Fate in Hamlet
Does Hamlet live and die by making free choices or are his choices all controlled by forces larger than himself?
In William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, the protagonist Prince Hamlet goes through the ordeals of life that are beyond anyone’s control. In this way, it is reminiscent of Oedipus Rex. However, Prince Hamlet is not totally in the dark with regard to the situations that awaits him and also the consequences of his actions. He is not someone who procrastinates for no reason or for the fear of defeat. He realizes that the only choices that he has will eventually lead to the despondency. He does not see himself as the prospective ruler of Elsinore, and is wary of the notion of leading a province full of people whose life habits he does not approve. Unlike Macbeth, Prince Hamlet abhors the necessary evils attendant to power.
After the University years of relative peace and introspective pursuits, Hamlet is suddenly faced with a situation where he is to unravel the mystery surrounding his father’s death. As he travels through this journey of self-revelation, he understands that life is necessarily tragic. His reluctance to act on the basis of the clues given by his father’s ghost may perhaps be interpreted as his attempt to postpone the ultimate tragedy for while. He turns wiser at the depth of life experiences that demand him to take the responsibility of avenging his father’s murder. Hamlet is capable of rising to the task of understanding that life contains much more than what it reveals as he tells his confidant, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy” (Act I Scene V, 166-167). Here he approves of the powers that are beyond the tangible, and prepares himself to be a part of the unknown designs that are to ensue. He does not betray himself by trying to be a hero in epic dimensions and waits patiently for the moments where he will have to exhibit his convictions through his actions.
There is nothing which Prince Hamlet could have changed in the consummation of tragedy. He was absent when his father’s murder took place. The difficulties that arise in his steadfast efforts to find out the truth regarding the murder are his close relationships with his mother and Ophelia. Though he does not manage very well in handling these delicate relationships, one could not accuse him of deliberately causing despair through his actions to these women. Even if he had maintained the relationships, it would not have lessened the essential tragedy that awaited him. He is not someone similar to Claudius, who could assume power after killing the King who is his own brother, and marrying his wife. There were only a few choices left to Prince Hamlet, and he was aware that all of them led him to the end of all happiness and contentment.
In his final breath, the prince is fully aware that everything has been resolved, though he will not have any place in the times to come. He was just instrumental in unraveling the unspeakable horrors in the royal family, and the guiding light for the province has to emerge from outside. He tells Horatio that “Things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me!” (Act V Scene II, 337). This reveals how Prince Hamlet considered himself a mere tool in the hands of destiny. However, he is not someone who did not act at all, contrary to the popular view, because it is his convictions, earnestness to find the truth as it is, and focused efforts to establish it that constitutes the entire play. He accepts the fact that life is essentially a complex web of possibilities where the individual choices made by someone are affected in many ways by unalterable fate. However, he does not withdraw completely from the possibilities of life and tries to make whatever limited differences he could as a human being.