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The Obnoxious Character That Is Hamlet English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1806 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is a tragedy written William Shakespeare, between 1599 and 1601. Its among the best and most famous plays written in the English language which involves the son of King Hamlet and Queen Gertrude, the kings wife. The play explains how revenge is exerted to Claudius by prince Hamlet who has apparently killed his father, the King, taken over the throne and wedded Gertrude, prince Hamlets mother. Hamlet is visited by a mysterious ghost resembling his recently deceased father. The ghost tells him his father was murdered by Claudius. The ghost encourages Hamlet to act in revenge concerning his fathers death by murdering Claudius. Prince Hamlet is however disturbed emotionally and hesitates to act. He finds it difficult to control the hatred he has for Claudius as well as the grief that he has. The desperate feeling of Prince Hamlet leads him to a paradox that to revenge murder one must commit murder. The play explains discretely the course of feigned and real madness. Themes explored in this play include incest, treachery, revenge and moral corruption. Prince Hamlet is faced by two forces: the need to revenge for the murder of his father and moral integrity. Prince Hamlet faces dilemma of the right actions and wrong feelings and finds the solution to the problem when he attains proper consciousness. The play Hamlet by Shakespeare is his longest work and has worldwide fame as an influential tragedy that is supremely rich and complex in the English language.

Etymology of the Name Hamlet

The name Hamlet has a lot of controversy and meaning. Etymologically, Hamlets name is an Icelandic noun, which means a fool. Another translation of that name is by analysis of the word aml-ooi which is a noun meaning `raving mad’ and consequently, amla which means `routine’. Later on, the names were integrated to be Amlodhe in the Irish dialect. Due to the change in phonetic laws, the name Amlodhe changed to Amlaidhe. The origin of this name can be termed to be wild.

Character analysis

Hamlet- the prince

Hamletÿis a Prince of Denmark, and the main character and protagonist introduced in Act I, Scene II. He is about thirty years old and he is the son of the deceased king Hamlet and Gertrude is his mother. Claudius who is the king currently is his uncle. Hamlets can be said to be bitter, depressed and pessimistic. The mere thought that his uncle actually murdered his own father and then marries his mother Gertrude really fills him with anger. The young Hamlet is also portrayed as an enlightened man who has acquired his knowledge from the University of Wittenberg. Hamlet is at many times seen as hesitant and unable to make up his mind though sometimes he is prone to rash and impulsive acts. As the play begins, Hamlet is seen as taking a passive and resentful, stance towards the events that have befallen him. The task weighs heavily on him making him to be uncertain. He is slow to take action and when he does, it is rash and violent. Hamlet is seen to have changed when he comes back from exile. His emotional uproar and anxiety has been replaced by a perspective and cool rationality. During the last scene Hamlet comes to realize that his destiny is murdering his uncle Claudius.

Character Traits

Emotionally and Psychologically Disoriented

Hamlet is depressed and completely dissatisfied with the turn of events. From the first encounter, Hamlet is filled with sorrow and stressed by his father’s death.There is a lot of contrast whereby, during the funeral of Hamlet’s father everyone seems to have gotten over the situation as they all seemed to be jovial except for Hamlet who still mourns his father’s death. Hamlet is further distressed to realize just how fast the people at the court have managed to overlook the death of his father especially Gertrude his mother who within a month of her husband’s death had got married to her brother-in-law. He cannot understand how his mother could do that and sees it as deceit. In another case, Ophelia is alarmed by Hamlet’s strange behavior when he, Hamlet, entered quickly into her room and looked at her closely without saying anything and reported this to her father -Polonius, who assumed that it was ecstasy of love that was making the prince to behave in such manner that was similar to a mad person. He subsequently informs Claudius and Gertrude who hutches a plot to eaves drop on the courting couple to prove their stand.

Male Chauvinist

Hamlet portrays his male chauvinism when he is said to have been extremely angered by the fact that his mother marries Claudius, his uncle. Further, Hamlet rejects Ophelia harshly and yet she was the lady who he had once alleged to love. Disgust and disregard for women is therefore portrayed which reveals his male chauvinism.


Worried by Hamlet’s prolonged grief over his father’s death and his poor habits, Hamlets uncle, Claudius, asks Guildenstern and Rosencrantz, who are Hamlets close friends to look into the reasons for Hamlets strange behavior. Prince Hamlet quickly discerns that they have been sent as spies. Tired of the King’s spies who attempt to know his true intentions, Hamlet begins to suspect everyone who is close to him thinking that they are all after spying on him and then reporting to King Claudius. Polonius and Claudius then persuade Ophelia to lure Hamlet into a conversation which they would be listening to behind closed doors. Their efforts are however frustrated when Hamlet notices some strange behavior with the way Ophelia was treating him and therefore cuts the communication short.


Hamlet feels offended when Gertrude His mother marries Claudius, his uncle within a short period after King Hamlet’s death.

Intelligent and Philosophical

Hamlet is extremely philosophical and contemplative which leads him into the paradox that to revenge for murder one must commit murder. Hamlets intelligence is also seen when after gathering enough evidence to prove that his uncle Claudius actually killed his father, still does not take the law in his own hands to take revenge but rather waits to prove e him guilty. We also see Hamlet who has so many unanswered questions in his mind, for example, perceptions of suicide.


Even after being certain that Claudius actually murdered his father, King Hamlet, prince Hamlet is slow to act in revenge perhaps in a bid to scheme everything too well.

At Ellsinore, the coming of a group of actors is seen by Hamlet as an opportunity which he uses skillfully used to show stage a play showing visually how his father was murdered. He was doing this in a bid to look keenly and note Claudius innocence or guilt regarding the murder by examining his response or reaction. Claudius eventually falls for the trap when he suddenly walks out of the court room when the murder scenes were being performed. This is taken by Hamlet to be evidence of Claudius guilt.

Prince Hamlet revises the contents of a play presented before his uncle King Claudius in order to confirm whether all that he was told by the ghosts of King Hamlet concerning the death of his father were true. In this case, Hamlet is seen as an inventive and cunning character.

A Sensitive and Courageous Hero

He is a brilliant young man who has been thrust into unfortunate circumstances. He is a noble and sensitive hero. Hamlets sensitivity is portrayed by his getting concerned when his mother gets married to Claudius not too long after the passing away of her husband. His humility in his love for Ophelia is also a show of sensitivity.

Rhetorical (symbolic).

Hamlet uses symbolism when he states that his grief is demonstrated by his dull clothes. He uses highly developed metaphors, stichomythia, and deploys both anaphora and asyndeton e.g. to die: to sleep-ÿto sleep, perchance to dream. When an occasion demands, he presents himself in the play as an accurate and frank person nunnery scene: “Th’expectancy and rose of the fair state.

Enigmatic/ Mysterious

There is always more to Hamlet than the characters in the play know. He in fact says this to the rest of characters. In his speech, he sounds like there is something of importance that he is not touching on. This thing is one that he himself is not aware of.

Rash, Impulsive and Careless

Hamlet’s behavior is that of an impulsive and rush person. He acts fasts and he does not premeditate about it. An example is during the time when he stabs Polonius without first confirming who it was. He fits well into a madman’s role because of his erratic behavior and upsetting the rest of the characters in the play through his speech.


The prince has secretly vowed to avenge the death of his father who had been slain by his uncle Claudius after the murderous act was disclosed to him by his father’s ghost. This he achieved at a disastrous cost through a scheme that included faking madness so as to console his intention.


Although Prince Hamlet was determined to go on with the revenge, he delays and time goes by without him taking any actions in regard to the revenge. He is devoted to taking the revenge but his thoughtfulness and contemplative nature leads to the delay and this makes him very sad and almost mad. Once he gets an opportunity to kill Claudius but he is not able to go with the idea as he is not with the courage to kill him while he is kneeling at prayer. He listlessly permits himself to be brought to England although he is aware of Claudius’ plans to kill him. He is aware of hesitancy and inaction and condemns himself for the flaws. He is not certain of the truthfulness of the Ghost.

Relevance of Hamlet’s Character

The character of hamlet aids in the development of the plot as he is the main character whose events of the play revolve around him. The play focuses on the character of the casts more so Hamlet rather than on the actions of the cast as a basis of plot development. Hamlet’s character indeed leads to the development of other characters in the play as their interactions with him bring out their true form .e.g. the character of Claudia. Shakespeare has also used Hamlet’s character to bring out various literature styles that have made his work to be distinguished, these include to name just a few; a play within play, imagery, soliloquy, poems etc. The whole play is a tragedy with the main themes being of death, madness love, treachery, revenge and moral corruption that have been effectively developed out of Hamlet’s character.


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