Hamlet’s Struggle and Disillusionment

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QUESTION: “Shakespeare’s Hamlet continues to engage audiences through its dramatic treatment of struggle and disillusionment. ” In the light of your critical study, does this statement resonate with your own interpretation of Hamlet? RESPONSE: In the light of my critical study, the statement that “Shakespeare’s Hamlet continues to engage audiences through its dramatic treatment of struggle and disillusionment” resonates strongly with my own interpretation of Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet.

It clearly continues to engage audiences as it presents ideas of duty and corruption. Shakespeare presents these ideas largely through the protagonist, Hamlet’s, struggle with his duty to his father and his disillusionment with himself and the corrupt society in which he lives. Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, can be seen as one about duty, in particular Hamlet’s struggle with his duty to his father and the possible consequences involved. Hamlet’s duty is revealed when he speaks with the ghost of his father who commands Hamlet to “revenge his foul and most unnatural murder. The appearance of the supernatural and the suggestion of a “most unnatural murder” also presents the idea of corruption as it portrays the idea of death against the natural order. Hamlet clearly struggles with this command from his father’s ghost, as avenging his father’s death would mean that Hamlet himself would have to murder not just another person, but his uncle CLaudius, the new king of Denmark. Therefore, Hamlet struggles to take immediate action but instead he tells the ghost, “with wings as swift as meditation or the thoughts of love may sweep to my revenge. This simile suggests that Hamlet is eager to seek revenge quickly, however his response is paradoxical as “meditation” and “thoughts of love” suggest that he may have to think about the task ahead of him first. This highlights Hamlet’s struggle with his duty as while he wants to avenge his father’s death, he is also unsure and so cannot take immediate action. Hamlet’s uncertainty and struggle with his duty to his father is obvious through the appearance of the supernatural, the ghost of Old Hamlet, who commands him to take revenge. Hamlet is insure of whether the ghost is good or evil.

This is evident when the ghost appears and Hamlet questions him repeatedly while contrasting ideas of good and evil. Hamlet asks the ghost if it is “a spirit of health, or goblin damned,” whether it “bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell” and if its “intents [are] wicked or charitable. ” This repetition of questions emphasises Hamlet’s uncertainty about the ghost and highlights his fear that it may be a dishonest and evil spirit trying to damn Hamlet to hell by getting him to commit murder, and so Hamlet struggles to undertake his duty to avenge his father’s death.

Shakespeare’s dramatic treatment of struggle is clear through Hamlet’s inability to take action and carry out his duty to his father. Before avenging his father’s death, Hamlet first puts on a play “to hold… the mirror up to nature,” in an attempt to reinact the events of his fathers death and “catch the conscience of the king” to ensure that what the ghost has told him is true. While by arranging this play, Hamlet is in a sense taking some action by trying to ascertain the truth, Hamlet reproaches himself in a soliloquy for his lack of decisive action.

Shakespeare’s use of a soliloquy allows Hamlet to reveal his feelings and innermost thoughts to the audience and he admires one of the players’ passion and emotion. Hamlet marvels at the player having “tears in his eyes… and all for nothing? ” and contrasts this player who is able to show great emotion and cry at imagined events in a play with himself. Hamlet describes himself very negatively as a “dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause, and can say nothing. This contrast of Hamlet as a daydreamer who is incapable of taking revenge with the player who is so passionate over imaginary things emphasises Hamlet’s struggle with his duty and how he admires and envies those able to take decisive action. Shakespeare clearly conveys the ideas of struggle and disillusionment not only through Hamlet’s disillusionment with himself as he struggles to carry out the duty of avenging his father’s death, but also his disillusionment with the corrupt world around him. This corruption is obvious from very early in the play where Barnardo asks in the opening line, “Who’s there? This creates a sense of mystery and uncertainty, and a sense that things are not as they should be. This is further emphasised as it is Barnardo, the newcomer, who challenges Francisco, the guard on duty, which is the opposite of military practice and so suggests events against the natural order and a sense of corruption. Hamlet’s disillusionment with the corrupt world around him is also obvious in his first soliloquy where he reveals to the audience his innermost thoughts on his mother’s marriage to his uncle and the current situation in Denmark.

Hamlet uses the metaphor of “an unweeded garden” to convey the idea of a state that is overgrown with “things rank and gross in nature” and filled with corruption. The corruption in Denmark is further conveyed in Marcellus’ statement, “something is rotten in the state of Denmark. ” The idea of something being “rotten” suggests that it has been left to grow stagnant and take over so that things are no longer as they should be and that the state has become embroiled in corruption. The corrupt society by which Hamlet is disillusioned may also be seen in the characters of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

While supposedly Hamlet’s friends, they were sent for by Claudius to spy on his nephew and their “visitation shall receive such thanks as fits a king’s remembrance. ” This clearly conveys the idea of corruption as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are willing to accept payment from Hamlet’s uncle, who murdered his father, to spy on their friend. However, when speaking to Hamlet, they claim that they are there “to visit… no other occasion. ” The audience is aware that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have been paid by Claudius to spy on Hamlet though, therefore creating dramatic irony which emphasises Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s lie and so clearly otrays the corruption in these characters. Through Shakespeare’s use of dramatic and literary techniques, Hamlet’s struggle with his duty to avenge his father’s death and disillusionment with himself and the corruption surrounding him is clearly portrayed. Therefore, the statement that “Shakespeare’s Hamlet continues to engage audiences through its dramatic treatment of struggle and disillusionment” resonates strongly with my own interpretation of Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet.