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Hamlet: Growing Pains Essay, Research Paper

Hamlet: Growing Pains

In the epic tragedy Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, Prince Hamlet is

entrapped in a world of evil that is not of his own creation. He must oppose

this evil, which permeates his seemingly star-struck life from many angles. His

dealings with his father’s eerie death cause Hamlet to grow up fast. His family,

his sweetheart, and his school friends all appear to turn against him and to

ally themselves with the evil predicament in which Hamlet finds himself. Hamlet

makes multiple attempts to avenge his father’s murder, but each fails because

his father’s murder, but each fails because his plans are marred by very human

shortcomings. It is these shortcomings that Hamlet is a symbol of ordinary

humanity and give him the room he needs to grow.

The Hamlet that Shakespeare begins to develop in Act I is a typical

mortal, bowed down by his human infirmities and by a disgust of the evils in a

world which has led him to the brink of suicide. Hamlet voices his thoughts on

the issue: ?O that this too too solid flesh would melt…’ (I. ii. 135). He

is prevented from this drastic step only by a faith which teaches him that God

has ?fix’d/ His canon ?gainst self-slaughter’ (I. ii. 131-2). To Hamlet appears

his dead father’s spirit, and he must continue to live in the ?unweeded garden,

/ That grows to seed’ in order to fulfill the obligation he has to his father

(I.ii. 135-6).

Making Hamlet more a story of personal growth than a dark murder mystery,

Shakespeare emphasizes the emotional, rather than the physical, obstacles that

Prince must face in accomplishing his goal. Immediately, Hamlet must determine

whether the ghost speaks the truth, and to do so he must cope with theological

issues. He must settle the moral issue of private revenge. He must learn to

live in a world in which corruption could be as near as the person who gave

birth to him. He also must control the human passions within him which are

always threatening his plans. There are no more sobering issues than these

which would catalyze growth in any human.

Hamlet’s widely recognized hamartia, or tragic flaw, is his inability to

make decisions on subjects with consequences of any weight. That he is aware of

his stagnation in such situations does prove to be helpful in defeating this

flaw. After passing up three oppotuities to entrap Claudius in the third act

(the nunnery scene on which the king was eavesdropping, during The Murder of

Gonzago, the scene in Gertrude’s closet), Hamlet berates himself because of his

indecisiveness: ?Why (must ) I live to say ?This thing’s to do; / Sith I have

cause and will and strength and means / To do’t’ (IV.iv. 44-46). Hamlet

realizes that his strength and opportunity are of no avail until he feels

morally right in following through on his vengeful task. Looking towards

Horatio as a model of the Christian stoicism he needs to pull himself through

the play, Hamlet comments on him: ?. . .thou hast been / As one, in suffering

all, that suffers nothing, / A man that fortune’s buffets and rewards / Hast

ta’en with equal thanks. . . .Give me that man / That is not passion’s slave,

and I will wear him / I my hearts core’ (III.ii. 70-79). Hamlet must become like

Horatio. He must learn that evil is a necessary part of the harmonious order

that God created. When Hamlet can become impervious to the blows of fortune,

his mission will be accomplished.

The impending dark period Hamlet must endure is represented by the

sympathetic fallacy of the state of nature in Denmark. Francisco notes, ?’tis

bitter cold, And I am sick at heart’ (I.i. 8-9). This readies the audience for

the appearance of the ghost which will represent the perversion of the

harmonious order that Hamlet must restore.

Hamlet’s reactions to his father’s questionable death begin to reveal

his immaturity. Suffering from an unnatural grief over his father’s death,

Hamlet lets his immaturity be revealed when he says the death was ?a will most

incorrect to heaven’ (I.ii. 129). As of now, Hamlet has a ?…heart unfortified,

a mind impatient, / An understanding simple and unschool’d’ ( I.ii. 96-97). He

is, therefore, unable to bear the brunt of something tragic as his father’s

death. Unable to see the god in things, Hamlet views the, world, God’s own

creation, as merely a place of corruption: ?How weary, stale, flat and

unprofitable, / Seem to me all the uses of tis world!’ (I.ii. 133-134). It

takes a mature man to delve deeper into a particular situation to find some good,

and Hamlet can find nothing.

Although continuing to be very mentally distraught, a sign of growth

occurs when Hamlet bursts into Opelia’s closet. Ophelia, in relating the scene

to her father, says, ?He took me by the wrist and held me hard’ ( II.i. 98).

This description of the occurrence proves that he has grown enough since the

first act to realize that he needs the help of others in order to stay strong.

Hamlets short-lived relationship with Ophelia did not fare well, and it dies

sharply when he finds out she is conspiring against him. A sign of growth

occurs as he shows his willingness to accept the situation as it is. He says, ?

I never gave you aught’ ( III.i. 96). Not wholly mature at this point, Hamlet

does revert to some immaturity when he makes threats on many peoples’ lives.

Knowing of the presence of the eavesdropping Claudius, Hamlet makes a mistake

when he declares, ?I say, we will have no new marriages: those that are married

already, all but one, shall live’ (III.i. 153-5). This statement only proves to

make the situation more difficult to Hamlet because it gives Claudius plausible

reason to ship him to England.

Later in the play, Gertrude calls her son into her closet for what s to

be a lecture to discourage the ?pranks’ he had been pulling. He finally

mentions to Gertrude that he believes she had some underlying part in his

father’s death. She, in turn, is astonished, ?As kill a king?’ (III.iv. 30).

This response corroborates the accumulating evidence of her innocence. Due to

Hamlet’s excess of passion during this scene, however, this victory is marred by

his inadvertent killing of Polonius. Now, his the importance of his mother’s

well being is heightened. His Christian concern for his mother’s salvation as

opposed to his uncles damnation shows immeasurable growth. After all, he does

invoke the ?soul of Nero’ to assure her safety.

At this point, Hamlet is taken to England by two of his friends turned

betrayers, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. During this trip, he seems to smother

fear with his newfound blanket of faith in God. This is a principal mark in the

development of his trust in God. He writes to Horatio of his dramatic escape

from the voyage to England and has this to say: ?There’s a divinity that shapes

our ends, / Rough-hew them how we will’ (V.ii. 10-11). It is in this fifth act

that Hamlet has fully submitted to the will of God, and this very submission

allows him to make the Final push to accomplish his goal. He is confused no

longer and feels obligated to kill Claudius when he says, ?He hath killed my

king and whored my mother, / Popp’d in between the election and my hopes. . ./

To let this canker of our nature come / In further evil’ (V.ii. 64-5, 69-70)?

He can now view Claudius’ death not as a sinful act of vengeance, but as a duty

to the subjects of Elsinor. When Horatio suggests that the duel that Claudius

has arranged with Laertes may bring about Hamlet’s demise, Hamlet’s reply shows

he has taken on Horatio’s stoicism: ?If it be now, ?tis not to come; if it be

not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet will come: readiness is all. .

. .Let be’ (V.ii. 231-5).

The ineffective schemer of the first three acts is no more. Through the

tragic events that Hamlet endures, his character has evolved into arguably his

greatest asset. Now he can put the final touches on the restoration of order

which must be done to successfully end the catastrophe in any Shakespearean

tragedy. As Hamlet forces the poisoned cup to the king’s lips, Laertes

emphasizes that, in order for harmony to be restored, evil must destroy itself: ?

He is justly served; / It is a poison temper’d by himself’ (V.ii. 338-9). The

now fully grown Hamlet attains salvation after he is poisoned, and this is

hinted at by Horatio: ?Good night, sweet prince; / And the flights of angels

sing to thee thy rest’ (V.ii. 370-1).

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