Hamlet is considered to be the summit of shakespeare’s works. There is no other character in literature so rich, so complex, so mysterious, at once so obscure and transparent ,and affected by Humanism so deeply. Because of his character defects and Humanism defects, there are two main reasons for Hamlet’s tragedy. The contradictions in character and the Psycho-Source of his character are the causes of his discouragement ,and the Humanism defects also lead to the discouragement of his spirit .In this paper, Hamlet’s discouragement will be discussed from two aspects , including his contradictary chacracter and Humanism defects itself.
II. Life and Work of William Shakespeare 威廉莎士比亚的生活和工作
2.1 William Shakespeare 威廉莎士比亚
William Shakespeare (baptised 26 April 1564; died 23 April 1616) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His works, including some collaborations, consist of 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.
It starts on the castle battlements in Denmark, where the guards see the dead kings ghost, Hamlet's father. They bring Hamlet to the ghost the next night. The Ghost tells Hamlet that he was murdered by Hamlet's uncle, Claudius, who is now the king because he married Hamlet's mother, Gertrude, who is still living. Hamlet meets a group of actors and tells them to do a recreation of the killing of Hamlet's father. In the middle of the play Hamlet's uncle, Claudius, goes crazy and it's proven that the new king is guilty of murder. Later, Hamlet is talking with his mother and Ophelia's (Hamlet's girlfriend) father, Polonius, is behind the curtain. Hamlet thinks it's Claudius and stabs the curtain and kills Polonius. Ophelia goes crazy and drowns in a river. Ophelia's brother, Laertes, is mad at Hamlet so he challenges him to a sword fight. King Claudius gets in on it too and he poisons Hamlet's wine. Just to make sure Hamlet dies Laertes puts poison on the tip of his sword. During the duel, Laertes scratches Hamlet with the poison sword. Hamlet picks up the poison sward and stabs Laertes. The queen gets thirsty and drinks the poison wine that Hamlet was going to drink. Hamlet gets up and stabs the new king. The only one who survived was Horatio, Hamlet's best friend.
III. Hamlet’s Character Defects 哈姆雷特的性格缺陷
3.1 Contradictions in Hamlet’s Character
On the journey through the path of life, people encounters with many different incidents and situations where they must act accordingly. Depending on what type of personality is possessed, people can deal with them in numerous ways. In the play Hamlet, the main character is faced with a cluster of dilemmas and is in emotional distress. Hamlet’s character always has the contradictory sides.
3.1.1 Brave as Well as Timid
Hamlet is the Prince of Denmark. He enjoys a high social position and is respected by his people. Yet ever since he is called back from the university to the Danish court by the news of his father’s sudden death, he is involved in the depth of misery and the arduous task of avenging . His misery is deepened by his mother’s hasty marriage to his uncle, the present king and the suspected killer of his father. Life has suddenly become so complicated and challenging for Hamlet .
Young and inexperienced as he is , Hamlet’s strong character enables him to stand firm under such a difficulty . Feeling isolated and lonely, he remains calm, using his intelligence to contend with his uncle’s crimes and finally carrying out the revenge, though at the cost of his own life. Throughout the play, we can see that Hamlet is “neither a frail and weak-minded youth nor a thought-sick dreamer”; on the contrary , he is “fearless and impetuous in action”. His rushes after the ghost , kills Polonius , deals with the King’s commission on the ship, board the pirate ship , jumps into the grave of Ophelia out of honest love and executes his final revenge during the duel with Laertes. He appears insensible to the fear of any ordinary kind.
Yet in the play , Hamlet’s delay and hesitations in carrying out his task of revenge is also obvious . He even appears to be shrinking and slow sometimes. He has several good chances to kill Claudius but he just lets them slip by. Sometimes, when he fails to make good use of a chance, he has to find some excuses for his inaction to comfort his guilty conscience. For instance , on his way to his mother’s when the play-show ends , he meets the king praying, he could have drawn out his sword and killed him on the spot. If his delay so far is due to the lack of evidence of the present King’s crime , now he has got what he needs and he should have taken immediate action. But he fails again on the pretext thathe might send the King to heaven if he kills him then because the King is praying at that moment. Often he reproaches himself bitterly for the neglect of his duty. He even asks himself in genuine bewilderment,“ what should such fellows as I do crawling between earth and heaven?” “Do I linger? Can the cause be cowardice ?” what is it that makes me sit idle when I feel if is shameful to do so , and when I have cause ,and will, and strength , and means to act?” why in the world did not Hamlet obey the ghost at once, and save seven of those eight lives ? If he had been Laertes of fortinbras, he would have accomplished his task in a day .
3.1.2 Careful as Well as Careless
In the depth of such misery , Hamlet remains calm and acts cautiously for the most of the time. Instead of taking rash actions, he thinks things over again .He is perplexed by several questions: Is what his father’s ghost says true ? How can be ascertain it ? If it is true, his uncle , the murderer of his father , must be suspicious of him and be on guard against him. So how can he take the revenge ?
To find out the truth , he arranges the plat-show tries to detect the King’s reactions during the play; to protect himself from the King’s persecution, he feigns madness and he does so well that even his mother, the queen , his girl friend Ophelia and Ophelia’s father Polonius are all made to believe that he has really gone out of his mind . when the King tells him to go to England , he immediately realizes the scheme under it .
Nevertheless, despite all his efforts to be careful, Hamlet sometimes turns out to be careless or even rash. At the beginning of the play, Hamlet wears mourning dress and appears depressed at her mother’s marriage. When his mother asks him to exchange his clothes and “look like a friend on Denmark”. Knowing clearly that he is under the close watch by the King and his followers, he speaks out the King’s crime in his mother’s chamber. Fortunately , the eavesdropper Plonius is killed by mistake .But Hamlet has made a big mistake. Though his mother promised to keep what he says a secret, his rash movement leads to the death of Ophelia and the King’s another plot against him, that is , the duel with Laertes at the end of the play .
When the king suggests that Hamlet play fencing with Laertes , Hamlet becomes careless again . He should have known what conspiracy is in it , especially after so many incidents, but he fails to give any consideration to it and agrees at once. As a result , three more persons ,excluding the King , die in the end .
3.1.3 Kind as Well as Cruel
Before the catastrophe falls upon him, Hamlet is the favorite of the people . Everyone shows him respect. He has been charmingly frank ,courteous and kindly to everyone, of whatever rank, whom he liked or disliked. But his melancholy caused by the death of his father and the arduous task of revenge makes him sometimes hard and cynical as well .Hamlet is also too hard in his words to his mother and Ophelia.
From the above discussion , we can see the contradictions in Hamlet’s character. It might be difficult for us to understand it at first. But if we look deep into Hamlet’s life before the catastrophe, the task his dead father asks him to fulfill, his perilous situation in carrying out the task and his speculative mind, we can surely get the answer to it .
3.2 The Psycho-Source of Hamlet’s Character
The psychology of human , closely contacted with one’s behavior, is the reflection of his character and changes correspondingly as the situation does, which determines the complication of human mentality. The most obvious tensions within Hamlet’s mind are those between his humanism ideal and the inhuman social reality, and between the attitude of optimism and pessimism , on which much of the process of his tragedy depends.In his psychological state, it is not difficult to find the moral sensitivity , misanthropic mood, profound melancholy and the tendency of fatalism.
3.2.1 Hamlet’s Delaying Defect
Hamlet is truly a great play. Any work of literature that generates so much debate and has lasted for four hundred years must be pure genius. One question that has puzzled readers and audiences alike is Hamlet's delay. Why does he wait so long to kill Claudius?
During and immediately following Hamlet's conversation with the Ghost, he is determined to fulfill the Ghost's wishes. Hamlet already has a plan to catch Claudius. However, the next time he appears in the play, which is long after the Ghost's visit, he has not yet done the deed. He admits he may have been deceived by the ghost. "The spirit that I have seen / May be a devil, and the devil hath power / T' assume a pleasing shape (2.2.627-629).
To fully understand Hamlet’s inaction, it is important to look at revenge. In Richard III revenge is not exacted until Richard is dead and his foul deeds found out. In Othello, Iago will not be revenged until Othello is completely destroyed. In Merchant of Venice Shylock wants to humiliate and then kill Antonio. Thus revenge is not exacted until the evil deeds of the offender are revealed and the public knows the truth. Only then does the thought of death come into revenge. Under this light, Hamlet cannot kill Claudius until he can prove that he poisoned the late king. Thus the first two acts are not only for the reader to understand Hamlet, but to allow Hamlet to gather needed evidence against his uncle.
It is not until act III, when Hamlet has not been able to prove his uncle is a murder that he decides to force Claudius. Hamlet comes up with the idea of the play to prove whether or not Claudius is guilty. But the play also causes another problem. Hamlet discovers Claudius’ guilt but has no evidence to present to the people. Thus, when Hamlet sees Claudiuspraying he stays his hand until he can absolutely prove his guilt. Another reason why Hamlet stays his hand is because Claudius is praying. It is Hamlet’s fervent belief that if he kills Claudius while he is praying he might go to heaven, Which makes the final lines of that scene so ironic. After Hamlet has left, Claudius says, “My words fly up, my thoughts,/ remain below:/ Words without thoughts never to heaven go”(lines 97-99). Claudius does not think that his words are reaching God. Thus if Hamlet would have killed Claudius, he still would have gone to hell.
Some critics attribute Hamlets inability to act to an Oedipus complex. These proponents say that Hamlet, in his subconscious mind, has a desire to do exactly what his uncle has done; that is, get rid of the husband so that he can have Gertrude for himself. If this is true, Hamlet cannot act because he is fighting against his subconscious; he knows he wants something that is entirely evil, and if he were to go through with it, he would be no better than Claudius.
Still other critics believe that Hamlet simply thinks too much. He wants the murder of the King to be perfect. Claudius has to go to hell. The people have to know about the murderer Claudius. Hamlet spends too much time planning and not enough time doing; thus, making the King's murder more complicated than other murders he has orchestrated. Also, he has to be careful around Claudius after the play because it revealed his sanity to the King as it reveled the guilt of Claudius to Hamlet. After the play within a play, Hamlet has proof and still cannot act. Not until everybody is dying, including himself, does he realizes that he should not have waited so long. He understands the consequences of his delay, all of his pent-up rage explodes, and he murders the King; getting the revenge he was after from the beginning.
Fortunately, because of the great writing of Shakespeare any of these interpretations are valid and can be supported by the text.
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