Hamlet World In having to enter and act in the world of his uncle, Hamlet himself becomes an unwilling creature of that world. When he chooses to obey the ghost’s command and revenge his father, Hamlet accepts the inevitability that he must become part of Denmark’s “unweeded garden”. As the ripple of original vengeful intent widens and Hamlet is slowly but surely entangled in Claudius’ brutal world through his madness, his murders, his plots, his relationship with other characters and his revelations on life and more importantly, death. Even before the ghost urges Hamlet to avenge his death, Hamlet teeters on the edge of his uncle’s brutal world. Whilst never evil in intent Hamlet is simply one of the finest tragic heroes. Caught between his agony of mind and indecision Hamlet’s nature is neither treacherous like Claudius’ nor rash like Laertes’. This combination of values carries only tragedy when one such as Hamlet suffers such a fate as he did.
Prior to his dead father’s prompting, Hamlet is already devoured by melancholy over the loss of Old Hamlet and his mother’s “o’er hasty” marriage to Claudius. This suggests that Hamlet was already inexorably linked to his Uncle’s brutal world. “It is not, nor it cannot come to good.” (Act1, Scene2) Hamlet also feels jealousy towards his mother as their relationship goes beyond that of a normal parent/child relationship. Whilst perhaps not sexual, their mere fifteen years age difference has enclosed them in a very close-knit co-dependant affair. “You are the Queen, your husband’s brother’s wife, And, would it not so, you are my mother.” (Act3, Scene4) This jealousy and hatred Hamlet feels is close to pushing him over the edge, so when the Ghost commands revenge Hamlet has already positioned himself at the starting line ready to begin his descent into Denmark’s brutal court.
Hamlet’s acceptance of the task of revenge, even if somewhat reluctant, is the key to entering Claudius’ world. Revenge in any context is morally wrong. Hamlet himself realises this and is aware that the deeds he is charged to commit can never bring about good, yet he knows he must complete them. “O, cursed spite, That ever I was born to set it right.” (Act2, Scene1) Hamlet’s intent to revenge his father’s murder dooms him from the start because of his wish to catch Claudius where bystanders may also be witness to his guilt, therefore turning Hamlet from an assassin to an executioner. Although Hamlet does get his wish the price he pays is far too dear, perhaps however the death of those eight people was the only solution to correct the times that were “out of joint”.
Some may say that the end justifies the means but Hamlet does become an unwilling creature of Claudius’ world because as the original seed of revenge took root Hamlet could do nothing but let it grow. Hamlet’s plots to catch Claudius centre on his will to find out whether or not the apparition he witnessed was telling the truth. In Shakespeare’s time a ghost was often regarded as a misleading spirit so in this way Hamlet’s procrastination coupled with his conscience makes it understandable that he does not act quickly. The Mousetrap, the metatheatre used within the play is Hamlet’s most cunning scheme. This shows us the treachery which Hamlet is capable of, in stark contrast to his almost jovial mood at the thought of revenge on Claudius. This orchestration of a play paralleling the murder and incest his uncle commits, shows us how Hamlet has become part of the diseased world shown on the stage.
“The plays the thing, Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.” (Act2, Scene2) We see in Hamlet a drastic change with the arrival of the players. His mood lightens considerably and there is a hint that this may have been more like the prince of Denmark before his father’s murder. However, within this jovial and perhaps slightly too good-natured behaviour we see Hamlet’s underlying malaise – he needs to prove his uncle’s guilt. “Had he the motive and cue for passion, That I have?” (Act2, Scene2) This causes his manner becomes vicious, paralleling with his existence in Claudius’ world. The Mousetrap catches its prey just as Hamlet intends but instead of finishing it there, Claudius is allowed to escape. Many view this as Hamlet’s most grievous fault, in fact it is his saving grace.
To have struck down his unknowing uncle on his knees in prayer would have turned Hamlet from righteous assassin to conscienceless villain. To murder Claudius then, Hamlet would have had to go from being part of Denmark’s devious world to believing in it’s ideals and ultimately no longer just act in it but actively belong to it. “A villain kills my father, and for that I, his sole son, do this same villain send to heaven.” (Act3, Scene3) Hamlet is never a fully corrupt party but he has to become creature as a matter of survival. Hamlet’s madness is one of his strongest links to his uncle’s “unweeded garden”. There are many opinions on the nature of Hamlet’s madness, if it was real and what it was caused by. Whilst we can never be certain of Shakespeare’s aim it seems most likely that Hamlet’s madness was feigned in part, as a way for Hamlet to enter and deal with the dark, impassive world of Denmark.
At times, especially in the presence of the two women in his life, Hamlet seems to have a true vein of madness running through his character, brought on by despair, hatred or jealousy. Perhaps Hamlet simply becomes neurotic rather than psychotic. It is clearly shown, however, that Hamlet is aware he must put on an “antic disposition” before he tries to take his revenge. It seems that this is his way of preparing himself to deal with his Uncle’s brutal world. In Act Three, Scene Four Hamlet’s manic conversation with his mother does at times bring him close to madness through his mad rage this in turn causes him to lose his normal self-control, stabbing Polonious believing it to be his uncle.
“Nay, I know not. Is it the King?” (Act3, Scene4) This is one of the only times when Hamlet’s feigned madness oversteps the boundary to something far more serious. It happens again to some extent in Act Three Scene One where Hamlet abuses Ophelia under the pretense of madness believing her to be party to the plot against him. “You should not have believed me……. ….I loved you not.” (Act3, Secne1) These occasions lend belief to the view that the events that Hamlet experiences did cause him to lose control of his senses at times. This indicates that if the events which sparked his revenge did indeed also spark his madness, then the more desperate his revenge became, the worse his madness became, showing how he was pulled deeper and deeper into rank weeds, despite his originally passive behaviour.
The murders Hamlet committed show how through entering Claudius’ world he becomes an unwilling creature of it. One of Hamlet’s biggest failings it would seem is his unwillingness to murder. He is not rash or unthinking unlike Laertes who does not even think twice about challenging the King as he does in Act Four Scene 5. “O thou vile King, Give me my father.” However, as the ripples of revenge spread Hamlet rashly kills a hidden Polonius whilst in a rage, believing him to be Claudius. When his error is revealed Hamlet’s sorrow is evident, even though this was a man he did not trust …