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Hamlet dares us, along with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, to pluck out

the heart of my mystery. This mystery marks the essence of Hamlet’s

character as, in spite of our popular psychologies, it ultimately

does for all human personalities. Granting this, we can attempt to

chart its origin and outward manifestations. Ophelia tells us that

before the events of the play Hamlet was a model courtier, soldier and

scholar, The glass of fashion and the mould of form, / Th observed of

all observers.” With the death of his father and the hasty, incestuous

remarriage of his mother to his uncle, however, Hamlet is thrown into

a suicidal frame of mind in which “the uses of this world” seem to him

“weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable.” Though his faith in the value

of life has been destroyed by this double confrontation with death and

human infidelity, he feels impotent to effect any change in this new

reality: “It is not, nor it cannot come to good. / But break my heart,

for I must hold my tongue.” All he can do in this frustrated state is

to lash out with bitter satire at the evils he sees and then relapse

into suicidal melancholy. It is in this state that he meets the equally

mysterious figure of his fathers ghost with its supernatural revelations

of murder and adultery and its injunction upon Hamlet to revenge his

fathers murder. While this command gives purpose and direction to Hamlets

hitherto frustrated impulse towards scourging reform, it also serves to

further unsettle his already disturbed reason. Whether or not the ghost

was actually a devil, its effect upon Hamlet has been diabolic. In the

two months after his meeting with the ghost, he puzzles the court with

his assumed madness but does nothing concrete to effect or further his

revenge. His inability to either accept the goodness of life or act

to destroy its evils now begins to trouble him as much as his outward

hysteria and depression does the court. He first condemns his apparent

lack of concentration on his revenge as the sign of a base, cowardly

nature. The advent of a company of players, however, gives him an idea

for testing the truth of the ghost and the guilt of Claudius. He plans

to have the players perform a play which reproduces Claudius crime and

observe Claudius reaction to it, thereby dispelling his own doubts as to

the proper course of his action. Having momentarily silenced his shame

at his inaction, however, he immediately relapses into his former state


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