There have been many great thinkers in literature. Characters who examine themselves, others, and the world in a thoughtful and insightful way. One of these introspective and self-aware literary creations is Hamlet in Shakespeare s play Hamlet. The play is one filled with and based on ideas and contemplation as opposed to the steady stream of action that fills many of his other plays. Not that there s any lack of action in the play. On the contrary, it includes violent deaths, a vicious duel, and a vengeful ghost. There s no lack of physical action after the thought processes are completed, either. The central character of Hamlet, however, is one who considers before he acts, and whose actions (and their consequences) are therefore not random acts of fate, but deliberately chosen resolutions. Hamlet proves himself to be a tragic figure as well as a sacrificial hero through his private thoughts and his determinations.
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These major internal events begin with Hamlet s reaction to meeting and speaking with his father s ghost. This meeting was the catalyst for a lot of silent contemplation and turmoil for the young prince. The movement of ideas here is rapid the Ghost gives a clear, incriminating account of Claudius s involvement in his death, and Hamlet immediately vows to avenge him. His reaction was passionate, and suitably so. After all, no character of integrity and honor could have refused the task given to him by the Ghost. In making the deliberate decision to avenge his father, Hamlet alerts the reader that he is the central character in the play. It also lets us know that he is a truly decent and loyal son as his quest for revenge consumes him. As he says in act one, scene five:
I ll wipe away all trivial, fond records,
All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past,
That youth and observation copied there,
And thy commandment all alone shall live
Within the book and volume of my brain,
Unmixed with baser matter. Yes, by heaven!
Here, Hamlet reveals through his decision a powerful will and overwhelming resolution as he declares that he will completely reject all other pastimes and priorities in order to fulfill his choice and oath. This steadfastness, though it later wavers, leads directly to all of Hamlet s future actions, from his assumed madness to his rejection of Ophelia to his return from England. The scene shows us Hamlet s motive for his future actions, and starts of his trend of silent brooding.
However, Hamlet s strong resolve begins to fade soon after the ghost s departure. Upon the departure of the players at the end of Act II, Hamlet confronts his shame at his own deficiency of action, having witnessed an actor more deeply moved by fiction than he himself is by reality. Hamlet demonstrates not only a great honesty and bravery in facing his own fears and doubts and condemning them, but his shrewd plan to discover the truth of Claudius s guilt reveals Hamlet s intelligence and prudence as well. What if Hamlet had been some other character, of equal honor and virtue, but less of a thinker and more of a man bent on action? It is his choice to think things through that lends his future deeds credence and justification. Hamlet supports thought and human rationality before immediate action, no matter the righteousness of the course. When Claudius guilt is confirmed through the play, however, Hamlet s resolve is renewed and his desire to act is burning. Now could I drink hot blood, and do such bitter business as the day would quake to look on, he declares. Although Hamlet put off the murder initially, he now sees the justification and prudence in acting quickly and soundly.
It is yet another thoughtful and psychological scene that further encourages Hamlet s desire to take action after he kills Polonius by accident. Hamlet encounters the army of Fortinbras, and he finds an example of action that he cannot ignore. He resolved upon action first after his father s ghost demanded it, then again after being shamed by the false sincerity of an actor, and then once more upon the confirmation of his uncle s guilt. Now, having witnessed twenty thousand men marching to sacrifice themselves for nothing more than glory and a worthless plot of dirt, Hamlet is provoked into a final mental confrontation with himself that decided his course and the course of the play for the last time.
…how stand I, then,
That have a father killed, a mother stained,
Excitements of my reason and my blood,
And let all sleep, while to my shame I see
The imminent death of twenty thousand men
That for a fantasy and trick of fame
Go to their graves like beds
O, from this time forth
My thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth! (4.4.59-69)
With this final resolution, Hamlet has prepared himself for the final duel and the conclusion of the play. His thoughts have once again prepared him for murder, and he sets forth to complete the task that his father s ghost challenged him to complete.
Hamlet s character is deeply troubled throughout the play, and it is the emotions and thoughts that stem from his troubles that propel the play from act to act. He is caught off guard by news of his father s murder, and is put right in the middle of a situation in which he must take violent and sudden action. He is aware of the good and bad of what he must do, and this contrast is something that he deals with many times in his soliloquies and statements to others. Because of the realizations and resolutions that he forms based on these ponderings, come the actions that eventually cause him to lose everyone he loves (as well as himself) as he makes one sacrifice after another to avenge his father.