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A Change over Time: How Acting Changed Hamlet, Why He Did It, and How It Caused His Downfall

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Ambrelyne Harriston

Alix Williams

APAC English lll

23 April 2007

A Change Over Time: How Acting Changed Hamlet, Why He Did It, and How It Caused

His Downfall

The depth and capability of the human imagination is endless. Its ability to

fabricate tales and offer sanctuary from a difficult reality is one of man's oldest defense

mechanisms for dealing with a constantly changing and violent world. However, there

comes a time when a person's pretending to be something that he or she is not or

pretending that something else is something that it is not has dire consequences to the

individual and their environment. It alters it so much to the point where the individual's

ability to decipher between reality and fantasy is dulled or completely destroyed. This is

most often followed by the incontrovertible eradication of the individual and other

persons the individual is directly connected to. This concept of deceit begets destruction

is a prominent theme in Shakespeare's Hamlet : Prince of Denmark . Hamlet deceives to

draw out truth; in the process the line between what is fact and what is fiction is erased.

As a result, Hamlet loses himself and plunges into oblivion because he has lost the ability

to know reality for what it really is and because he meddles with the minds of others.

Prince Hamlet is by nature a benign character. He is like any other child who is

born innocent but also born into a world of lies and corruption. However he is not

tainted in the common that most people are tainted. Most people are tainted with a lust

for power and the ability to know all, see all, and control all. Hamlet's character flaws

are more noble although some are more faulted than others. While Hamlet most definite

has an overdeveloped sense of revenge and need for retribution he is also truly

concerned about the moral state of others and has and initially has an obvious respect for

the wishes of God. William Richardson elaborates on this idea in his critical essay The

Character of Hamlet, "...He is moved by finer principles, by an exquisite sense of virtue,

of moral beauty and turpitude..." (149). Unlike most princes who would be enraged at

being denied the birth of their throne and plotting a coup to get it back. Hamlet is more

concerned about his mother marrying so soon after his father's death and the fact that his

mother married his uncle. He is not upset with Claudius because he stole his throne from

him, but because he married his mother. He is also dealing with the human emotion of

bereavement over the untimely death of his father, which he does not yet know was a

murder. His suffering becomes so great that he even considers taking his own life, but

does not because God has Forbidden it. All of these feeling of betrayal, hurt, and

mourning is evident in Hamlet's first soliloquy.

... Or that the everlasting had not fixed

his cannon against self slaughter! O God! O God!/ But not two months dead-nay,

not so much, not two!/ So excellent a king that was to this/Hyperion to a satyr/

Must I remember? Why , she would hang on him/ As if increase of appetite has

grown.../ She married. O, most wicked speed to post/ With such dexterity to

incestuous sheets!/ It is not nor can it come to any good./ But break my heart I

must hold my tongue!" (16).

Hamlet is having to deal with all these emotions at once and refuses to speak of them to

anyone, thus only intensifying his suffering and putting in motion the beginning of the

end.

All of Hamlet's suffering is increased when he is visited by the ghost of his father.

It is at this point that he learns the supposed circumstances of his untimely death. This is

when the evil nature of Hamlet begins to surface and develop as elaborated on by G.

Wilson Knight in his essay The Embassy of Death: An Essay on Hamlet,

"... It was the devil of the knowledge of death, which possesses Hamlet and

drives him from misery and pain into increasing bitterness cynicism and

madness. He has indeed brought converse with his father's spirit at the price of

enduring and spreading Hell on earth."

At this point in the play, Hamlet is now aware that his father was murdered, by the man

that his mother is now married to. However, Hamlet being a just man decides that he will

...

...

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