A Darker Side of Our Soul Exposed in Hamlet
We live in a curious age of, tabloids, talk shows, and TV sound bites that purvey a shocking type of tawdry news. These sources of scandal make a lucrative business out of outrageous headlines. But this is nothing new. Mankind has always had burning desire for uncovering secret truths--even in the time of Shakespeare. For as Polonius said, "If circumstances lead me, I will find/Where truth is hid, though it were hid indeed/Within the center" (2.2.158-60). The implication is that we are somehow better off in knowing the furtive facts.
But are we better off in knowing such things? Since the time of Shakespeare, human nature has remained fairly constant. With this in mind, many moral lessons of yesteryear can be directly applicable today. But what was wise William trying to tell us when he wrote Hamlet? Certainly, there may have well been a myriad of sub-themes and morals to the story, but there is one theme that stands out. From the ghostly revelation of King Hamlet, to the searching espionage of Polonius, we see that there is a self-destructive human weakness at work that desires hidden, forbidden knowledge. Likewise, we find a message regarding the morality of this meddling in the lives of others. When considering the end results, we learn that much of what we don't know, we really don't need to know. The information is separated from us for a reason. If we persist in seeking out what is hidden, we may very well be violating the laws of our own survival. In addition, we may not even be capable of understanding the truth at all. Or, as Jack Nicholson would say, "You can't handle the truth!"
Yet, who among us could resist a message from the grave especially if it were offered to us from the likeness of a dearly departed loved one? Would we not also be driven to receive the communiqué in its entirety? Nevertheless, it is clear that Hamlet's woes intensified from that moment. Was it not enough that he lost his father? Or worse still that his mother so quickly remarried his uncle? Was this ghostly disclosure even necessary? Eventually, would he not have suspected foul play of his own insightful intellect?
Yes, and clearly he does! Do we not see inquisitive distrust in his statement, "I am too much in the sun" (1.2.67). That is to say, Hamlet was not so much in the dark as the king supposed. This was a pointed retort sallied directly at the king, which declared that Hamlet was not so easily fooled. Nevertheless, there is a huge difference between suspicion and knowledge.
The murdered King reveals to Hamlet that a virulent poison was put into his ear, and that it was Hamlet's murderous uncle who was responsible for this. Yet, in revealing this to his son, the fallen king infects Hamlet's ear with a virulent poison as well. This secreted knowledge acts like a contagious virus that rapidly multiplies into a profusion of a...