Characters Influenced by Traumatic Internal Events: Hamlet, and Death of a Salesman

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The great Aristotle once said, “All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reason, passion, and desire.” Demonstrating a link between internal thoughts and external action, characters in both William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman harness Aristotle’s philosophical ideology. In both plays, a main character becomes so overwhelmed by mental or psychological events that their actions become reflective of them. Although set in different time periods and involving entirely different circumstances, the fates of both Shakespeare’s Ophelia and Miller’s Willy Loman reach a climax in self-inflicted deaths brought on by the accumulation of traumatic internal events. In…show more content…
Willy’s transition to mental frailty is exhibited when he repeatedly spoke to characters who were not there, including the woman he was having an affair with and his deceased brother. In act II, pgs. 125-127, Willy speaks to his deceased brother, Ben, as Willy builds a garden to sustain his family; this is a pre-suicidal act to ensure the family’s sustainability once Willy is gone. It was through gradual acts like these, influenced by different contributing factors, that Willy attempted to suppress his negative internal struggles. Unable to attain his dream of becoming a successful businessman, Willy remained too proud to accept a job opportunity and monetary aid from his neighbour, immediately claiming that Charley was insulting him (p.43). Slipping into a state of delusion, Willy only feels at ease when he is fabricating his life, rather than living it. By suppressing negative thoughts, Willy’s mental state slowly begins to break as he begins to show his lack of control externally. When Willy can no longer mask his own insecurities, he begins to question his purpose and says, “Does it take more guts to stand here the rest of my life ringing up zero?” (Miller, p. 126). Many of his suicidal tendencies were brought on by his disconnected relationship with his sons, as Linda says to them, “I tell you he’s put his whole life into you and you’ve turned your backs on him.” (Miller, p.43). Like aforementioned, the most

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