Hamlet Prince Essay Research Paper William Shakespeare

Hamlet Prince Essay, Research Paper

William Shakespeare created Prince Hamlet of Denmark to be the epitome of the

moral man in the play Hamlet. This flawless morality can be envisioned to act

both jointly and independently as a perfection and imperfection of the

Prince?s character. This dually unblemished and tainted trait of Hamlet?s is

revealed to the reader through the Prince?s concept of time. Contrary to the

beliefs of many critics, procrastination is not an attribute of Hamlet?s

character; but the time in which it takes Hamlet to act should be more

accurately referred to as a necessary delay. There are numerous reasons to

explain Hamlet?s ?use? of time, the three most important of which are his

intelligent, analytic mind, his righteousness and finally the revenge code.

Hamlet uses all these idiosyncrasies as well as his acerbic wit to manipulate

all the people around him in an attempt to reach an unattainable goal of a

weeded garden. These factors combine to create a compelling uniquely universal

man who is uncertain of himself, thus creating indecision and the procession of

time. The intellectual genius of Prince Hamlet can arguably be considered

unmatched by any character in all of Shakespeare?s plays. Hamlet?s

outstanding astuteness of mind allows him to discern the true nature of the

people that would try to deceive him and buy time so that he may exact his

revenge against them; there is a myriad of this type of person in the play

Hamlet. Were it not for this keen sense surely Hamlet?s downfall would have

occurred much earlier in the play; his death would have been imminent upon

arrival to England had Hamlet not deciphered the motives of Rosencrantz and

Guildenstern. Hamlet?s insight to note that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are

but sponges in the world that soak all that the King offers them in a vain

attempt to climb an infinite social ladder. Hamlet?s swiftness and acuteness

of intellect made him act quickly in changing the letter to the King of England,

once again laying to shame the criticism of Hamlet?s procrastination. This

point is repeated by the considerations of Wylie Sypher, who wrote a work based

on the use of time in Shakesperean plays; The ingenuity of his fabricated letter

sending Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to death, for they do not touch his

conscience. (Sypher, 1976,71) This reflects the complex workings of Hamlet?s

mind, since his decision to create this letter was swift and decisive, even

though it meant the death of two former friends, once again displaying excellent

use of time. The most remarkable display of Hamlet?s intelligence is no doubt

apparent in his antic disposition; allowing him to speak his true feelings to

the other characters in the play without offense and gain much needed time. An

unparalleled example of the use of his antic disposition occurs during

Hamlet?s conversation with Polonius, while Claudius hides behind the arras.

Hamlet?s wit is in full effect when he says, ? Excellent well, you are a

fishmonger.?, he continues on to refer to Polonius as a useless old man that

has an undeniable lack of wit and understanding. Hamlet?s plan of attack

worked perfectly, his antic disposition created a state of confusion amongst the

other characters allowing Hamlet time to prove the origin of the ghost. Perhaps

a greater understanding of this point can be gained by the thoughts of Alfred N.

Whitehead; Intelligence is quickness to apprehend as distinct from ability,

which capacity to act wisely on the thing apprehended. (Fitzhenry, 1993, 239).

This remark almost ideally reflects the state of mind in which Hamlet lives.

Hamlet?s intelligence is what grants the reader a deeper understanding of the

length of time it takes him to accomplish his goal of honoring his father, King

Hamlet. The moral qualities pertaining to the character of Hamlet are undeniably

the most unique part of his personality. Hamlet appears to have a deeply rooted

disgust for any thought or action that is immoral, ?for there is nothing good

or evil, but thinking makes it so:?, this is the greatest cause for the

passage of time before Hamlet attempts to put his revenge into action. The moral

question Hamlet is plagued by is whether or not the ghost of his dead father is

a good spirit or an evil demon seeking to damn him to hell for all eternity.

This form of delay is exemplified by the fact that Laertes character is nearly

the precise opposite to that of Hamlet; To hell, allegiance! Vows, to the

blackest devil! Conscience and grace, to the profoundest pit! I dare damnation:

to this point I stand, That both worlds I give to negligence, Let come what

comes: only I?ll be reveng?d Most thoroughly for my father. (IV,V,129-133)

Hamlet does have some concepts in common with Laertes, he is dedicated to

revenge the death of his father, but the primary characteristics are contrasts.

Other characters also create a great contrast with the virtue of Hamlet: the

hasty marriage of Claudius and Gertrude, the conniving ways of Polonius, and the

crooked betrayal of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. The purpose of these

disparities is to persuade the reader to comprehend the fact that it is

imperative to Hamlet?s moral code for him to wait and prove the validity of

the Ghost before committing any murders. A true understanding of the play Hamlet

is to grasp the fact that it is an impossibility in the mind of Hamlet to act

out the revenge plot before learning the truth about his father?s murder.

Hamlet is living by the expression put forth by a very influential man in the

plays of Shakespeare, Seneca, he stated that ? Time discovered truth?. If

only three words were used as an explanation for Hamlet?s delay, the words of

Seneca speak volumes beyond any others. The revenge code is needed primarily to

explain why Hamlet did not avenge King Hamlet during the ?prayer? scene in

which Claudius is at his most vulnerable state. Hamlet had the perfect

opportunity to slay Claudius while he was on knees with his back turned, however

one of the conditions set forth by the Ghost that Claudius should die without

repentance. Now might I do it pat, now a? is a-praying; And now I?ll do it,

and so he goes to heaven, And so am I reveng?d. That would be scann?d; A

villain kills my father, and for that, I, his sole son, do this same villain

send To heaven. O, this is hire salary, not revenge. (III,IV,73-79) Hamlet

believed that Claudius was praying to God to forgive all of his sins and

therefore if killed would be sent to heaven. Hamlet wanted justice for his

murdered father and killing Claudius during prayer would not be exact justice

and thus he is forced to delay until he is certain that his uncle is in sin when

he dies. It is very important to Hamlet that both the revenge and the justice

for his father fit together, it is further explained by C.F. Sisson, who writes

about justice in Hamlet; It is customary to describe Hamlet as a

Revenge-Tragedy. It is less frequently realized how closely vengeance and

justice are allied in men?s thoughts, though Bacon?s definition of revenge

as ?wild justice? is now proverbial. (Sisson, 1963, 58) To combine both of

these factors jointly takes a great deal of time and effort both of which Hamlet

is more than willing to do and the reason for which he is accused of

procrastinating before killing Claudius. Once again the contrast with Laertes is

apparent when his father is killed he instinctively his ready for bloodshed,

contrary to the actions and scheming of Hamlet which take time and lead to his

tragic downfall. The revenge code introduced by Hamlet is conceivably the most

misunderstood aspect of this play, it can be used to explain the majority of

Hamlet?s delays and dispute most arguments from critics about procrastination.

Hamlet?s perfect and imperfect means of acting and thinking create a scenario

where, ?The time is out of joint; O cursed spite, That ever I was born to set

it right!?, this statement is a mindset of a morally determined man. In fact,

Hamlet pays the ultimate price for his dedication to his morals, his death is

the direct result of his delay, that must be regarded after examining all the

factors as essential. After all, time runs at a different rate for each and

every person according to their needs, perhaps Hamlet?s excellence creates a

situation whereby time is not even considered.


Fitzhenry, R.I. The Fitzhenry & Whiteside Book of Quotations. Markham:

Fitzhenry and Whiteside Ltd, 1993. Sisson, C.F. Shakespeare?s Tragic Justice.

London: Methuen & Co Ltd, 1963. Sypher,W. The Ethic of Time. New York: The

Seabury Press, 1976. Hamlet: Time is out of Joint ENGOA Mr. Cummings March 26,

2000 By: Mike Van Adel


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