From Hamlet Essay, Research Paper
To Be or Not To Be In
Hamlet is obsessed with revenging his fathers murder; destroying Claudius and it is evident in the play. This obsession initiates Hamlet’s behavior. The reasons for Hamlet’s obsession with exacting revenge against Claudius are fairly straightforward. The ghost of Hamlet informed him that Claudius killed Hamlet Sr., seized his throne and robbed him of his father. After the ghost informs Hamlet of Claudius’ crime, Hamlet realizes that if he does not kill Claudius, he may forever be locked in the painfully stressful mental state in which his obsession puts him. If he attempts or succeeds in killing Claudius, he risks experiencing psychological estrangement so intense that it could destroy his sense of identity. Whether he does or does not kill Claudius, he faces enormous psychological pain.
The second to last decision that Hamlet makes with regard to Claudius is to not kill him, but to allow fate and divine forces to take over his responsibility. He makes this decision mainly as a means of escaping the intense madness under which he finds himself and, instead, entering a much more psychologically peaceful state; denial. Although this reason may seem illogical, Shakespeare clearly emphasizes the importance of such a motivation to escape pain in Hamlet’s decision-making. He does so in the Player’s scene, which emphasizes that Hamlet is obsessed with disproving Claudius’ guilt. The advantage of disproving such guilt is that it resolves Hamlet’s pain, showing that the motivation to escape the pain of his obsession is prominent in Hamlet’s decision-making. Escaping in denial also seems to be Hamlet’s best option at this point since, having previously confronted Gertrude with the premises of Claudius’ crime, she failed to respond with recognition of them and disapproval of Claudius.
Ultimately, Hamlet does decide to kill Claudius. He does so for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, his mother; in drinking Claudius’ drink and poisoning herself, she becomes conscious of Claudius’ treachery and implies withdrawal of all support of Claudius. This eliminates the threat of motherly estrangement, virtually paving the way for Hamlet to kill Claudius. Also, however, Laertes informs Hamlet of his knowledge of Claudius’ treachery in the very end, as well as his distaste for Claudius, thus removing the threat of friend estrangement. In addition, Claudius’ treachery is itself immoral, justifying Hamlet to kill him on principle and since Hamlet was mortally wounded, he had nothing to lose.
Hamlets famous soliloquy, “To be or not to be,” helps in the understanding that Hamlet was fully aware of the choice he had to make. Surely the “tragedy of hamlet” could have continued without such a scene; it would not have interrupted the flow of he play, but the mere fact that it does exist in the text does not allow true Shakespearians to accept the play without it. Prior to this scene, Hamlet was anticipating the night’s performance and, following it, he eagerly instructs the players and tells Horatio of his plan.
It is important to understand that Hamlet states his dilemma as “to be or not to be,” not as “to live or not to live.” To have him enter at this point debating whether or not to kill himself would be inconsistent with both the character and the movement of the plot; Hamlet was obsessed with revenging his fathers’ death (if in fact he was murdered). His choice is between suffering the ills of this world and taking action against them, not between enduring evil and evading it. A director could simply choose not keep the scene but the audience will miss it. The only argument that could be made to keep the soliloquy in a film version is that it has become far too famous to leave it out. A film version lacking this scene would not jeopardize the overall effect it would have on the audience, especially those who have not read the play. Those in love with Shakespeare’s words will feel the effect.