Hamlet: Growing Pains In the epic tragedy Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, Prince Hamlet is entrapped in a world of evil that is not of his own creation. He must oppose this evil, which permeates his seemingly star-struck life from many angles.
His dealings with his father’s eerie death cause Hamlet to grow up fast. His family, his sweetheart, and his school friends all appear to turn against him and to ally themselves with the evil predicament in which Hamlet finds himself. Hamlet makes multiple attempts to avenge his father’s murder, but each fails because his father’s murder, but each fails because his plans are marred by very human shortcomings. It is these shortcomings that Hamlet is a symbol of ordinary humanity and give him the room he needs to grow. The Hamlet that Shakespeare begins to develop in Act I is a typical mortal, bowed down by his human infirmities and by a disgust of the evils in a world which has led him to the brink of suicide.
Hamlet voices his thoughts on the issue: O that this too too solid flesh would melt…’ (I. ii. 135). He is prevented from this drastic step only by a faith which teaches him that God has fix’d/ His canon gainst self-slaughter’ (I. ii.
131-2). To Hamlet appears his dead father’s spirit, and he must continue to live in the unweeded garden, / That grows to seed’ in order to fulfill the obligation he has to his father (I.ii. 135-6). Making Hamlet more a story of personal growth than a dark murder mystery, Shakespeare emphasizes the emotional, rather than the physical, obstacles that Prince must face in accomplishing his goal. Immediately, Hamlet must determine whether the ghost speaks the truth, and to do so he must cope with theological issues. He must settle the moral issue of private revenge.
He must learn to live in a world in which corruption could be as near as the person who gave birth to him. He also must control the human passions within him which are always threatening his plans. There are no more sobering issues than these which would catalyze growth in any human. Hamlet’s widely recognized hamartia, or tragic flaw, is his inability to make decisions on subjects with consequences of any weight. That he is aware of his stagnation in such situations does prove to be helpful in defeating this flaw. After passing up three oppotuities to entrap Claudius in the third act (the nunnery scene on which the king was eavesdropping, during The Murder of Gonzago, the scene in Gertrude’s closet), Hamlet berates himself because of his indecisiveness: Why (must ) I live to say This thing’s to do; / Sith I have cause and will and strength and means / To do’t’ (IV.iv.
44-46). Hamlet realizes that his strength and opportunity are of no avail until he feels morally right in following through on his vengeful task. Looking towards Horatio as a model of the Christian stoicism he needs to pull himself through the play, Hamlet comments on him: . .
.thou hast been / As one, in suffering all, that suffers nothing, / A man that fortune’s buffets and rewards / Hast ta’en with equal thanks. . . .Give me that man / That is not passion’s slave, and I will wear him / I my hearts core’ (III.ii.
70-79). Hamlet must become like Horatio. He must learn that evil is a necessary part of the harmonious order that God created. When Hamlet can become impervious to the blows of fortune, his mission will be accomplished.
The impending dark period Hamlet must endure is represented by the sympathetic fallacy of the state of nature in Denmark. Francisco notes, ’tis bitter cold, And I am sick at heart’ (I.i. 8-9). This readies the audience for the appearance of the ghost which will represent the perversion of the harmonious order that Hamlet must restore. Hamlet’s reactions to his father’s questionable death begin to reveal his immaturity.
Suffering from an unnatural grief over his father’s death, Hamlet lets his immaturity be revealed when he says the death was a will most incorrect to heaven’ (I.ii. 129). As of now, Hamlet has a …heart unfortified, a mind impatient, / An understanding simple and unschool’d’ ( I.ii. 96-97).
He is, therefore, unable to bear the brunt of something tragic as his father’s death. Unable to see the god in things, Hamlet views the, world, God’s own creation, as merely a place of corruption: How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable, / Seem to me all the uses of tis world!’ (I.ii. 133-134). It takes a mature man to delve deeper into a particular situation to find some good, and Hamlet can find nothing. Although continuing to be very mentally distraught, a sign of growth occurs when Hamlet bursts into Opelia’s closet. Ophelia, in relating the scene to her father, says, He took me by the wrist and held me hard’ ( II.i.
98). This description of the occurrence proves that he has grown enough since the first act to realize that he needs the help of others in order to stay strong. Hamlets short-lived relationship with Ophelia did not fare well, and it dies sharply when he finds out she is conspiring against him. A sign of growth occurs as he shows his willingness to accept the situation as it is. He says, I never gave you aught’ ( III.i.
96). Not wholly mature at this point, Hamlet does revert to some immaturity when he makes threats on many peoples’ lives. Knowing of the presence of the eavesdropping Claudius, Hamlet makes a mistake when he declares, I say, we will have no new marriages: those that are married already, all but one, shall live’ (III.i. 153-5).
This statement only proves to make the situation more difficult to Hamlet because it gives Claudius plausible reason to ship him to England. Later in the play, Gertrude calls her son into her closet for what s to be a lecture to discourage the pranks’ he had been pulling. He finally mentions to Gertrude that he believes she had some underlying part in his father’s death. She, in turn, is astonished, As kill a king?’ (III.iv. 30). This response corroborates the accumulating evidence of her innocence.
Due to Hamlet’s excess of passion during this scene, however, this victory is marred by his inadvertent killing of Polonius. Now, his the importance of his mother’s well being is heightened. His Christian concern for his mother’s salvation as opposed to his uncles damnation shows immeasurable growth. After all, he does invoke the soul of Nero’ to assure her safety. At this point, Hamlet is taken to England by two of his friends turned betrayers, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
During this trip, he seems to smother fear with his newfound blanket of faith in God. This is a principal mark in the development of his trust in God. He writes to Horatio of his dramatic escape from the voyage to England and has this to say: There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, / Rough-hew them how we will’ (V.ii. 10-11). It is in this fifth act that Hamlet has fully submitted to the will of God, and this very submission allows him to make the Final push to accomplish his goal.
He is confused no longer and feels obligated to kill Claudius when he says, He hath killed my king and whored my mother, / Popp’d in between the election and my hopes. . ./ To let this canker of our nature come / In further evil’ (V.ii. 64-5, 69-70)? He can now view Claudius’ death not as a sinful act of vengeance, but as a duty to the subjects of Elsinor. When Horatio suggests that the duel that Claudius has arranged with Laertes may bring about Hamlet’s demise, Hamlet’s reply shows he has taken on Horatio’s stoicism: If it be now, tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet will come: readiness is all.
. . .Let be’ (V.ii. 231-5). The ineffective schemer of the first three acts is no more. Through the tragic events that Hamlet endures, his character has evolved into arguably his greatest asset.
Now he can put the final touches on the restoration of order which must be done to successfully end the catastrophe in any Shakespearean tragedy. As Hamlet forces the poisoned cup to the king’s lips, Laertes emphasizes that, in order for harmony to be restored, evil must destroy itself: He is justly served; / It is a poison temper’d by himself’ (V.ii. 338-9). The now fully grown Hamlet attains salvation after he is poisoned, and this is hinted at by Horatio: Good night, sweet prince; / And the flights of angels sing to thee thy rest’ (V.ii.