Hamlets Identity

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Hamlet, a play by William Shakespeare focuses on the ideas of death and the afterlife. Hamlet, the main character, is commanded by the ghost of his dead father to seek revenge and justice for his murder. Hamlet is hesitant to act because the man on whom he is supposed to carry out revenge on is his Uncle Claudius, the new King of Denmark. If he were to kill out of revenge, it would be seen as an act against the country and he would be put to death. He believes that the afterlife is the same for all, a king or a beggar, and questions what one would encounter after death. Until Hamlet puts these fears to rest, he is unable to act out his father's wish. Hamlet's hesitation to avenge his father's murder can be explained solely by his fear of what awaits him after death.

Hamlet recognizes that everyone is equal in death, thus fears losing himself to it. His view of justice in the afterlife is grim. Hamlet is perplexed by the idea that in the end everyone ends up as nothing more than worm food. He illustrates this point to his audience when he explains the fate of Claudius as follows, " your fat king and your lean beggar is but variable service, two dishes, but to one table" ( IV, iii, 24 - 25 ). Although the beggar and the king are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of status, he believes that it does not matter in the end. Later on in the play, Hamlet's preoccupation with death is revealed once again. In the scene with the gravediggers, Hamlet is disgusted with the manner in which they are behaving, and is at a loss when he says, " here's a fine revolution, if we had the trick to see' t. Did these bones cost no more the breeding but to play at loggats with them? Mine ache to think on't" ( V, i, 88 - 90 ). He despises the idea that someday a gravedigger may be moving about his bones in the same manner. He sees this as very likely, as this would be the graveyard in which he would be buried. Hamlet's thinking on as if this idea of equality in the afterlife bothers him. If he were to honour his father and avenge his death, it would mean that he would be taking a chance with the powers that decide what the afterlife consists of. No matter how honourable his actions may be, he will in the end suffer the same fate as the lowest criminal, who in Hamlet's mind is Claudius. Though he is perplexed by the idea, he cannot be absolutely sure of his thoughts, causing him to be fearful of the unknown.

Hamlet's fear of the afterlife causes him to prolong his fate. Hamlet realizes that if he honours his father, he will likely die. This presents a problem as Hamlet reveals in his soliloquy that he is afraid of what awaits him in the afterlife, " To die, to sleep; To sleep, perchance to dream - ay, there's the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause : there's the respect that make calamity of so long life" (III, i, 65 - 70). It is obvious that he is horrible afraid of what awaits him in the afterlife. He then goes on to say that he and others suffer in life because they do not act. "Thus conscience does make coward of us all, and thus the native hue of resolution is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought, and enterprises of great pith and moment with this regard their currents turn awry and lose the name of action" (III, i, 84 - 89). Hamlet feels that if he were to take action, he would meet his death. He feels that he thinks too much about his fathers request and realizes that the afterlife may be something horrible. Because of his thoughts, he is unable to act.

Until Hamlet comes to terms with his fears, he will not be able to act out his father's revenge. The audience is aware of Hamlet's feelings towards death, but he himself has not realized what is holding him back by saying, " How I stand then, That have a father kill'd, a mother stain'd, excitements of my reason and my blood, and let all sleep, while to my shame I see the imminent death of twenty thousand men, that for a fantasy and trick of fame go to their graves like beds" (IV, iv, 55-61). Hamlet feels inadequate when he sees how easily Fortinbras' men die for their cause. It is not until Act V that Hamlet accepts his fate and his fear to act. While talking to Horatio he decides, "If it be now, "˜tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: The readiness is all: Since no man has aught of what he leaves, what is't to leave betimes" (V, ii, 211 - 215). Here Hamlet is able to dismiss his fears. He is now able to face what is coming to him, which he realizes can even be death. This illustrates that the thing holding Hamlet back from avenging his father's murder, was his uncertainty about death. He has rid himself of his fears, accepts his fate, and now is able to fulfill his father's request.

In conclusion, Hamlet's questioning of the afterlife caused him to be held prisoner by his thoughts. He was disturbed by the fact that even the noblest of minds suffer the same fate as all who are ordinary. To him, everyone's fate leads to the same place. Until he was able to come to terms with these fears of death and rid himself of them, he was unable to act and avenge his father's death.



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