Hamlet: Hero Or Hoax Essay, Research Paper
Hamlet: Hero or Hoax In his play, “Hamlet”, William Shakespeare shows us the life of a young man lost in turmoil. All of his turmoil and angst is very much related to his own state of indecision and passivity. His problems, and most of those in the play, are partially summed up in the line when Hamlet is questioned by Gertrude about his melancholy appearance, he replies, “Seems, madam? Nay it is. I know not `seems.’ (I.ii.76). This is in effect says that Hamlet is what he says he is and nothing more. To seem is to not be completely one way or the other. He does not want to avenge his father’s death; he does not really want to be king. What Hamlet really wants, is to be allowed to wallow in his own self-pity. Although Hamlet’s father was killed and his mother quickly remarried her brother-in-law, Hamlet finds no motivation to act in any way because he is stuck in the state of being who he is and nothing beyond.All characters in “Hamlet” are very representative of their stereotypical part. They all fit within the basic clich of who they are, all except, of course, Hamlet. Hamlet is the one character who does not fit the mold. At the same time Hamlet professes that he is what he seems. Claudius, on the other hand, is very simple as a character. He very much fits the mold of the evil king who usurped the throne through foul play. He is decisive, tricky, and sleazy. All of the other characters just as easily fit into the mold of advisor, queen, etc. Hamlet’s line, that he “does not know ’seem’”, sums up most other characters but him. All characters are simple and relatively uncomplicated and do not seem to be anything else. Where we expect Hamlet to zig, he zags. When we expect Hamlet to kill Claudius, he puts it off. Where the character of the vengeful son in a “hero quest” type story is expected to be decisive and a natural born leader, Hamlet is opposing that and is an indecisive melancholy introvert. It is very ironic that the one character who is forthcoming with the fact that that all characters are as they seem, is the one character who’s actions are totally unpredictable.
Hamlet is stuck inside of his character’s unpredictability. Hamlet cannot act because the character that he fills is expected to do just that. The hero in a hero quest is a young man who has been denied an opportunity at greatness, and must destroy the evil and take his rightful place as a leader. This hero is supposed to be strong, attractive, and a natural leader. This type of story persists throughout the world in many different cultures. Hamlet, on the surface, seems to be a hero quest. It has a very archetypal feel to it with characters standing in for emotions and feelings rather than having an actual effect on the plot. The story follows the hero quest up until Hamlet refuses to act. When Hamlet cannot keep up his obligations as a hero, the play turns from the standard hero quest into a Shakespearean tragedy. From early on in the play it can be inferred that the play cannot end happily. Hamlet’s turmoil is not truly his own, but that of his inability to fulfill his role as a hero. In direct opposition to his own statement that he does not “know ’seem’”, in this play Hamlet never truly is what he should be, he always seems to be something else. Hamlet is melancholy in scene two of act one because he is beginning to not be able to uphold his own psychological idea of what he should be doing, and because Shakespeare had to change the hero quest into a tragedy.