The Many Faces of Hamlet Essay

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The Many Faces of Hamlet

Of all the characters in the play, Hamlet by William Shakespeare, the character of Hamlet is without a doubt the most complex. His emotions are never stable, his feelings are constantly changing, and his behavior is confusing and inconsistent. Hamlet is described as "a half a dozen characters rolled into one" (Shaw 344) and with as many adjectives in one sentence as "cruel, angry, tender, depressed, clownish, manic, and filled with loathing for women, humanity, life, and himself" (Epstein 329). When put into perspective, however, perhaps this harsh description of Hamlet is justified. With all he has had to deal with (apparitions, deaths, deceit, and interference in his personal life,) it would be very
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Such melancholic and fickle temperament may be part of the cause of his inability to take action, especially the revenge he was supposed to take on Claudius which got postponed on several occasions for sufficient periods of time. Sigmund Freud goes on to state that "the plot of the drama shows us that Hamlet is by no means intended to appear as a character wholly incapable of action" (349). This statement may seem true but to many readers it may also seem otherwise. Freud is correct yet it is painfully obvious that Hamlet is indeed marked by his incapability of deliberate, immediate, and decisive action as shown again by the delay of his revenge on Claudius. While Hamlet most certainly could have killed Claudius immediately upon learning he was the culprit involved in his father's death, Hamlet preferred to think out his actions instead of jumping headlong into something with irreversible consequences. In fact, Hamlet passed up one specific and ample opportunity to take his revenge when he found Claudius alone, knelt in prayer. His scrupulous nature prevented him from taking morbid advantage of the situation. "His is a nature more prone to thought than action" (Clemen 113) and, as he said himself, "thus conscience does make cowards of us all (Hamlet