Hamlet - Hamlet's Faith Costs him his Life


A great chain of events in "Hamlet", Shakespeare's great revenge tragedy, leads to Hamlet's own demise. His necessity for subterfuge allows him to inadvertently neglect is main objective, revenge. So much so that the ghost of his dead father appears to stipulate Hamlet's reserved behavior towards his fathers revenge. "Do not forget. This visitation is to whet thy almost blunted purpose," (83-84) says the ghost in a motivational manner which almost suggests a lack of faith on Hamlet's behalf. Nevertheless, Hamlet is overflowing with faith. Faith in god, faith in himself, even faith in his dead father's ghost a faith that will cost him his life.

The untimely "Death" of King Hamlet, Hamlet's father, has sparked a disturbance in the regularity of Denmark. Hamlet's mother has waited "Not so much, not two" (12) months after the Kings death to remarry and her new husband, who coincidentally is King Hamlet's brother, has swiftly embraced the throne. As the plot unfolds, King Hamlet's ghost appears to young Hamlet. He explains the current dilemma and elicits a vengeful feeling from Hamlet, providing young Hamlet with purpose, to "Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder". (25) At first, Hamlet is weary of this appearance, but he compromises his thoughts and put his faith in the ghost. In addition, the ghost even evokes a vow of allegiance from Hamlet. However, at this juncture in time, Hamlet finds himself in a state of disbelief. "And shall I couple hell?" (26) speaks Hamlet once the ghost has departed, suggesting that Hamlet is very doubtful. However, his doubts are subsequently invalidated at the performance of 'The Murder of Gonzago' where he requests a group of players to enact a similar murder to that of King Hamlet's. "I'll have these players play something like the murder of my father before mine uncle.... The plays the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King". (55) Towards the end of the play, Claudius hastily removes himself from the crowd, verifying Hamlet's suspicions. Now, Hamlet not only possesses every reason to believe the ghost, but entrusts his faith in the ghost as well. However, Hamlet's faith does not lie solely in the ghost. He has another kind of faith faith in himself.

Hamlet's belief that he can see through his revenge blatantly exemplifies his faith in himself. In several instances, Hamlet requires himself to act mad "To put an Antic disposition on" (30) if you will. His real life performance is so convincing, that it arises concern in several characters such as Claudius, Gertrude (Hamlet's mother), and Polonius. Regardless of whether or not these individuals involve themselves for their own purposes this dramatization performed by Hamlet requires the highest degree of faith. Hamlet himself professes "That ever [he] was born to set it right" (30) referring to his very existence as a device, a device which will "Set it right" conclusively demonstrating his faith in himself. Moving forward, in a subsequent scene to Claudiuss' dramatic exit, Hamlet is offered an opportunity to exact his revenge upon Claudius, who is seeking atonement for his misdeeds. In one foolish moment, Hamlet spares his uncles' life. His belief is that if Claudius were to die during confession, Claudiuss' spirit would ascend to heaven and Hamlet will not accept this. Hamlet figures he will wait until "He is drunk asleep, or in his rage, or in th'incestuous pleasure of his bed, at game a-swearing, or about some act that has no relish of salvation in't, then trip him". (80) Hamlet's obvious plan is to wait until Claudius sins, and then avenge his father. This move cost Hamlet his life.

Hamlet's previous decision was based upon his belief in divine purposes. Since he was avenging his father for a decent, moral purpose God will be on his side. Hamlet himself speaks, "My words fly up, my thoughts remain below. Words without thoughts never to heaven go", (80) indirectly suggesting that words or actions, combined with thought, will find their way to heaven. Hamlet's evocations point towards a belief in divinity. This belief leads to the death of Polonius, and furthermore to the death of Hamlet. In the next scene, Hamlet's fate is sealed. Polonius, the "Wretched, rash, intruding fool", (81) was up to his old tricks, while Hamlet accidentally slays Polonius mistaking Polonius for Claudius. Later on, Laertes returns