Hamlet Illustrates How the Human Mind Is Victim to a Changing World
HAMLETThesis: Hamlet illustrates how the human mind is victim to a changing worldExplores how changing values and a transition of power in the Danish setting make Shakespeare’s protagonist a man of suffering, eventually leading to his abandonment of all reason and ultimately his fatal end. Paragraph one – Transition of power (corruption)The nature of the transition of power from Old Hamlet to Claudius is a catalyst for the spread of the ‘disease of corruption’ throughout Denmark. This treacherous transition of power becomes the core of Hamlet’s insecurities evident in his first soliloquy where he struggles to cope with the death of his father and his mother’s hasty remarriage to his disingenuous uncle. He describes the world as an ‘unweeded garden that grows to seed things rank and gross in nature.’ This metaphor, saturated with disease imagery creates a sense of foreboding disorder and establishes a motif of infection throughout the play. The appearance of the Ghost acts as a vehicle of realisation for both Hamlet and the audience providing a link between Old Hamlet’s unnatural death and the growing corruption in Hamlet’s world. He reveals ‘A serpent stung me. So the whole ear of Denmark is by forged process rankly abused.’ This biblical illusion connoting evil triggers Hamlet’s disillusionment about the origin of this change. Binary oppositions indicate his uncertainty as he is unsure whether the ghost ‘brings with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell’ and from this point Hamlet becomes a victim of his own ambiguity and the growing corruption that slowly deteriorates his world and similarly his mind.
Paragraph two – changing valuesShakespeare also introduces the changing values of the Renaissance into the fictional Danish setting. The Renaissance saw a transition from chivalric code of honour to one that emphasises godliness and allegiance to the State. An explicit insight into Hamlet’s conscience in his Act II Scene II soliloquy illustrates how an ambivalent sense of duty poses an impediment to Hamlet’s act of revenge. Through a series of demeaning insults he metaphorically compares himself to an ‘ass’ and a ‘rogue and peasant slave’. His histrionic tone marks his self-loathing stemming from his inability to act due to his religious morals. Hamlet’s inner turmoil heightens in the ‘nunnery scene’ as through the use of metaphor in ‘whether tis’ nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortunes or take arms against a sea of troubles’ he likens his troubles to that of a physical conflict. Paragraph three – Hamlet’s endThroughout the duration of Hamlet, its protagonist’s mental state begins to decline as a result of its suffering within its changing world. This is evident in Act 3 as Hamlet, once afraid that the ghost my bring with it ‘blasts from hell’ acts himself like the devil with the use of personification in ‘churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out contagion to this world’ showing him losing control of his morals and being empowered by a force he once feared. Hamlets rash and murderous action of killing Polonius starkly contrasts his initial lack of conviction, illustrating his inability to continue to coordinate his thoughts and actions and his final soliloquy reflects on his ‘bestial oblivion’, the use of animal imagery casting light on his corrupted will. Consequential to the effects of a corrupt and changing world, Hamlet abandons reason and surrenders to violent revenge, with catastrophic consequences.