Development of Hamlet's Maturity and Understanding of the World During the Play

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A Lesson Learned

It is common for people to analyze what is happening in the relationships within their own lives when they are young, but be unable to complete their thoughts and apply their analysis until further maturity. During Hamlet’s second soliloquy, he is able to reach this vital point in maturity. When he was younger, he knew that his mother’s marriage to his dad’s brother was wrong for several reasons, but he is not able to confirm any suspicions he has about his mother or Claudius, his new stepdad. Just before Hamlet’s soliloquy, the ghost of his father informs him that Claudius was the one that murdered him. The ghost also says that Hamlet’s mother is partially to blame, but orders Hamlet to seek revenge on Claudius, and leave his mother to God’s will. Hamlet’s soliloquy is used to display Hamlet’s reaction to this new information. Hamlet is quick to retain every word the ghost said, and is now mature enough to use this situation as a lesson.

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After pouring his emotions out and promising to remember what the ghost has told him, Hamlet explains his newly confirmed thoughts about his mother and Claudius. When speaking of his mother, he said “Oh, most pernicious woman!” (Ham. 1.5.106) which shows that he thinks very little of her. When speaking of Claudius, he said “Oh, villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!” (Ham. 1.5.107) which shows that Hamlet has realized that even though Claudius is smiling, he is still a villain. In Hamlet’s young age, he thought Claudius was evil, but he was fooled into doubting himself due to Claudius’ smile. Now that he has matured more, he can understand the contrast between appearance and reality.

Hamlet is able to take this lesson about Claudius and generalize it for future reference. He writes this generalization in his notebook like a student; “one may smile, and smile, and be a villain. / At least I am sure it may be so in Denmark” (Ham. 1.5.109-110). Even though this is Hamlet’s first time putting this piece of knowledge into words, he knew this all along. He has suspected that Claudius is a villain since the beginning of his mother’s marriage. In his first soliloquy, he compared his father to a god and his uncle to a beast stating “[s]o excellent a king, that was to this / Hyperion to a satyr” (Ham. 1.2.139-140). As Hamlet started to understand more about the world around him, he was able to confirm his fragmented suspicions. This confirmation, as well as Hamlet’s new ability to generalize are signs of Hamlet growing out of adolescence.

Hamlet’s encounter with the ghost left him hoping to remember the difference between appearance and reality. This lesson is something Hamlet has known for a rather long time, but has been unable to process entirely until his soliloquy. He has reached a new state of maturity where he can take a lesson he has just learned about someone in his life and quickly generalize it so it can be applied later on. By writing what he has learned down, he begins to display the mannerisms of a student or a scholar. The way that Hamlet retained and applied the knowledge that the ghost gave him shows a deeper understanding of the world, and a new stage in maturity.

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