Hamlet’s Character as His Destiny?

2 February 2017

In 1909, A. C. Bradley, an English literary critic, published Shakespearean Tragedy. This writing, which is regarded as the most influential Shakespearean criticism ever written, greatly described the idea of “character is destiny” in Shakespeare’s tragedies. That is, he states that all Shakespearean tragedies involve a character whose actions and deeds ultimately lead to a catastrophe, being their death. Hamlet, who faces his own demise in Act V, is infinite proof to Bradley’s theory, based on his choices and deeds throughout the play.

He causes his tragic destiny through his obsession of avenging his father’s death, his passion to plan the perfect revenge, his habit of doubting and overanalyzing. The appearance of King Hamlet, in the form of a Ghost, began the obsession Hamlet struggles with. The Ghost, in Act I, scene v, demands Hamlet “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder. ” (I, v, 25) Following this request, Hamlet swears to take on the task of gaining his father the respect and dignity he deserves, through the vengeance of King Hamlet’s murder by Claudius. “Now to my word.

Hamlet’s Character as His Destiny? Essay Example

It is ‘Adieu, adieu, remember me’. I have sworn’t. ” (I, v, 111-112) This evening encounter then leads to the obsessive thoughts that begin to take over Hamlet’s mind, as he decides to devote his entire willpower and occupy his mind with only thoughts of how to serve Claudius a fair punishment and death, no matter who or what is destroyed in the process. “This is most brave, That I, the son of a dear father murder’d, Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell, Must like a whore unpack my heart with words And fall a-cursing like a very drab, A scullion!

Fie upon’t! Foh! About, my brains. ” (II, ii, 569-575) “O, from this time forth My thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth. ” (IV, v, 65-66) It is then seen, that as Hamlet becomes more obsessed with the idea of revenge, his character becomes passionate about not only killing Claudius, but also doing it in the perfect way, as to achieve the utmost dignity for King Hamlet and irony on Claudius’ life.

In Act 3, King Claudius presents an opportunity for Hamlet to kill him, and Hamlet, now deeply passionate about the idea of the perfect revenge passes up the opportunity. “And am I then reveng’d To take him in the purging of his soul, When he is fit and season’d for his passage? No. Up, sword, and know thou a more horrid hent: When 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”. III, iii, 84-92) He instead, chooses to construct a plot in which he catches King Claudius reacting (and in a sense, admitting) to the idea of murder along the same way Claudius murdered King Hamlet, “There is a play tonight before the king: One scene of it comes near the circumstance Which I have told thee of my father’s death. I prithee, when thou seest that act afoot, Even with the very comment of thy soul Observe my uncle…Give him heedful note; For I mine eyes will rivet to his face, And after we will both our judgements join In censure of his seeming. (III, ii, 73-85) Once he witnesses Claudius’ reaction, he sets off on planning the perfect revenge.

While Hamlet works on accepting that Claudius was the murderer of his father, King Hamlet, and then later plotting the perfect murder of Claudius, he encounters conflict within his own mind that further leads him towards his self-inflicted demise. He deals with his most prevalent character flaw (Hamlet’s hamartia), which is his tendency to doubt and overanalyze situations. Unable to act and then think, Hamlet struggles with the need to think and analyze before any action occurs.

He finds himself questioning the Ghost, needing proof that Claudius was a murderer, “I’ll have these players Play something like the murder of my father Before mine uncle. I’ll observe his looks; I’ll tent him to the quick. If’a do blench, I know my course. The spirit that I have seen May be a devil, and the devil hath power T’assume a pleasing shape, yea, and perhaps, Out of my weakness and my melancholy, As he is very potent with such spirits, Abuses me to damn me. I’ll have the grounds.

More relative than this. (II, ii, 581-591) It is this doubt, and incapability of merely acting without reason or thought, that creates Hamlet’s most tragic flaw; the flaw that will eventually cause his fall. Ultimately, Hamlet achieves revenge against Claudius, killing him with the poison that Claudius had intended to be used on Hamlet. However, victory and revenge is not at all sweet for Hamlet, as he soon finds himself joining Claudius in the underworld, with his death due to a stab wound infested with poison.

This death of Hamlet was a destiny that occurred through Hamlet’s character flaws. He was obsessed with the idea of vengeance, ridding his mind of any thoughts that strayed from how to kill Claudius. He was passionate to an extreme about planning the perfect revenge, causing him to pass up opportunities when they were given, and most importantly, he was plagued with the flaw of overanalyzing, thinking before acting to an over the top level, which prevented him from acting without many reasons and justifications in his mind.

These three character flaws are what caused Hamlet’s tragic destiny, and are also the basis behind A. C. Bradley’s theory of Shakespeare’s tragedies. Character is destiny, and in all of his tragedies, especially Hamlet, the character causes his own catastrophic death through his actions and deeds, or in Hamlet’s situation, lack thereof.

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