“Hamlet” by William Shakespeare is one of the greatest plays of all times. A spirit of decadence of the Middle Ages is a strong background for developments of the theme of Hamlet. Hamlet actions can be considered as actions of mad man but was it really so? All these actions have a logical ending in death. Different flaws of Hamlet’s actions reflected the darkest side of the lives of Shakespearean characters. Death was a kind of salvation for the people in the epoch depicted by Shakespeare. They could not fight against challenges and complexities of the world and their environments seemed hostile to them. A great playwright gives a lesson to his readers and says that it is better to solve different challenges and problems during life, because death is not the best solution and only insane person can strive for death instead of struggling with evil. Hamlet may have made a lot of mistakes, but he did that because he was in despair.
Hamlet’s “Madness” or Misdeed?
Hamlet is haunted by madness from the beginning of the play. He was not afraid of self-destruction and he was captured by his own feelings and tragic emotions. Death of his father and betrayal of his mother had the greatest impact on his psyche and Hamlet could not do anything. However, he did not get mad; he thought that the only way to solve his problems was to find a salvation in death. Here it is essential to understand that though Hamlet was not mad, he may have got mad if he were at least a bit predisposed to such state.
Many critics are sure that Hamlet was mad as he was really curious about death, but this was just a result of severe stress he went through. Also such state was a result of inevitable revenge. Hamlet is involved into deaths of Guildenstern and Rosencrantz (Act V, Scene II), but in the course of time he is even greater involved in death and experiences its severe impact on him. Idle curiosity about death reflects his weak-willed and deserted nature. The world is cruel to him and he does trust neither his mother, nor his girlfriend. There is a gradual transformation of feelings of Hamlet. In Act V, Scene II, Hamlet shows his readiness for death: “If it be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all” (5.2). Therefore, he is able to accept death and opens his arms to meet it. The reality is cruel, but Hamlet is sure that his victory over Laertes or his death is a logical ending of his turbulent life. He is focused on fate and he realizes that he is unable to escape from death. Hamlet gives up in the hands of fate and he is sure that it is a great master, which is able to deal with his life. Thus, Hamlet was moving for death and finally he reached it (Fine 1999).
The Role of Ghost
In the first act Hamlet gets to know from the Ghost of his father that he was killed and the ghost asks him to revenge Hamlet’s uncle for this murder. Though the most important thing while revenging is to keep the soul innocent: “But, howsoever thou pursuest this act, Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive Against thy mother aught…” (Shakespeare, W. Hamlet). Surely, people cannot see phantoms. Moreover, they should not listen to their directions. However, Hamlet did follow the lead. But here phantom plays the role of a symbol. Finally, Hamlet revenges to Claudius, but as a result many people died. Ophelia, Laertes, Polonius also became victims of the revenge. At the beginning, the Hamlet’s soul doubted about the ways of the vengeance and he suffered a lot from these doubts, but the view of warriors had a great influence on him. Indeed, the problem of Hamlet contains more philosophic and social aspects than religious ones. He struggles with the time he lives in and tries to improve it but he fails. Unsuccessful attempts of changing the world that does not fit with Hamlet’s ideals results in his fatalism and the final events of the tragedy (Holl).
The Significance of Hecuba’s Speech
The significance of Hecuba’s speech to Hamlet is subjected to no doubt, and can be considered from the different viewpoints. Hamlet becomes crazy at Hecuba’s speech: “I heard thee speak me a speech once, but it was never acted…’ The significance here lies in the fact, which most critics have not been able to resist: Hamlet here expresses Shakespeare’s own views on the theater as a whole. “Hamlet” might be called the fullest story of what Shakespeare thought about the theater (Levin). The reflections over the Hecuba’s speech become the beginning of Hamlet’s regeneration – the speech concentrates on the revenge for the murder of his father. The passion, with which the player speaks his role, makes Hamlet think and reflect on the way he has lived before and the way he must act in the future. In the speech Hamlet comes face to face with the death and understands its inevitability, together with total surrender to the necessity of revenge. The significance of Hecuba’s speech is in the fact, that it has become the cause and the start for Hamlet’s way to understanding or misunderstanding the reality, in which he lived. Hecuba’s speech is an external event, which makes Hamlet reflect upon it. Each of the monologue’s sentences provides the understanding of the situation, when the events of the external world get their new meaning through reflections – these reflections are related both to the event taking place and the feelings and thoughts existing in Hamlet’s mind and heart. Hamlet has not only acquired the new experience, but made it work for him, opening his truthful world for the reader. Here it is perfectly clear for the reader that Hamlet was not mad and the phantom he saw is just changed his perception. This change is reflected in Hamlet’s speech. Then it was very easy for Hamlet to pretend to be mad in front of the rest heroes of the play: he went through very severe stress and his perception was rapidly and totally changed.
Hamlet did not grow mad, such state was his escape from the reality, but this escape could not save his life. It is evident that Hamlet’s madness is positioned by Shakespeare not as a kind of salvation, but as a result of an inevitable and silly ending of life, like a punishment for human flaws. The main character of the play was blind and he could not see that his drastic inhumane actions would lead to his death and deaths of other people around him. However, such state was provoked by cruel and awful reality, the inevitability of revenge. The society of the Middle Ages can be named the society of the Dark Ages, because they could not find peace and happiness in their daily lives; they were looking for intrigues and destructive actions and death was wreath for their miserable lives. “Hamlet” is a depressive background for development of human lives, which are full of flaws and degrading natures will find their peace in death.