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Critical Analysis of the Psyche of Hamlet

Critical Analysis of the Psyche of Hamlet

Shakespeare has created a character in Hamlet that has intrigued literary aficionados and critics for 400 years. A look into the depths of Hamlet shows a character so psychologically complex that no one has created a character to rival him yet any one of us could relate to his feelings, perception and dilemmas. The journey through the intellectual yet simple, courageous yet impotent and complex yet incredibly common character of Hamlet is fascinating to say the least.

Intelligent and philosophical, Hamlet is first portrayed as the only person grounded in reality. Hamlet mourns the death of a father while everyone around him is in denial. Of his own mother, who married his uncle Claudius within a month of his father’s death, he says:

“O God! A beast that wants discourse of reason,

Would have mourned longer.”

And to his friend Horatio he sarcastically states:

“the funeral bak’d meats

did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables”

Grounded in many years of philosophical teaching, Hamlet was trained to take the throne of his father, King Hamlet. One can surmise that he spent many hours working on self-control and quick decision making in the face of chaos. Analyzing each situation so as not to make a rash mistaken decision, pondering the choices and acting only when absolutely sure, Hamlet was untrained and unprepared to contemplate the revenge for the murder of his father. His entire life spent preparing to deal through issues with fairness, taught a Christian’s unfavorable view of revenge. He is now faced with a dilemma. It is really not a good versus evil dilemma, it is good versus good. The justification for revenge exists, while the justification for mercy exists. Hamlet as a deer caught in headlights is unable to move. Contemplating his situation so intensely, he is frozen in indecisiveness.

Even when the opportunity presents itself as he catches Claudius praying, Hamlet ever the thinker does not want to take Claudius’s life then because his prayers may have redeemed him and allowed him ascent to heaven rather than a fate in hell. It has been debated whether this was his true reasoning or rather, Hamlet’s convenient excuse for inaction.

As the play unfolds, a picture of a deeply troubled young man appears. Confused to the point of inaction one moment and brashly prone to brutality...

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