Hamlet, The Social And Psychological Influences On Hamlet Essay, Research Paper
The Social and Psychological Influences on Hamlet
In Shakespeare s Hamlet, the influence of Hamlet s psychological and social states display his dread of death but his need to avenge his father s death. In turn, these influences illuminate the meaning of the play by revealing Hamlet s innermost thoughts on life and death and the effect of religion. Despite the fact that Hamlet s first instincts were reluctance and hesitation, he knows that he must avenge his father s death. While Hamlet is conscious of avenging his father s death, he is contemplating all the aspects of death itself.
Once Hamlet has learned of his father s death, he is faced with a difficult question: should he succumb to the social influence of avenging his father s death? The Ghost tells Hamlet to revenge his foul and most unnatural murder (1.5.31) upon which Hamlet swears to remember (1.5.118). Hamlet s immediate response to this command of avenging his father s death is reluctance. Hamlet displays his reluctance by deciding to test the validity of what the Ghost has told him by setting up a play something like the murder of (his) father s (2.2.624) for Claudius. Hamlet will then observe his looks (2.2.625) and if he do blench (2.2.626) Hamlet will know that he must avenge his father s death. In the course of Hamlet avenging his father s death, he is very hesitant, thinking too precisely on the event (4.4.43). Now might I do it and he goes to heaven No (3.3.77-79) and Hamlet decides to kill Claudius while he is drunk asleep, or in his rage, or in th incestuous pleasure of his bed (3.3.94-95). As seen here, Hamlet s contradicting thought that Claudius goes to heaven (3.3.79) influences him to change his plans for revenge. Hamlet eventually realizes that he must avenge his father s death and states from this time forth my thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth (4.4.69). From this, Hamlet has succumbed to the social influence and has vowed to avenge his father s death.
In this play, Hamlet s psychological influence demonstrates his dread of both death and life. In Hamlet s famous soliloquy, To be or not to be, (3.1.64) he refers the be to life and further asks whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (188.8.131.52). By this, Hamlet is asking himself the question of whether to live or die. He then further contemplates the question of life or death by stating to live means to suffer the miseries of life. Hamlet then turns to an alternate route by saying, to die, to sleep, (3.1.68) and to die, to end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to (3.1.70-71) but the dread of something after death, the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns (3.1.86-88). Hamlet has now attacked the course of the unknown after death. Through death, Hamlet states the end of the miseries of life but that the dread of after death puzzles the will (3.1.88) and makes Hamlet conceive the future as unknown and therefore makes him dread it.
Hamlet s psychological and social influences illuminate the play by revealing his true feelings on life and death. Hamlet s psychological influences display the miseries of living life but his dread of death and more so his dread of the unknown after life. Meanwhile his social influence is compelling him to bring death upon Claudius, which Hamlet himself dreads. These influences together illuminate Hamlet s character, showing that he really does not want to avenge his father s death. If Hamlet really wanted to avenge his father s death, he would not think too precisely on the event (4.4.43). These influences also illuminate another aspect the play. During this time period, everybody was Christian. Christians see revenge as a sin and
think it is wrong to take the law in to your own hands, which is what Hamlet does by deciding to avenge his father s death. Hamlet s dread of death is further more illuminated by the thought of heaven and hell (2.2.623). If Hamlet sins, by avenging his father s death, he will go to hell. Consequently, if Hamlet chooses to not avenge his father s death, he will go to heaven, dishonoring his father s command. In this tragedy, Hamlet is pulled in conflicting directions by two compelling influences.
His psychological influence is directing him to dread the unknown after life while his social influence is directing him to avenge his father s death by killing Claudius. Together, these two influences help to illuminate the play by displaying Hamlet s true feelings of life and death and the effects of religion.