1. HAMLET, AN ANECDOTAL INTRODUCTION
In the second Act, Scene 2 of the play Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by Shakespeare,Hamlet narrates to a set of 'players' (playwrights) the initial part of "Aeneas' Tale to Dido" from Aeneid by Virgil. In this tale, Aeneas, a hero from Troy, is on his way from ruined Troy to the soon to be founded city of Rome. During his journey, he narrates a tale of revenge to Dido, Queen of Carthage, who is his lover. The tale narrated by Aeneas to Dido is about Pyrrhus, who is seeking revenge from Priam, the King of Troy, whose son Paris has murdered his father, Achilles. Pyrrhus hides in the Trojan horse before murdering Priam. Hamlet narrates the story only till here, and from this point, the player takes over, describing Pyrrhus killing Priam and the consequent grief of Priam's wife Hecuba.
This story is extremely relevant to the context of the complex character of our protagonist, Hamlet, who may be compared both to Aeneas, the main protagonist of Aeneid, as well as to Pyrrhus, the protagonist of the tale within the tale. Hamlet's comparison to Aeneid may stem from the fact that akin to Aeneas who now has the huge responsibility of founding a new city (which goes on to become the city of Rome) after the destruction of Troy, our Hamlet also has to create a new order in Denmark after his father, King Hamlet's mysterious death. Also, both seem to want to escape their responsibilities, and are trapped due to their inability to do so.
Conversely, Hamlet may also be compared to Pyrrhus by virtue of the fact that Hamlet is visited by his father's ghost which directs Hamlet to avenge his death by killing his brother (Hamlet's uncle and also stepfather, since he illicitly marries Hamlet's mother, Gertrude) Claudius. Similarly, Pyrrhus, in the tale, is visited by Achilles' shade which asks him to seek revenge. Also, both Hamlet and Pyrrhus end up attempting deceptive forms of revenge.
One may also find in this scene (as also in this play in general) a great amount of foreshadowing, or prediction of further events that may take place as the play progresses. For instance, the actor, describing Pyrrhus killing Priam, suggests that Pyrrhus pauses like a thunderstorm that is briefly interrupted by silence before thunderbolts strike. He suggests that Pyrrhus is "doing nothing" but the wind created by his sword is enough to make Priam fall. Then, he goes on to suggest that Pyrrhus's sword falls hard on Priam's head. This pregnant pause suggested by the actor may be akin to Hamlet's constant indecisiveness and unwillingness to kill his uncle Claudius. Also, the foreshadowing is established by the fact that despite Pyrrhus's inaction, Priam meets his end; strikingly similar to the last scene of Hamlet, where Hamlet murders Claudius almost by accident, only after he has himself been stabbed by Laertes, another character we shall address shortly.
2. HAMLET, OUR EDUCATED CHARACTER
'Aeneas' Tale to Dido' forms a subtly important part of this drama because of its relevance to the main plot and character of this play. It highlights the character of Hamlet as possessing the tragic flaw, or hamartia of indecisiveness and overthinking. Hamlet may be seen as an extremely complex, conflicted and well-educated character who possesses immense knowledge on Greek mythology and mythical characters. This is apparent from the fact that in the very first scene of Act 1, he compares his deceased father, King Hamlet, to Hyperion, a Greek mythical character who is often referred to as the God of watchfulness, wisdom and light; while at the same time, he completely brings down the stature of Claudius by comparing him to Satyr, who, in Greek literature, is one of a troop of ithyphallic (one with a permanent erection) male companions of Dionysus. Referring to Claudius as Satyr suggests that Hamlet sees him as possessing an illicit sexual desire towards his mother, the Queen.
Hamlet's disdain towards his mother for having hurriedly gotten married to her brother-in-law weeks after her first husband's death is very apparent and overt, even before he discovers about his father's murder. He suggests in Act 1 that his mother would hang on to his father to such an extent that the more she would be with him, the more she would want of him. He further adds that she had mourned his death with her tears, just like the character of Niobe in Greek mythology, who had been the Queen of Thebes, and who had continued to weep even after she had been turned into a rock at Mount Sipylus when her children had been killed by those of another woman, Leto, to whom she had boasted. However, he laments that within less than a month, she had left her mourning behind and married Claudius.His anger towards his mother and uncle, as well as the situation as a whole, is evident in his quote:
"...the funeral baked meats
Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables."
Here, he uses 'meat' to emphasize the very short duration between his father's funeral and his mother's marriage to his uncle.
In Act 1, Scene 2, Hamlet refers to Claudius as:
"A little more than kin, and less than kind."
Here, 'kin' may refer to cousin (nephew). Kind may have three connotations: firstly, Claudius is less than a direct blood relative, or "kind". Second, "kind" may refer to natural; thus, less than kind may be an allegory to his unnatural relation to him. And thirdly, "kind" may mean "considerate", so possibly he means that Claudius is not a good soul.
3. AT THE THRESHOLD OF NORMALITY AND INSANITY
The play also seems to constantly attempt to balance itself on the threshold of insanity and normality. It discusses the various conventions of supposed normality via all other characters apart from Hamlet, who seem to view others' words and actions in one literal perspective. However, Hamlet often seems to challenge the singular perspectives to viewing life. He speaks of life and death in ways perhaps unimaginable for those around him. Undoubtedly, his strange ways of thinking and speaking strike the others around him as insane and meaningless. Ironically, it is interpreted by Lord Polonius, the faithful (and secretly power-hungry) advisor to the King, and also the father of Ophelia (the woman Hamlet courts for a brief period of time), as the result of rejection by Ophelia. Polonius then goes on to extract evidence for the same from Hamlet's words. However, Hamlet is often seen as troubled more due to his unexpected encounter with his father's ghost, and the nagging responsibility on his shoulders. Ophelia's loss of sanity post the murder of her father Polonius is also extremely significant in terms of the theme of normality and insanity. Ophelia, in her insane state, hums a series of seemingly meaningless hymns before the King and Laertes. However, if read closely, these hymns also seem to reveal her sense of dejection resulting from Hamlet having deserted her after a possible sexual relationship.
4. WOMEN IN HAMLET: A DISMAL CONTRAST
The women in some of Shakespeare's plays, such as As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing and MacBeth, are known to be extremely strong characters who often defy the strict gender roles and stereotypes. Speaking about the same, Helen Zimmern suggests: "...so different are they, as a whole, from the ideals of the feminine type prevelant in the literature of his day." However, Hamlet tells us a different story. In this play, neither Queen Gertrude, nor Ophelia (the only two female characters in the play) seem to have a say in their own lives, which are strongly dictated to them by the men. Let's consider the case of Ophelia first. In the play, Ophelia’s life is completely dictated by her father, Polonius, and brother, Laertes. This is evident right in the first Act, scene 2, when Laertes, before leaving for France, advises Ophelia not to engage in a relationship with Hamlet. He suggests that Hamlet, in all probability, would take decisions with the entire state in mind, rather than his personal happiness alone. He describes Hamlet’s love as “Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting…”. He speaks of the “loss of honour” that would be caused to her, were she to lose her heart, or her “chaste treasure”, to his temporary feelings of lust. The fact that Laertes believes that it would be his sister’s honour that may be lost, even if it’s her lover who deceives her, points to the patriarchal beliefs of that time. Also, her chastity is viewed as a treasure, which, when lost, would imply loss of her dignity in society.
Moreover, Ophelia seems completely unperturbed by the fact that her life is being completely moulded by the men around her. This signifies how women were (are, too, in some contexts) made to internalise the gender roles and accept themselves as the ‘weaker sex’. It may be seen in the play that Hamlet often directs a number of subtle as well as overt insults at her, and Ophelia either responds in a very subdued manner, or doesn’t reply at all. She, in fact, addresses him as ‘My Lord’, indicating her so-called inferiority not only in terms of her gender, but also with regard to her position. In the play, Hamlet often not only seems to view his mother as a characterless, frail and deceitful woman, but he also typically generalises this view to every other woman. For instance, in the first act, Hamlet says about his mother: “Frailty, thy name is woman!…”. Here, although he directly aims at the Queen, he seems to be making a more general statement that all women are but the same, i.e., the “weaker sex”.
Hamlet also directs a number of insults and puns at Ophelia to her father, Polonius. For instance, in Act 2, scene 2, when Polonius goes to converse with Hamlet with the intention of proving his point that Hamlet is upset because his daughter has rejected him, Hamlet ends up implicitly insulting Polonius, but without his knowledge. He tells him that honest men are a rarity, and that the sun would breed maggots with a dead dog because its flesh is good enough to be kissed by the sun. Here, he implicitly suggests that Ophelia’s womb is like a dead dog’s flesh - men may impregnate her because of her outward appearance. He further adds: “Conception is a blessing: but not as your daughter may conceive.”
If one is to view the fiasco from Polonius’s perspective, it is obvious that Polonius is trying to use Hamlet and Ophelia’s brief fling for a personal benefit, i.e., to prove to the King that Hamlet is upset due to Ophelia’s rejection, and as a result, to get in his good books. Perhaps for this reason, Hamlet calls him a ‘fish-monger’, which typically means a pimp.
Act 3, scene 1, another very significant scene from a gender perspective to Hamlet, is also known as the ’nunnery scene’. In this scene, there is a dialogue between Hamlet and Ophelia, in which Hamlet tells Ophelia that she must go to a nunnery. He elaborates that she should not remain in mainstream society and give birth to more ‘sinners’, like his mother, who has given birth to him. Here, again, he seems to be comparing all women to his mother.
‘Nunnery’ here may have two implications: firstly, a convent, and secondly, a brothel. He also suggests that if she is good (honest) and beautiful (fair), it is easier for a girl to be turned into a whore due to her beauty, than it is for her to turn a virgin due to her goodness. Thus, he hints to her that it may be easier for her to make use of her beauty and become a whore, than to use her goodness to convert into a virgin (a nun). This aspect of her ‘conversion to a virgin’ may imply that she has probably lost her virginity. Further, the fact that Hamlet seems aware of it may imply that they have been sexually involved. This possibility is further put forth in Act 4, scene 5, in which Ophelia, who has lost her sanity, states in her hymn:
“Quoth she, before you tumbled me,
You promised me to wed.
So would I ha’ done, by yonder sun,
An thou hadst not come to my bed.”
Here, the maid Ophelia refers to may possibly be an allegory to herself, and the man the maid courts in the same might be a reference to Hamlet, who has probably deceived her after a sexual relationship and promise of marriage.
He also uses a number of other double-entendre and sexual connotations while conversing with Ophelia, particularly in Act 3, Scene 2, the scene consisting of the performance of ‘The Murder of Gonzago’. For instance, he says things like: “Lady, shall I lie in your lap?”, which, at that time, also had a double-meaning referring to the sexual act. Thus, Ophelia is ultimately reduced to a puppet at the hands of the men in her life. The story with Queen Gertrude is not very different. The Queen, although an imperial part of the monarch, and outwardly respected immensely, is also quite completely controlled by the men - she is unable to go against her husband’s orders of sending Hamlet away to England, or able to defend her stand when Hamlet accuses her, in Act 3, Scene 4 (the closet scene) of having married Claudius in a huff, and being happily married thereafter. She is also unable to stand up for herself when Hamlet orders her not to go to bed with Claudius that night; and addresses her as his ‘mother’s brother’s wife’.
5. OEDIPAL COMPLEX IN HAMLET
Another very important theme in this play, which has also been very widely discussed and debated over the centuries, is the element of Oedipal complex in the play. Hamlet's attitude towards his mother's unexpected marriage to his uncle seems to often precariously place itself between mere disdain and disgust, and a strange sense of possessiveness towards his mother. From a Freudian or psychoanalytic perspective, Hamlet's excessive interest, almost bordering obsession, towards the married life of his mother and stepfather seems to portray his sense of envy towards their relationship. 'Hamlet and Oedipus', a study by Sigmund Freud's colleague and biographer Ernest Jones, discusses this phenomenon in detail, with relation to Hamlet. In this study, Jones opines that Hamlet's procrastination towards killing Claudius could well be the result of the fact that he identifies with him at an unconscious level. This implies that King Claudius, by murdering Old King Hamlet, has probably committed an act which might actually be an unconscious, latent motive within Hamlet, which he, of course, would never have been able to give way to. Thus, Jones suggests that it is probable that due to this unconscious identification with his uncle, Hamlet delays in killing his uncle. This also possibly justifies the irony that is established in the play when Hamlet does not think twice before killing Lord Polonius, the chief advisor to King Claudius. Also, he doesn't waste time in destroying the letter written by Claudius to the King of England (which asked him to murder Hamlet as a mark of peace between the two lands), and, instead, writes a letter to the King of England, in his uncle's handwriting, asking the King to literally 'shoot the messengers', i.e., his unfaithful childhood friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who would be carrying this letter to England. It is only after Hamlet is stabbed and about to die that he kills his uncle, probably because he now cannot get his mother's attention to him anyway. However, this topic has been constantly debated since Freud's psychoanalytic perspective came into being.
6. “TO BE, OR NOT TO BE…” : HAMLET AND THE SOLILOQUYS
It is very important to note that Hamlet's complex state of mind and psychological dilemmas are brought forth in the form of a number of soliloquys, where Hamlet reveals (not to any other character, but only to himself and the audiences) the various internal conflicts faced by him. One of the most important soliloquys by Hamlet, which has been oft repeated ever since, is as follows:
"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?"
Through these soliloquys, Hamlet comes across as a character who, even amidst persons who seem more concerned with actions than deeper thoughts and intellect, seems to possess an exceptionally high level of thinking, analyzing and weighing consequences from a different light.
7. THEME OF SUICIDE
The theme of suicide comes in here, with regard to Ophelia's suicide in the play. As reported in the play by Queen Gertrude, Ophelia dies while climbing on to a tree by a brook in order to hang a wreath of leaves on its branch. However, her death has been interpreted, both by characters within the play, and by audiences, as an act of suicide. From a more direct perspective, her insanity and suicide seems a direct offshoot of her father's murder by Hamlet. But a closer look at Ophelia's state may reveal that it is due to Hamlet's rejection of her and the consequent disgrace are also chiefly responsible for the same.
Act 5, Scene 1, also known as the Gravedigger's Scene, forms a very important part of this play. In this scene, two clowns discuss the burial of Ophelia, wherein one of them argues that she should not be given a Christian burial, since suicide is considered a sin in Christianity. This brings us to the theme of death, another major theme in the play.
The Gravedigger's scene forms a very crucial part of the play, not only because of its discussion about Ophelia's probable suicide, but also because of its treatment of death as the most inevitable force driving every individual's life. The clown here states that it is the gallow-maker who builds a structure (gallow) stronger than those built by masons, shipwrights and carpenters. This could certainly be an allegory to the fact that every other phenomenon is avoidable, but death is not. Also, it could imply that every creation in the world, no matter how physically strong, has to perish in the end. This scene also foreshadows the multiple deaths that occur in the final scene, where the Queen, unaware of the existene of poison in a drink prepared for Hamlet, devours it, and meets her end; Hamlet, already stabbed with a poisoned sword by Laertes, stabbed Claudius; Laertes meets his end when the swords are accidentally exchanged between Hamlet and himself during the sword-fight; and a messenger from Norway (Denmark's initial opponent in the play) announces the death of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. The Gravediggers seem to also be foretelling these upcoming deaths. In this scene, Hamlet, having just returned from England where he had been sent with an agenda by the King, does not know of Ophelia's death, and mistakes the dead-body to be Yorick the jester's. His reaction to Ophelia's death seems extremely melodramatic, considering the pathetic ways in which he treats her when she is alive.
Through Hamlet's soliloquys as well as certain dialogues, the theme of suicide also becomes quite evident in the play. Hamlet's inability to fulfill the responsibility bestowed on him by his father, coupled with his sense of despair at not being able to obey his father's orders often gives rise to immense guilt within him. Further in his "To be or not to be..." soliloquy, Hamlet talks about death as the ultimate panacea for his problems. He suggests that death is a consummation to be devoutly wished. He claims death to be a sleep, where one may have dreams, but which may not come true because the mortal body may have perished. He describes long life to be a 'calamity', characterized by hardships posed by time, pain inflicted by oppressors, insults of arrogant men, delays of law and deceits in love. He, thus, deems it better to end his life by killing himself with a knife. However, he is also unable to do so, since suicide is considered a sin in Christianity. One of the dialogues by Hamlet, directed at Polonius in response to his statement on 'taking his leave', contains a a subtle suicidal undertone:
"You cannot, sir, take from me any thing that I will more willingly part withal: except my life, except my life, except my life."
This also brings us to the unique language and structure of this play.
8. LANGUAGE AND STRUCTURE
The above quote, one of the many puns in the play, is one between 'taking leave' and 'taking life'. Hamlet probably knows he may die while seeking revenge from Claudius. He feels suicidal, but is unable to end his life. He probably implies that Polonius has already taken away from him all that he had desired, including Ophelia. Thus, he says that the only thing that Polonius may now take away from him would be his life. This quote perfectly portrays Hamlet's unwillingness to take responsibility, and his want to simply disappear. The quote also possibly puns, in a subtle way, between the two words 'except' and 'accept'. It is possible that Hamlet is giving out a plea to Polonius to simply take away his life and end all the dilemmas.
At a micro level, Hamlet consists of a number of dialogues and quotes that imply a very sharp and blatant play of words. This is specifically evident in Hamlet's witty and intelligent retorts throughout the play.
In Act 3, Scene 4, Hamlet, who is confronting his mother regarding the evils of Claudius, presents another pun on the word 'father':
"Queen: Hamlet, thou hast your father much offended.
Hamlet: Mother, thou hast my father much offended.
Queen: Come, come, you answer with an idle tongue.
Hamlet: Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue."
In this extremely intriguing play of words, while the Queen obviously refers to King Claudius as the 'father', Hamlet apparently drives a point home by aiming at Old King Hamlet as father, thus implying that she has offended her first husband by getting married to Claudius, her brother-in-law and also the Old King's murderer.
Hamlet the play is divided into five acts, each consisting of a certain number of scenes. The structure of the play is also notable for not following the typical conventions of an Aristotlian tragic drama. Like in most of his other plays, Shakespeare seeks to break the three Aristotlian unities of action, time and place in this play as well. Contrary to Aristotle's principles, the action in the play has a number of subplots. Further, the action takes place in a span of a number of days within the play, and the play consists of varied settings (although most of them occur in the four walls of the castle itself). Also, contrary to Aristotle's rule that certain phenomena like death and war not be portrayed on stage, the last scene of Hamlet portrays not only the death of all its characters, but also a sword-fight between Hamlet and Laertes.
J.M. Robertson and Professor Stoll are two critics who have criticized Hamlet, by suggesting that authors praising Hamlet have typically focused more on the ultimate result of Hamlet the play as a whole, rather than the character of Hamlet in particular, which, they claim, is flawed. T.S. Eliot addresses this issue in his book, Hamlet and His Problems (1919), in which he famously claims Hamlet to be "most certainly an artistic failure." Eliot suggests that critics appreciating the play mostly ignore the structural flaws in the play, since they personally identify with the character of Hamlet, and are fixated with it. Eliot goes on to compare Hamlet with the three sources on which Shakespeare has supposedly based this play: Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, The Ur-Hamlet (either by Kyd or Shakespeare), and a version of the play which was performed in Germany. He suggests that in these plays, the delays in killing the King are only the result of trying to avoid the guards, and not due to a personal inability on part of the character. He also notes that while in these earlier plays the lead character's loss of sanity aids in avoiding suspicion, Hamlet's character losing his sanity seems, on the contrary, to arouse suspicion. Eliot opines that in some parts, the play simply seems to be a revised version of Kyd's work.
Very importantly, Eliot, in his book, also discusses the phenomenon of objective correlative in relation to Hamlet. According to him, objective correlative, which refers to evoking an emotion by use of symbols that are related to, and indicative of that particular emotion, are missing in Hamlet, due to which the audience have been unable to 'localise' the emotion. He suggests that Hamlet seems to experience emotions that neither the audience, nor Shakespeare himself, have been able to understand.
While Hamlet is considered to be one of the longest Shakespearean plays, Hamlet the character is, undoubtedly, one of Shakespeare's most complex characters. At a macro level, the play stretches to a great extent at various places, not reaching its final conclusion before a lot of procrastination. Thus, the structure of the play itself comes across as very similar to the character of Hamlet - delaying and procrastinating. In Kermode's words: "It is not only Hamlet but his play that delays."
9. THEME OF REVENGE
It may be seen that at a time (we're talking about the Elizabethan Age!) when it seemed but natural to believe in supernatural epiphanies and superstitious beliefs, Hamlet goes on to question and speculate the existence of the ghost of his own father, King Hamlet. This is evident from the fact that instead of blindly following the 'ghost' that instructs him to murder King Claudius for having killed King Hamlet, Hamlet actually conducts a play named "The Murder of Gonzago", where he replicates (well, almost!) the supposed murder of his father. This play is performed before Claudius, as well as Queen Gertrude. This 'play within a play' is also very significant, not only in its portrayal of the supposed past events wherein Claudius murders his brother, but also because it also foreshadows the future events at the same time, thus unifying the past, present and future in a strikingly unique way. In this play, the player King, whose happily married life with the player Queen is initially established, is murdered by his nephew, Lucianus, who pours poison in the King's ear while the latter is asleep. Although this may be viewed as an estimated portrayal of Old King Hamlet's happily married life with Gertrude followed by his murder by King Claudius, it may alternately be looked at as a commentary on King Claudius's current happily married life with the Queen, as well as an eery foretelling of his eventual murder at the hands of his nephew, Prince Hamlet. It perfectly seems to portray how life comes full circle , transcending the clutches of time. A poignant quote by Mindy Kaling states:
“Another old saying is that revenge is a dish best served cold. But it feels best served piping hot, straight out of the oven of outrage.”
The defiance of the old proverb in the above quote is exactly what our Hamlet seems to lack. His inability to avenge his father’s death acts as his biggest flaw, or, in Aristotlian terms, his tragic flaw or hamartia. Often, Hamlet is ridden with guilt at his own inability throughout, even to the extent, as discussed above, of contemplating suicide. His overt guilt is apparent in his soliloquy at the end of Act 2, Scene 2, just after one of the players finishes narrating ‘Aeneas’ Tale to Dido’. On seeing the player shed tears at the thought of Hecuba’s (Priam’s wife) grief due to Aeneas’ death, Hamlet is guilt-ridden. Hamlet justifies his guilt by lamenting on his own inability to act even at the possibly real murder of his own father, when this player has the ability to shed tears even at the grief of a fictional character. He suggests that had this player been in Hamlet’s place, he would have perhaps moved the world with his emotions. He calls himself a coward who deserves worst fate, and gives detailed descriptions about the atrocities that should be committed on him, such as plucking off his beard, tweaking his nose etc.
Hamlet also expresses guilt further on in the play, in Act 4, when he is told that the troops from Norway are fighting with Poland for a small piece of land that is actually not worth anything. Hamlet feels if these troops can give so much importance to and fight for even a worthless piece of land, they would certainly not be wasting their time doing nothing had they been in Hamlet’s place. In this way, Hamlet always ensures that he feels guilty for his inaction. In Act 3, scene 3, when Claudius repents his evil act after watching ‘The Murder of Gonzago’, Hamlet has an opportunity to murder him. However, he refuses to do so, since he feels that a soul in repentance would be purged, and would thus attain salvation. Thus, he decides to kill the King when he would be pleasuring himself in an act that is not worthy of salvation. Hamlet, thus, lets go of all the golden opportunities at killing his uncle, overthinking, weighing and analysing excessively. In one of his soliloquy, he even accepts that his habit of thinking too precisely on an event is only “…one part wisdom/ And ever three parts coward.” Yet, his inability to overcome his flaw creates cathartic feelings of pity and fear within the audiences.
His behaviour comes across as a complete contrast to that of King Claudius and Laertes, when they decide to murder Hamlet in order to avenge the death of Laertes’ father, Polonius. While plotting the murder of Hamlet, Claudius warns Laertes, in these words, of the fact that one must be quick in doing what needs to be done:
“…that we would do
We should do when we would; for this would changes
And hath abatements and delays…”
It is ironic that this advice is more relevant for Hamlet, than it is for Laertes, who seems, anyway, quite quick to take the necessary action.
10. HAMLET: IS IT RELIGIOUSLY RELIGIOUS?
Hamlet has often been analysed and interpreted as a religious drama. Hamlet has been written at the outset of the English Reformation, and thus, has been shown to have both Catholic and Protestant elements in it. The Gravedigger’s scene, which speaks of the debate about whether or not Ophelia should be given a Christian burial due to speculations of her suicide; and the ghost of King Hamlet being in purgatory state (the state in which souls of sinners suffer for their sins before departing to heaven) are important elements that make Hamlet Catholic in nature. However, the fact that Hamlet speculates and constantly questions the appearance of the ghost gives it elements of Protestantism. Also, some studies indicate that Hamlet might be a protestant himself, since he has attended school at Wittenburg, which is predominantly Protestant, as was Denmark as a nation itself. Thus, the play balances at the threshold of Catholicism and Protestantism.
11. POSTMODERNISM IN HAMLET: A CONCLUSION
Hamlet may be interpreted as a postmodern play in many a sense. For one, the fact that Hamlet questions the very idea of revenge at a time when the act was considered quite normal is postmodern in itself, since Hamlet does not accept the metanarratives established at the time, and goes beyond the prescribed conventions. Similarly, instead of accepting blindly the grand narrative of ‘The Murder of Gonzago’, Hamlet chooses to modify it and add his own interpretation of the same. This is congruent to one of the factors of postmodernism, which emphasises on adding in one’s own inputs to a narrative instead of accepting the same exactly as it is. Amidst the so-called ‘normal’ society that emphasizes action to words, Hamlet, inadvertently to a large extent, creates his own unique world at a different intellectual level. This can be associated with the postmodern idea of multiple realities, or many worlds within one. Ironically, postmodernism as a concept came about only in the mid 20th Century. Yet, that a play written nearly five centuries prior may be classified under that concept testifies the brilliance of the play and its playwright - none other than Shakespeare.
12. REFERENCES AND SOURCES
1. Cover image source: http://thehundredbooks.com/Hamlet.htmhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamlet
2. Source for other images: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamlet