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Hamlet Inner Turmoil Essay Research Paper Hamlet

Hamlet: Inner Turmoil Essay, Research Paper

Hamlet: Inner Turmoil

Within the play Hamlet there exists many puns and phrases which have a

double meaning. Little ploys on words which tend to add a bit of entertainment

to the dialogue of the play. These forked tongue phrases are used by Shakespeare

to cast an insight to the characters in the play?to give them more depth and

substance. However, most importantly these phrases cause the reader or audience

to think. They are able to show a double meaning that not all people would pick

up on, which is the purpose of the comments.

Little is known about Shakespeare’s life, other than he was a great

playwright whose works serve to meld literary casts for ages to come. This was

his occupation, he wrote and directed plays to be performed. This was his sole

form of income that we know of, it was his way of putting the bread on the table.

If people did not like what Shakespeare wrote, then he would not earn any money.

If the people didn’t like what they saw, he became the starving artist.

Shakespeare wrote these dialogues in such a manner as to entertain both the

Nobility, as well as the peasants.

The Shakespearean theater is a physical manifestation of how Shakespeare

catered to more than one social class in his theatrical productions. These

Shakespearean theaters has a unique construction, which had specific seats for

the wealthy, and likewise, a designated separate standing section for the

peasants. This definite separation of the classes is also evident in

Shakespeare’s writing, in as such that the nobility of the productions speak in

poetic iambic pentameter, where as the peasants speak in ordinary prose. Perhaps

Shakespeare incorporated these double meanings to the lines of his characters

with the intent that only a select amount of his audience were meant to hear it

in either its double meaning, or its true meaning.

However, even when the tragic hero Hamlet’s wordplay is intentional, it is

not always clear as to what purpose he uses it. To confuse or to clarify? Or to

control his own uncensored thoughts? The energy and turmoil of his mind brings

words thronging into speech, stretching, over-turning and contorting their

implications. Sometimes Hamlet has to struggle to use the simplest words

repeatedly, as he tries to force meaning to flow in a single channel. To Ophelia,

after he has encountered her in her loneliness, “reading on a book,” he repeats

five times “Get thee to a nunnery,” varying the phrase very little, simply

reiterating what was already said by changing “get” to “go.” This well known

quote, to this day cannot be deciphered in its entirety, for nunnery is a place

where nuns live, yet it is also a brothel. Hamlet seems to knowingly cast a

shade of confusion into the minds of the audience?or is it in fact clarity

within confusion. That is, the audience is able to better understand the

thoughts and inn er struggle of Hamlet via these conflicting terms.

After Hamlet has visited his mother “all alone” in her closet and killed

Polonius, after she has begged him to “speak no more”, and after his father’s

ghost has reappeared, Hamlet repeats “Good night” five times, with still fewer

changes in the phrase than “Get thee to a nunnery” and those among accompanying

words only.

So Hamlet seems to be struggling to contain his thoughts even by use of

these simple words, rather than enforcing a single and simple message as a first

reading of the text might suggest; and the words come to bear deeper, more

ironic or more blatant meanings. It is from these phrases which even manage to

confuse the complex mind of Hamlet that we begin to get a glimpse into the

intentions of Hamlets mind, and seeing just exactly the way he ticks.

Much of the dramatic action of this tragedy is within the head of Hamlet,

and wordplay represents the amazing, contradictory, unsettled, mocking nature of

that mind, as it is torn by disappointment and positive love, as Hamlet seeks

both acceptance and punishment, action and stillness, and wishes for

consummation and annihilation within a world he perceives to be against him. He

can be abruptly silent or vicious; he is capable of wild laughter and tears, and

also playing polite and sane. The narrative is a kind of mystery and chase, so

that, underneath the various guises of his wordplay, we are made keenly aware of

his inner dissatisfaction, and come to expect some resolution at the end of the

tragedy, some unambiguous “giving out” which will report Hamlet and his cause

aright to the unsatisfied among the reader / audience . Hamlet himself is aware

of this expectation as the end approaches, and this still further whets our

anticipation for what is to become.

A commonly recurring theme throughout the play is that of honesty. It is

introduced in the beginning of the play and as the play continues, its use

becomes more and more common, as well as more and more ironic. This theme within

the play itself is ironic, for as Marcellus said “Something is rotten in the

state of Denmark” and this corruption we see so exhibited in the play is far

from honest.

When Hamlet applies the word honest to the main characters of the play, his

use of becomes undeniably ironic, and much of the dark humor of the play derives

from Hamlet’s wordplay. Polonius marks that though Hamlet’s insults seem to make

no sense, “yet there is method in ‘t.” In Act II, it is Polonius that is the

first target of Hamlet’s irony of the use of honest. Hamlet calls him first a

“fishmonger” which itself has many meanings, including the implication that

Ophelia is a whore and Polonius is her pimp. And of course, Polonius has

employed his daughter in his plot to discover the depth of Hamlet’s “madness.”

When Polonius says he is not a fishmonger, Hamlet replies “Then I would you were

so honest a man.” In other words, he wishes Polonius was as honest as a simple

fish seller, or even more insulting, as honest as the pimp Hamlet insinuated he


In this scene, Hamlet also uses this ironic meaning of honesty against

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern when he tells them “…I will not sort you with the

rest of my servants, for, to speak to you like an honest man, I am most

dreadfully attended.” He seems to mean that he cannot speak to them with honesty,

because they themselves are dishonest in their intents.

Honesty resonates as a theme in Hamlet because nothing is as it seems in

Denmark. The King deceives the world and pretends a legitimacy he does not have;

Hamlet deceives the court by feigning madness; Polonius, Rosencrantz and

Guildenstern all try to deceive Hamlet into revealing why he is distraught, and

no one knows what is truth and what is a lie. The world has not grown honest, as

Rosencrantz claims, but dishonest, and no one who lives in it can keep his

honesty pure from the corrupting air.

Hamlet seems to be the character who uses the majority of such puns and

phrases in the play. These phrases which have double meaning could represent the

inner turmoil which seems to be tearing Hamlet apart. By seeing a definite

double meaning to many phrases in the play, we are able to easily see that all

is not as it should be. Hamlet’s personality is thrown into chaos. He is in

mourning the death of his father, and then his mother marries his uncle. He is

enraged at her, and on top of all of this he sees the ghost of his father

commanding him to avenge his wrongful murder. Yet, amongst all this turmoil, I

believe that Hamlet was only playing the part of being crazy. He speaks in

riddles and plays on words in order to create a certain suspicion about his

sanity. This abnormal activity gives him the ability to sneak a few insults by

without having to directly confront his enemies. It seems to be quite a bit

worse if the person who was insulted isn’t exactly sure whether or not they were

just insulted.

Hamlet is able to interject these insults without even the other character

noticing, which is the art of insult

It is this unpredictability of action, this sporadic bouts of insanity and

sanity, the inner turmoil brewing within Hamlet which keeps the audience’s

interest. Nobody is really sure whether or not Hamlet was insane. Many have

theories and beliefs, but Shakespeare never came out and said he definitely is

or definitely is not sane? he only hints. There are valid arguments on either

side, for Hamlet Himself said “I am mad but north-northwest” ; that is he is

only mad about one thing in particular.

The wordplay in Hamlet is a representation of the complexity of the minds

of the characters that Shakespeare created. It is a depiction of the inner

turmoil within a character struggling with sanity. However, more importantly it

is necessary to keep in mind that Shakespeare was a playwright and that the play

on words did one thing in particular, which is why Shakespeare lived to write so

many plays?Hamlet, because of its wording is entertaining?and that made all the


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