One of the most unique elements of the Hamlet character is that he is so human. Manytypes of readers can identify with him. Hamlet is imperfect, and he is fretful. Hamlet hashuman properties, and it is his humanity that I intend to explore. Indeed it is these humanqualities and imperfections that make his story so tragic. Another tragic part of the play isthe plays irony. Irony is an important tool in the hands of the playwright to achieve bothcomical and/or dramatic effect. There is usually little reason for a tragedy to be funny, soShakespeare has used this tool to add more tragedy to the play. I will investigate thenature of this irony. Also, I will investigate the types of conflict that play a major part inthe play and the relationships between Hamlet and the two people who have been closestto him; Ophelia and the Ghost.
Hamlet cannot share his strong feelings and emotions with his mother or hisgirlfriend. While his mother is literally sleeping with the enemy, Ophelia has chosen theside of Claudius because of her father, Polonius. It is especially difficult for Hamlet totalk to Ophelia. The only other woman in his life, Gertrude, has betrayed his father bymarrying Claudius. Hamlet may be obsessed with the idea that all women are evil, yet hereally does love Ophelia, because when he finds out Ophelia has died, he cries out, "I lov'dOphelia; forty thousand brothers could not, with all their quantity of love, make up mysum."(Act V, Scene 1)
The ghost provides Hamlet with a dilemma. In Shakespeare's plays, supernaturalcharacters are not always to be trusted; think of the three witches in MacBeth, who areinstrumental in his downfall. Hamlet does not know whether the ghost is telling the truthor not. If Hamlet had killed Claudius solely on the ghost's advice, he would certainly havebeen tried and put to death himself. There would probably have been a war to choose thenew king. Being the humanitarian that he is, and taking account of his responsibilities as aprince and future king, Hamlet most likely would want to avoid civil war. Even thoughClaudius is a murderer, and probably not as noble a king as Hamlet's father was, he is stilla king. He brings order to Denmark. Hamlet does not wish to plunge his country intochaos. He realizes that this will happen when he kills Claudius. Hamlet is unable tocombine the spiritual world (in the form of his father's ghost) with the tangible, every-dayworld that surrounds him.
There is much irony throughout this play. One occurrence of irony I foundparticularly striking was the fact that Hamlet effectively maneuvers himself into the sameposition as Claudius. Claudius had attacked and killed a man who did not have theopportunity to defend himself, but when Hamlet kills Polonius, is he not guilty of thesame? It is intriguing that both Claudius and Hamlet have killed fathers. It is interestingto see how these two completely different characters deal with this problem in differentways.
Other interesting parallels I found are the numerous deaths by poison. Hamlet's fatherwas murdered by Claudius with poison. In the final act, the queen is the first to bepoisoned, by drinking from Hamlet's cup. Then, Hamlet is wounded by the poisoned tipof Laertes' sword. When they change swords, Hamlet gets the upper hand and Laertes ispoisoned. When the queen dies, Laertes explains all to Hamlet, before he dies. Hamletthen kills Claudius before dying himself. It is ironic that, as Claudius is poisoned becauseof his own plotting, he had already signed his own death warrant when he killed Hamlet'sfather, the first tragic action of the play. There are only three people in this play whodon't die by poisoning: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern meet their deaths in England, afterbeing outsmarted by Hamlet. The third is Ophelia, who is drowned.
There are three types of conflict I can identify in the play: 'man versus man', 'manversus nature' and 'man versus himself'. Hamlet's fight with Laertes in Ophelia's grave andthe subsequent duel would both easily classify as 'man versus man' conflicts. Man also struggles with nature in this play, most notably in the form of Ophelia's drowning andHamlet's crossing the sea to England - although the latter conflict plays more of abackground role.
The 'man versus himself' conflict is most directly exposed in Hamlet's famous soliloquy,where he is wrestling with his conscience. The realization he comes to in this soliloquy isthat we are afraid to kill