Attitude to Death in “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare

Throughout the play, several considerable transformations in Hamlet’s character can be observed including his attitude to death. These transformations are caused by Hamlet’s reaction to events that were happening along with a moral breakdown of people around him. In the following paper, such a dramatic shift in the prince’s personality and world perception will be examined in terms of its scale and caliber. Overall, judging from a variety of scenes, it can be said that through the course of events depicted in the play, Hamlet loses his flavor to life, and becomes fascinated by death as a way to free himself from his sufferings caused by the decay in Denmark.

Evaluating the transformations which occur within Hamlet’s personality throughout the play, the first important point to be addressed is the motivation behind such changes. What is the very hurt and pain which makes Hamlet’s mind and heart so concerned and over troubled causing considerable changes in his personality? This is his grief on the reason for his father’s death. This grief becomes overwhelming for the prince, it occupies his mind constantly, it makes him lose interest in the events of his current life such as romantic relationships and friendship, this feeling becomes a poison for his entire personality. The other reason behind Hamlet’s transformation is his exalted moral code. The prince sees his mother as an adulterer as she married her husband’s brother a month after his death. Eventually, after a row of events, at the end of the play, the audience finds Hamlet to be lost to this world and without any desire to live, but a longing to die.

Next, as the problem behind Hamlet’s suffering is known, the way it affects the prince through the course of the play should be examined. Initially, we meet Hamlet as a young man with brilliant education and the best prospects in life. The prince seems to have everything that any young man would want to have including a loving lady of incredible beauty and wonderful career prospects. Hamlet is an enthusiastic and contented person. However, as soon as he learns about his father’s death and its circumstances, a variety of changes within his personality begin to occur. Hamlet becomes thoughtful and gloomy. His enthusiasm and interest in the things going around him are lost. His only concern since he learns details of his father’s death is to revenge his murderer. Such limitations in the life interest become fatal for Hamlet. This can be observed in the very first scenes where Hamlet indicates that the process of his personality “melting” has begun: “O that this too sullied flesh would melt, thaw, and resolve itself into a dew (I. II. 130)” and “seems to me all the uses of this world… Things rank and gross posses it merely (I. II. 136).” These phrases can be seen as Hamlet’s diagnosis for himself. He describes his condition as featuring a lack of interest in “this world”, and melting for this reason. The next scenes show that Hamlet deliberately chooses the path in his life leading to his eventual death. Step by step, Hamlet is shown with less passion for the events of the surrounding world, and with ever-growing agony causing his fatal actions. The breaking point for him becomes the moment of meeting his father’s ghost. Upon learning, that it was a cruel murder that is to be revenged, Hamlet sets his final goal in his life which becomes his mission. The prince decides to fulfill his mission at all costs including the lives of the other people who might become a barrier on his way to his purpose. Even threatening the well-being and possibly life of his beloved lady as a result of murdering her father, Hamlet does not stop as from the point in his life when he meets his father’s ghost, the final countdown is started for him. From this very moment, Hamlet loses his personality along with his love and mildness and becomes a cold-hearted and rude person. He treats people around him with suspicion and disrespect including his mother whom he used to love so much and his beloved bride Ophelia. “I must be cruel only to be kind”, states Hamlet in III. I. 199. This mental disposition is no longer the way of thinking of a person determined to live, but rather of a person willing to die. Being cruel and cold was never a feature of Hamlet’s character, but as he no longer saw himself around living, the prince developed such terrible transformation in his way of thinking. Later, Hamlet’s condition becomes so complicated that he wishes that his mother never gave him birth:

Get thee to a nunnery: why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners? I am myself indifferent honest; but yet I could accuse me of such things that it was better my mother had not borne me… What should such fellows as I do crawling between earth and heaven? We are arrant knaves, all; believe none of us. Go thy ways to a nunnery (III.I. 615-617, 621).

These words by the main hero emphasize unbridgeable changes in his personality. Hamlet no longer sees himself among the living people; more than this he states he never wanted to be among them, as a matter of a fact. In the final scenes of the play, Hamlet is determined that life lost its meaning for him. We read:

If it be now, ‘tis not to come; if it be not to come, It will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all. Since no man of aught he leaves knows, what is’t to leave betimes? Let be (V.II. 206-209).

This phrase by the prince shows that he concludes that sooner or later death will come to every person, and as his interest in life is completely lost there is nothing unacceptable in meeting death at this stage of his life.

Concluding on all the information discussed above, it should be stated that throughout the play, considerable transformations in Hamlet’s character can be observed. The main of these transformations are connected to his attitude to death. Being preoccupied with the pain caused by his father’s murder along with acts of immorality by his mother and stepfather, Hamlet decides that there is no sense in his future living. In the final scenes of the play, we find Hamlet talking to death, and stating that as death will still come to every person eventually, there is no point in being upset concerning its earlier visit. Thus, we see the prince is ready to die.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (Collins edition). PDF file. 2012. Web.

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