, Research Paper
Did Hamlet Cause His Own Death?
Hamlet s unfortunate death is caused by numerous reasons, many of which are his own fault. Despite Hamlet s fatal ending by the mysterious Claudius and deceiving Laertes, there are steps leading to Hamlet s final moment that could have been easily avoided. But unfortunately, they are unavoidable because of Hamlet s unique and complex personality.
Hamlet s main flaw in life is over thinking. He tends to ponder about every possible outcome of each scenario that he faces in life. It seems that many are aware of Hamlet s excess of thought. Horatio accurately observes Hamlet:
‘Twere to consider too curiously to consider so.
Hamlet over thinks for many reasons. He wants to make sure that whatever decision he makes is the right one in his mind. He wants to assure this because one wrong move has proven to change everything. Hamlet also considers every possible outcome of a situation. This is done to insure the right solution to the problem. It can also be said that Hamlet is a what ifer in that he might ask himself, What if I do this or What if I do that . By doing so, he creates more and more possibilities in his mind. When given the opportunity to take action, he doesn t. But rather he thinks and then convinces himself of why not to take that action.
Hamlet s faith is another cause of his death: his faith in old King Hamlet s ghost, in himself and in religion. When Horatio, Marcellus and Barnardo describe the ghost s appearances to Hamlet, Hamlet has the idea that his father might possibly be alive. But throughout the play, he realizes that the apparition is his father s ghost and soul rather than his father. This is significant because it allows Hamlet to have a different perspective on death. The ghost is a metaphor for not necessarily becoming just food for creepy-crawly creatures when one passes on, as seen in Hamlet s later view of death.
and we fat ourselves
(4, 3, 25-26)
The ghost informs Hamlet of old King Hamlet s murder by Claudius in hopes that Hamlet will not let Claudius get away with it. Since Hamlet already despises his uncle for having an incestuous marriage with Gertrude, it is not hard for him to have another reason to dislike him. Hamlet desperately wants to believe the ghost s story, so he vows revenge on Claudius.
O villain, villain, smiling damned villain!
My tables – meet it is I set it down
That one may smile and smile and be a villain.
At least I am sure it may not be so in Denmark.
So, uncle, there you are. Now to my word.
It is adieu, adieu, remember me.
I have sworn t.
(1, 5, 113 – 119)
Hamlet should now take his words and actually act on them. But, because Hamlet is who he is, he does not. He is the type of person to think and never act. He gets too caught up in his thoughts while in the meantime, he loses track of his goals. Hamlet knows his duty with regards to Claudius, but does not act on it immediately.
Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.
(1, 5, 31)
Later on in the play, Hamlet allows himself to get carried away in his thoughts and he places more faith in himself by devising a plan to not only determine the ghost s credibility, but to see if Claudius did in fact murder old King Hamlet.
I know my course. The spirit that I have seen
May be a (devil,) and the (devil) hath power
T assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps,
Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
As he is very potent with such spirits,
Abuses me to damn me. I ll have grounds
More relative than this. The play s the thing
Wherein I ll catch the conscience of the King.
(2, 2, 627 – 634)
Hamlet s plan works and he realizes that the ghost was telling the truth. So, he now has the go ahead to actually kill the deserving Claudius. But on the way to his dear mother s closet, Hamlet spots Claudius praying. One would think that this would be the perfect time to finally extinguish the King, but as predictable as Hamlet is, he develops an excuse for not wanting to kill his uncle at that moment. He thinks that by killing Claudius while he is praying would just send him straight to heaven and thus would not be avenging his father s murder.
Now might I do it (pat), now is a praying,
And now I ll do t. And so he goes to heaven,
And so am I (revenged.) That would be scanned:
A villain kills my father, and for that,
I, his sole son, do this same villain send
(3, 3, 77-83)
This scene shows the reader that Hamlet places his faith in religion and intends to wait to kill the King until he is committing a sin. What Hamlet doesn t realize is that putting off his uncle s death would lead to his own.
It can also be argued that in fact, Hamlet is a coward and needs some sort of encouragement to take such meaningful actions. Hamlet himself questions not only how much courage he has, but if he is threatening to others.
Am I a coward?
Who calls me villain ? breaks my pate across?
Plucks off my beard and blows it in my face?
Tweaks me by the nose? gives me the lie i th throat
As deep as the lungs? Who does this too me?
Ha! Swounds, I should take it! For it cannot be
But I am pigeon-livered and lack gall
(2, 2, 598-604)
Although Horatio is Hamlet s only faithful advisor, he fails to provide Hamlet with any legitimate advice as to whether or not he should seek revenge on Claudius. By not having an advisor to direct him one way or the other, Hamlet is constantly perplexed as to whether or not he should take action, and if so, when. Hamlet does not fear Claudius, but he is unable to put together his thoughts and utilize them. It is quite clear that he has many opportunities to murder his uncle, especially at times when Claudius is unsuspecting of his motives. Thus, Claudius becomes an easy target because his guard is let down. Even so, Hamlet stalls because he convinces himself that it would be best to postpone his revenge.
As Hamlet continues, Hamlet gets his revenge. But, the play ends on a sour note, when young Hamlet dies alongside his mother and Laertes. Hamlet is a tragic play for many reasons, but mainly because of the numerous deaths that could have been avoided had Hamlet s personality allowed it. It is apparent that Hamlet does not have much concern for his own well-being and contemplates life s worth.
To be or not to be – that is the question:
Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And, by opposing, end them.
(3, 1, 64-68)
It is quite ironic that with as much hate and anger Hamlet has for Claudius, Hamlet basically hands over his life to him. If only Hamlet was more of an actor rather than a thinker. Hamlet in its entirety would have been a completely different play had Hamlet taken action when the opportunity posed itself.
Had Hamlet more care for his own well-being, maybe he would think twice about Claudius s invitation to fence with Laertes. His dear friend Horatio is against it.
You will lose, my lord
(5, 2, 223)
If your mind dislike anything, obey it. I will
Forestall their repair hither and say you are not fit.
(5, 2, 231-232)
Why doesn t Hamlet consider Horatio s instincts? Hamlet s poor judgment and act of machismo is the final step contributing to his death. He lives and dies according to his hard thinking and carefree spirit. His whole purpose in life, after King Hamlet s death, is to avenge his beloved father s murder. Maybe if he thought a little more like his father that would have made his father proud. The ghost of old King Hamlet is surely not pleased with Hamlet s actions, or lack there of, and so the tragic death of young Hamlet is all for naught.