What do you think is the dominant quality of Hamlet’s character? Discuss with suitable examples. Hamlet, the titular character in William Shakespeare’s famous play “Hamlet,” is one of the most complex and intriguing characters in all of literature. His dominant quality can be seen as a combination of several traits, making him a multifaceted character. However, one could argue that Hamlet’s most dominant quality is his introspective and contemplative nature, which leads to his profound self-awareness and inner turmoil.
What do you think is the dominant quality of Hamlet’s character? Discuss with suitable examples.
Hamlet’s introspective nature is evident from the very beginning of the play. When we first meet him in Act 1, Scene 2, he is already grappling with the profound grief of his father’s death and the hasty remarriage of his mother to his uncle, Claudius. In his first soliloquy, he expresses his despair and anguish, saying, “O, that this too too solid flesh would melt, / Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!” (1.2.129-130). This soliloquy reveals Hamlet’s deep introspection and his ability to articulate his innermost thoughts and feelings.
As the play progresses, Hamlet’s introspection becomes more pronounced, and he begins to question the nature of existence itself. In his famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy from Act 3, Scene 1, he contemplates the idea of life and death, pondering the suffering that life entails and the fear of the unknown in death. He says, “To be or not to be, that is the question: / Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer / The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, / Or to take arms against a sea of troubles / And by opposing end them” (3.1.55-59). This soliloquy illustrates Hamlet’s deep philosophical and introspective nature, as he grapples with existential questions that are timeless and universal. What do you think is the dominant quality of Hamlet’s character? Discuss with suitable examples.
Hamlet’s introspection also extends to his sense of self. He frequently reflects on his own character and actions, often with a critical eye. For example, in Act 2, Scene 2, he chastises himself for not taking swift action against Claudius, whom he suspects of murdering his father. He says, “What an ass am I! This is most brave, / That I, the son of a dear father murdered, / Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell, / Must (so) forget my nature” (2.2.577-580). Here, Hamlet acknowledges his own hesitation and inability to act decisively, revealing his self-awareness and introspective nature.
Furthermore, Hamlet’s introspection is evident in his interactions with other characters. He is a keen observer of human behavior and is quick to discern the hypocrisy and deceit of those around him. For instance, in Act 1, Scene 5, when he meets the ghost of his father and learns of the murder, he decides to feign madness in order to investigate the truth. In his conversation with Horatio and Marcellus, he cautions them to secrecy, saying, “How strange or odd soe’er I bear myself, / As I perchance hereafter shall think meet / To put an antic disposition on” (1.5.170-172). This decision reflects Hamlet’s introspective nature, as he carefully considers the consequences of his actions and plans his course of action accordingly.
Hamlet’s introspection also leads to his moral and ethical dilemmas. He is haunted by the moral implications of seeking revenge for his father’s murder. He questions the righteousness of his actions and the consequences they might bring. In Act 3, Scene 3, when he has the opportunity to kill Claudius while he is praying, Hamlet hesitates, fearing that Claudius’s soul might go to heaven if he is killed in a state of repentance. He says, “Now might I do it pat, now he is praying, / And now I’ll do’t. And so he goes to heaven; / And so am I revenged” (3.3.73-75). This internal struggle showcases Hamlet’s introspective nature, as he grapples with the ethical complexities of his situation.
Hamlet’s introspection also manifests in his relationships, particularly with Ophelia. His erratic behavior and harsh treatment of her are driven by his inner turmoil and confusion. In Act 3, Scene 1, he famously tells Ophelia, “Get thee to a nunnery!” (3.1.120). While on the surface, this may appear as cruelty, it is a manifestation of Hamlet’s inner struggle, as he grapples with his feelings of love for Ophelia and his fear of betrayal and deception. His introspective nature causes him to withdraw from those he cares about, leading to further isolation and emotional turmoil.
Additionally, Hamlet’s introspection is evident in his evolving attitudes toward mortality and fate. In Act 5, Scene 1, when he encounters the gravediggers, he reflects on the inevitability of death and the futility of human endeavors. He picks up a skull and muses, “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow / of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy” (5.1.187-188). This scene showcases Hamlet’s deep contemplation of mortality and his recognition of the transient nature of human existence.
Hamlet’s introspection not only shapes his character but also drives the central conflicts and themes of the play. One of the key themes is the theme of madness. Hamlet’s feigned madness is a result of his introspection and inner turmoil. He uses his erratic behavior as a disguise to further investigate the truth behind his father’s murder. This portrayal of madness is convincing, and it leads other characters, including Polonius and Claudius, to believe that Hamlet has lost his sanity. His ability to convincingly act mad while maintaining his sharp intellect showcases his deep introspective and strategic nature.
Moreover, Hamlet’s introspection highlights the theme of appearance versus reality. Throughout the play, Hamlet is acutely aware of the deception and hypocrisy that exist in the royal court of Denmark. He recognizes that things are not as they seem, and he becomes obsessed with uncovering the truth beneath the facade. This theme is evident in his famous line, “Seems, madam? Nay, it is. I know not ‘seems'” (1.2.76). Hamlet’s introspection leads him to question the authenticity of the world around him and seek the truth hidden beneath the surface.
Hamlet’s introspective nature also impacts his relationships, particularly his complicated relationship with his mother, Queen Gertrude. He criticizes her for her hasty marriage to Claudius, his uncle and his father’s murderer. In Act 3, Scene 4, he confronts her in a powerful and emotionally charged scene, demanding that she confront her own guilt and acknowledge her betrayal. He says, “O, speak to me no more! These words like daggers enter in mine ears!” (3.4.102-103). Hamlet’s introspection allows him to see through the veneer of his mother’s actions and forces her to confront her own conscience.
Hamlet’s introspection has a significant impact on the overall plot of the play. His constant self-analysis and hesitation to take action against Claudius contribute to the play’s tragic outcome. While his introspection leads to profound insights and moral contemplations, it also paralyzes him, preventing him from taking swift and decisive action. This internal conflict between his desire for revenge and his moral and philosophical doubts ultimately leads to a series of tragic events, including the deaths of Polonius, Ophelia, and Laertes, and his own demise in the final act of the play.
Hamlet’s introspection also raises questions about the nature of heroism. Unlike traditional tragic heroes, Hamlet does not possess unwavering determination and a clear moral compass. Instead, he grapples with his own weaknesses and contradictions. His introspection and self-doubt are in stark contrast to characters like Fortinbras and Laertes, who pursue their goals with unwavering resolve. This contrast highlights the complexity of Hamlet’s character and challenges conventional notions of heroism.
Hamlet’s introspection also serves as a catalyst for the external conflicts in the play. His feigned madness, for example, creates tension and mistrust among the other characters. Polonius and Claudius become increasingly suspicious of Hamlet’s motives, leading to their attempts to manipulate and control him. This external conflict mirrors Hamlet’s internal struggle for control over his own destiny. Hamlet’s introspection also contributes to the play’s enduring relevance. His contemplation of existential questions, such as the meaning of life, the inevitability of death, and the moral complexities of revenge, resonates with audiences across time and cultures. The timeless nature of these questions makes “Hamlet” a work of literature that continues to captivate and provoke thought in readers and audiences worldwide.
In conclusion, Hamlet’s dominant quality is his introspective and contemplative nature. Throughout the play, he constantly reflects on his own emotions, actions, and the world around him. This introspection leads to his profound self-awareness, moral dilemmas, and philosophical musings on life and death. Hamlet’s ability to articulate his innermost thoughts and feelings through soliloquies and dialogues makes him one of the most complex and psychologically rich characters in literature. His introspection not only defines his character but also drives the central conflicts and themes of the play, making “Hamlet” a timeless exploration of the human condition.