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Psychological Elements of Hamlet's Character

Psychological Elements of Hamlet's Character


Disillusionment. Depression. Despair. These are the burning emotions churning in young Hamlet's soul as he attempts to come to terms with his father's death and his mother's incestuous, illicit marriage. While Hamlet tries to pick up the pieces of his shattered idealism, he consciously embarks on a quest to seek the truth hidden in Elsinore; this, in stark contrast to Claudius' fervent attempts to obscure the truth of murder. Deception versus truth; illusion versus reality. In the play, Prince Hamlet is constantly having to differentiate amongst them. However, there is always an exception to the rule, and in this case, the exception lies in Act 2, Scene 2, where an "honest" conversation (sans the gilded trappings of deceit) takes place between Hamlet and Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern. Via the use of prose and figurative language, Shakespeare utilizes the passage to illustrate Hamlet's view of the cosmos and mankind.

Throughout the play, the themes of illusion and mendaciousness have been carefully developed. The entire royal Danish court is ensnared in a
\ web of espionage, betrayal, and lies. Not a single man speaks his mind, nor addresses his purpose clearly. As Polonius puts it so perfectly: "And thus do we of wisdom and of reach^Å By indirections find directions out"

Act 2, Scene 2, Lines 71-3
The many falsehoods and deceptions uttered in Hamlet are expressed through eloquent, formal, poetic language (iambic pentameter), tantamount to an art form. If deceit is a painted, ornate subject then, its foil of truth is simple and unvarnished. Accordingly, when the pretenses of illusion are discarded in Act 2, Scene 2, the language is written in direct prose. Addressing Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlet pleads with them to deliver up honest speech about the intent of their arrival: "[offer up] Anything but to th' purpose."

Act 2, Scene 2, Line 300
In a gesture of extreme significance, in a quote complementary to Polonius' aforementioned one, Hamlet demands: "Be even and direct with me whether you were sent for or no."

Act 2, Scene 2, Lines 310-11
Being the bumbling fools they are, Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern disclose their intentions and purposes to Hamlet, revealing the King and Queen's instructions. Thus does truth prevail in this passage. For this reason, the whole passage is devoid of the "artful" poetic devices that are used in the better portion of the play.

The recurring motif of corruption also appears in the passage. Due...

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