The Ambiguity of Shakespeare's Ambiguous Hamlet

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Ambiguity of Hamlet

In Shakespeare’s dramatic tragedy Hamlet, the reader finds ambiguity of one type and another here and there throughout the play. The protagonist himself is an especially ambiguous character is his own rite.

Harold Bloom in the Introduction to Modern Critical Interpretations: Hamlet expounds on the ambiguity and mysterious conduct of the hero during the final act:

When Horatio responds that Claudius will hear shortly from, presumably that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have been executed, Hamlet rather ambiguously [my italics] makes what might be read as a final vow of revenge:

It will be short. The interim is mine.

And a man’s life’s no more than to say “one.” (2)
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His first soliloquy illustrates the hero’s idealism by emphasizing the worthlessness of the corrupt world and the frailty of women, but gives no specific direction to his own life: “O, that this too too solid flesh would melt, / Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!”

The first soliloquy ends with the arrival of Horatio, the hero’s closest friend (“Horatio, thou art e'en as just a man / As e'er my conversation coped withal.”), and Marcellus, who escort the prince to the ramparts of Elsinore to view the ghost of Hamlet’s father, King Hamlet, which they have seen. At one a.m. the ghost, ironically a sinner suffering in Purgatory (West 110), reveals to the protagonist the extent of the evil within Elsinore – the “human truth” (Abrams 467).

The ghost says that King Hamlet was murdered by Claudius, who had a relationship with Gertrude prior to the murder; the ghost requests revenge by Hamlet: “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.” Hamlet swears to do it even though he is uncertain of the ghost’s origin. Philip Edwards’ “The Ghost: Messenger from a Higher Court of Values?” presents the ambiguity present in the agency of the ghost when he relegates punishment to the king but reserves it from his wife (67). Gunnar Boklund, in “Judgment in Hamlet,” explains that “the nature of the Ghost
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