamlet's intentions but request that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern precede with their supervision. As chief counsellor of the king, Polonius suspects Hamlet's insanity derives from his everlasting love for his daughter, Ophelia. Endlessly grasping for evidence, Polonius hides behind a curtain in Gertrude's room while she speaks to Hamlet. Thinking the individual is the king, Hamlet yells, 'How now? A rat? Dead for a ducat, dead' and stabs the curtain. Once Hamlet murders Polonius, Claudius orders Hamlet to England with a letter requesting for his execution. They leave for England, but Hamlet detects suspicion, which leads him to read the letter. Hamlet changes it, so Rosencrantz and Guildenstern will be executed instead and then returns home. His return marks the official loss of his sanity. Although Claudius impacts Hamlet's mental health, other figures influence his decision too.

The ghost of Hamlet's father is a primary reason for why he acts deranged; for the ghost declares, 'the serpent that did sting thy father's life Now wears the crown' and request Hamlet to 'revenge his foul and most unnatural murder'. Alone, and with no one to discuss the ghost's overwhelming message, Hamlet's paranoia increases rapidly. He acts unstable to cope with the tenacious request and dissociates himself with society. Ophelia's concern for Hamlet increases, so she confronts him about his behavior. She attempts to connect with him. Trying to make him recollect on their relationship, she mentions, 'my honored lord, you know right well you did, and with them words of so sweet breath composed as made these things more rich.  Hamlet, denying his love, responds, 'Your honesty should admit no discourse to your beauty... I loved you not'. He disconnects with close relationships, so the possibility of Claudius's murder is more comfortable to ponder. By detaching himself from the one who cares most, Hamlet can guiltlessly establish the fate of Claudius. Although separation lifts weight off his shoulders, Hamlet's actions begin to be manipulated by God.

Religion dramatically influences the people of Denmark. For Hamlet, it keeps him alive and postpones him murdering Claudius. Hamlet debates suicide throughout the play, but the sinful act will send him directly to purgatory. The 'to be, or not to be' soliloquy embodies Hamlet's mental state.The pain of life overwhelms Hamlet and restricts his functioning and clarity. Although he battles 'the whips and scorns' of life, 'the dread of something after death, the undiscovere'd country,' terrifies immensely. Because 'no traveller returns [and] puzzles the will,' he would 'rather bear those ills we have. Than fly to others that we know not of?'. The potential power that God possesses terrifies Hamlet, giving him the will to survive. Hamlet's spirituality also conflicts with his decision to kill Claudius. Once he gathers the courage and confirms Claudius is guilty, Hamlet attempts to kill him. Upset and uncomfortable, Claudius abruptly leaves the play and rushes to his room. He claims, 'oh, my offence is rank. It smells to heaven. It hath the primal eldest curse upon' t, A brother's murder'. Hamlet listens intently to his confession, preparing to assassinate him. Claudius begs, 'help, angels. Make assay. Bow, stubborn knees, and heart with strings of steel, be soft as sinews of the newborn babe. All may be well' . Because he prays for forgiveness for his sins, Hamlet worries he will rise to heaven immediately and face no suffering.

Claudius peacefully dying appears unfair to Hamlet, so he determines to kill, 'when he is drunk asleep, or in his rage, or in th' incestuous pleasure of his bed, at game a-swearing' . Although the prayer temporarily keeps him from committing this clinical act, the dark intent behind waiting presents the path in which Hamlet takes. His spirituality may keep him alive, but in doing so, it will hurt others. Once Hamlet no longer fears death, Claudius, and God, monstrosities begin to unravel. He journeys back from England, determined to kill Claudius. Grateful for his return, Laertes schedules a duel, so he has the opportunity to put Hamlet to death and to avenge Polonius. All characters meet their death once the duel begins. Gertrude drinks poison wine; the poison sword cuts Hamlet and Laertes, and Hamlet stabs Claudius with the sword while forcing the wine down his throat. Laertes and Hamlet, fearless and vengeful, create great chaos, ending the lives of every character except Horatio.

Hamlet's fear controls him for much of the play. His youthful and immature mind could not battle the intensities of the world alone. With the loss of his father, Hamlet has no guidance or anywhere to turn. He becomes overwhelmed with the encounter of the ghost's words, which conflicts with his peaceful morals. Claudius's cynical intentions confused Hamlet, leading him to a deep state of depression, self-pity, and vengeance. Debating between murder and suicide, Hamlet stays alive because he fears the afterlife and the punishments for his sins. He dwells over the murder, but after receiving confirmation that Claudius is guilty, Hamlet plans the kill. He eliminates all relationships and superstitions, removing remorse from the murder. Once Hamlet rids of all tyrants, fear no longer determines his choices, furthermore, leading others to fear him.        

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