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Hamlet Character Sketch

Hamlet Character Sketch

Hamlet's character dominates the play, lending the tragedy its greatest philosophical and metaphysical dimensions. Shakespeare has brilliantly raised Hamlet above a stock figure of an avenger; as he answers the call of revenge, he also proves he is an intellectual aristocrat. As a scholar and a thinker, Hamlet often reveals the high quality of his mind, pondering many weighty matters. He is also a perceptive student of drama and obviously well read in the classics.

Hamlet is a noble and sensitive hero, an ideal Renaissance gentleman with a fair "mould of form." His refinement of spirit is evident when he criticizes Claudius for his drunkenness. His sensitivity is seen in his horror over his mother's too rapid remarriage to the new king. His humility is seen in his love for Ophelia; he cares little for the fact that she is socially beneath him.

Hamlet is, however, a tragic hero and victim. When the play begins, Claudius has already violated the natural order of the kingdom, and Hamlet, although profoundly disturbed, is only partially aware of the evil that has been perpetrated by his new stepfather. Although he has weaknesses, Hamlet never has a part in the creation or evolution of evil in the play. His fatal flaw is his procrastination over avenging his father's death. Although he finally achieves vengeance and justice, it is at a terrible cost, for every major character is killed as a result of Hamlet's past hesitations.

Hamlet is an emotional young man, deeply disillusioned by his mother's incestuous marriage to his uncle and full of grief at his father's sudden death. He is so disenchanted with life that he views it with disgust and disappointment, saying that the world is "weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable… an unweeded garden." The revelation by his father's ghost that he was murdered by Claudius aggravates Hamlet's distress. The ghost's demand to "revenge his foul and most unnatural murder" and to not let "the royal bed of Denmark" become "a couch for luxury and damned incest" thrusts upon Hamlet a duty to take extreme action. Unfortunately the Prince's mind at the moment of revelation is unstable from grief, and the ghost's command is almost more than he is able to bear. While he is at first full of fire to exact revenge, Hamlet quickly realizes the heavy burden of the duty given to him and says, "The time...

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