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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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