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Hamlet Dilemma Essay Research Paper The Tragedy

Hamlet Dilemma Essay, Research Paper

The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark is one of William Shakespeare’s most

popular works. One of the possible reasons for this play’s popularity is the way

Shakespeare uses the character Hamlet to exemplify the complex workings of the

human mind. The approach taken by Shakespeare in Hamlet has generated countless

different interpretations of meaning, but it is through Hamlet’s struggle to

confront his internal dilemma, deciding when to revenge his fathers death, that

the reader becomes aware of one of the more common interpretations in Hamlet;

the idea that Shakespeare is attempting to comment on the influence that one’s

state of mind can have on the decisions they make in life. As the play unfolds,

Shakespeare uses the encounters that Hamlet must face to demonstrate the effect

that one’s perspective can have on the way the mind works. In his book Some

Shakespeare Themes & An Approach to Hamlet, L.C. Knight takes notice of

Shakespeare’s use of these encounters to journey into the workings of the human

mind when he writes: What we have in Hamlet.is the exploration and implicit

criticism of a particular state of mind or consciousness.In Hamlet, Shakespeare

uses a series of encounters to reveal the complex state of the human mind, made

up of reason, emotion, and attitude towards the self, to allow the reader to

make a judgment or form an opinion about fundamental aspects of human life.

(192) Shakespeare sets the stage for Hamlet’s internal dilemma in Act 1, Scene 5

of Hamlet when the ghost of Hamlet’s father appears and calls upon Hamlet to

"revenge his foul and most unnatural murder" (1.5.24). It is from this

point forward that Hamlet must struggle with the dilemma of whether or not to

kill Claudius, his uncle, and if so when to actually do it. As the play

progresses, Hamlet does not seek his revenge when the opportunity presents

itself, and it is the reasoning that Hamlet uses to justify his delay that

becomes paramount to the reader’s understanding of the effect that Hamlet’s

mental perspective has on his situation. In order to fully understand how

Hamlet’s perspective plays an important role in this play, the reader must

attempt to answer the fundamental question: Why does Hamlet procrastinate in

taking revenge on Claudius? Although the answer to this question is at best

somewhat complicated, Mark W. Scott attempts to offer some possible explanations

for Hamlet’s delay in his book, Shakespeare for Students: Critics who find the

cause of Hamlet’s delay in his internal meditations typically view the prince as

a man of great moral integrity who is forced to commit an act which goes against

his deepest principles. On numerous occasions, the prince tries to make sense of

his moral dilemma through personal meditations, which Shakespeare presents as

soliloquies. Another perspective of Hamlet’s internal struggle suggests that the

prince has become so disenchanted with life since his father’s death that he has

neither the desire nor the will to exact revenge. (74) Mr. Scott points out

morality and disenchantment, both of which belong solely to an individuals own

conscious, as two potential causes of Hamlet’s procrastination, and therefore he

offers support to the idea that Shakespeare is placing important emphasis on the

role of individual perspective in this play. The importance that Mr. Scott’s

comment places on Hamlet’s use of personal meditations to "make sense of

his moral dilemma" (74), also helps to support L.C. Knight’s contention

that Shakespeare is attempting to use these dilemmas to illustrate the inner

workings of the human mind. In Hamlet, Shakespeare gives the reader an

opportunity to evaluate the way the title character handles a very complicated

dilemma and the problems that are generated because of it. These problems that

face Hamlet are perhaps best viewed as overstatements of the very types of

problems that all people must face as they live their lives each day. The

magnitude of these "everyday" problems are almost always a matter of

individual perspective. Each person will perceive a given situation based on his

own state of mind. The one, perhaps universal, dilemma that faces all of mankind

is the problem of identity. As Victor L. Cahn writes, "Hamlet’s primary

dilemma is that of every human being: given this time and place and these

circumstances, How is he to respond? What is his responsibility?" (69).

This dilemma defined by Mr. Cahn fits in well with the comments of both L.C.

Knight and Mark Scott, because it too requires some serious introspection on the

part of Hamlet to resolve, and also supports the idea that Shakespeare is using

Hamlet’s dilemma to illustrate the effect that perspective, or state of mind,

can have on a given situation. Hamlet’s delay in seeking revenge for his

father’s death plays an important role in allowing Shakespeare’s look into the

human mind to manifest itself. If Hamlet had killed Claudius at first

opportunity, there would have been little chance for Shakespeare to develop the

internal dilemma which all three critics, L.C. Knight, Mark Scott, and Victor

Cahn, mention in support of the widely held view that, in Hamlet, Shakespeare is

attempting to make a comment about the complexity of the human mind, and the

power that a person’s mental perspective can have on the events of his life.