The Tragedy of Hamlet: Afflictions of the Mind Essay

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Brynjar Björnsson Dr Ann-Marie Einhaus Shakespeare Level 2 28 November 2010 The Tragedy of Hamlet: Afflictions of the Mind In plays, where drama, suspense and action are all invaluable elements, playwrights often allow themselves certain plot devices to hasten or delay a play’s progress in order to keep audiences enthralled in a story; particularly in tragedy, characters can be plagued with psychological distress and hindered by personality flaws. Shakespeare’s tragedy, “Hamlet, Prince of Denmark”, has been analysed and debated ever since the 17th century without any clear resolution or full unanimous understanding of the characteristics, mind and morals of Prince Hamlet. Francis Bacon, in his essay “Of Empire” observes that “the difficulties in princes’ business are many and great, but the greatest difficulty is often in their own mind” (50). What follows is a study of Hamlet’s characteristics, his flaws and qualities in an attempt to appreciate his actions, and how his passionate characteristics often undermine his otherwise logical and educated mind. Firstly, it is important to make clear the personal background Hamlet is given as a character, if one wants to understand the approaches he takes in the story. It is established that he was attending to his studies at university when his father’s death interrupted; therefore it is safe to assume him as a well-educated man as well as religious in the sense of having developed a range of moral senses of self-reflection and scrutiny. This can be demonstrated in scenes across the play, such as the famous soliloquy: “To be, or not to be – that is the question” (Shakespeare III.i. 62). If the play would be considered a historical play, which the title and the setting might suggest, then one would be hard-pressed not to consider Hamlet as an indecisive man who let an opportunity of vengeance slip past him, but as

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