From Beginning to End Write an essay in which you analyze hamlets character from the beginning to the end of the play.
Does he grow or change?
Consider his soliloquies also for your analysis. What type of person is he?
Hamlet is quite possibly the most enigmatic and troubled of all the characters created by Shakespeare simply because he comes across as a person who is indecisive, thoughtful, and introspective while he is faced with considerable challenges in his own life. As the play progresses Hamlet does show signs of maturity and growth but those signs are limited at best. It seems that the brooding young prince shown at the beginning of the play does not change into a confident mature king even in allegorical terms.
Consider the fist lined Hamlet has to say in Act 1 Scene 2 where he comes across as a sarcastic person who verbally spars with Gertrude and Claudius yet once they depart he launches into his first important soliloquy where he thinks about suicide and how his mother showed weakness in marrying his uncle so quickly after the funeral. His sarcasm resurfaces when he tells Horatio how the food at the funeral could have been served at the marriage ceremony. In scene 5, he tells Horatio that belief in spirits and things from outside the real world is not wrong, yet he himself does not trust the visitation from the ghost and wants complete and positive proof that his uncle did murder his father.
His introspective nature comes across quite clearly when he discusses the nature of man in Act 2, Scene 2. Even though he does not recognize the treachery of his uncle, he is quick to spot the doubt in Rosencrantz’s smile. Strangely enough, he doubts the act of his uncle yet he is perceptive enough to see through Rosencrantz. He discusses the greatness of man but does not consider himself to be great since in the very next soliloquy considers himself a rouge and a slave for not taking action and avenging the death of his father. These elements certainly show the confusion and the indecisive character of Hamlet who is unable to take action and remains lost in words.
At the same time, he claims that he knows what he is supposed to do and that his course is set. Yet, at the beginning of Act 3, we get his famous to be or not to be soliloquy where he again begins to doubt his very existence and the struggle he is going to go through. He loves Ophelia yet he shuns her since he has too much on his mind and too little time to discharge the responsibilities he has charged himself with. As to those responsibilities, he gets a chance to kill his uncle while he is praying yet he stops since that would take him straight to heaven and Hamlet does not wish that to happen.
He reaffirms his resolve to avenge the death of his father in Act 3 Scene 4 where he says that his thoughts should be filled with blood or be worth nothing, however, he does not charge down the field to kill his uncle but dallies along discussing life and death. In Act 5, he examines Yorick’s skull and talks about how life and living are mirrored in death and dying completely unconcerned with his statement of his thoughts being worthless if they are not filled with blood and revenge for his father.
Overall it is clear that Hamlet does not change much throughout the play. His hatred for women was evident from early on in the play when he talked about how his mother was a weak person to begin with and how Ophelia is merely someone who is stopping him from completing his task. His indecision was evident at many places where he wanted to be completely sure about the message given by the ghost and his own suspicions about his father’s death. His philosophy and thoughts about life, living and death do not seem to change much as the play progresses and eventually his own end shows what a wasted life he lived since all he could do was get revenge and nothing more.
In conclusion, I do not think that there is much evidence in the play that Hamlet grows or develops as a person or a character in the course of action. In fact, that instability which comes from being fixated on a singular objective as well as the young age which Hamlet represents can not remain believable if Hamlet becomes mature as the play progresses. I believe that it is one of the beauties of this particular tragedy that the reader is forced to sympathise with Hamlet’s condition even though he/she may be bored to tears with his speeches or complete lack of action towards an objective.
Shakespeare, W. “The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark”. Wikisource.org. 9 May, 2006
Word Count: 834.