October 12, 2016
Hamlet: Machiavellian or Meager?
In examining Fortinbras’ claim at the end of the play where he said had Hamlet lived, that he would have made a good ruler, we will consider Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince as a guideline to how a ruler should act and present himself in nearly all situations such as his faith, leadership abilities and disguising one’s faults. Through this examination it will be found that under Machiavellian standards, Hamlet would not have made a good king because he lacks many of the qualities and traits deemed necessary to be a fit by Machiavelli. Machiavelli’s The Prince was essentially a hand book; in which he creates a guideline to how he would want the perfect fictional prince to act in many different aspects of life. For Hamlet, due to his inaction and other blunders, rather than becoming a strong Machiavellian leader, like Fortinbras, who claimed Hamlet would be a good king, Hamlet along with his step-father and mother are killed, which leads to Fortinbras taking over Denmark without resistance.
One of the biggest mistakes made by Hamlet and the biggest reason why he would not have made a good king despite Fortinbras’ claim is because of his indecision and constant internal struggle with both faith and unnecessary meticulous overthinking. Machiavelli believed that when making decisions it is better to act quickly rather than wait, this is the exact opposite of what Hamlet does as we is constantly plotting but never acting. In his guidelines to being a good prince Machiavelli states in regards to acting fast “Yet I am of the opinion that it is better to be rash than over-cautious, because Fortune is a woman and, if you wish to keep her down you must beat her and pound her” (188). In regards to Hamlets actions, or rather inaction, he constantly planned on killing Claudius, by first setting up the play to depict his fathers murder, then just over-internalizing, but not acting until it was too late as his mother had died and he was moments away from death too. To further prove the point of Hamlets indecisiveness and cautious approach rather than taking action, Machiavelli states that “But if times and circumstances change, he is ruined, because he does not change his course of action” (188). In addition, his belief in faith which according to Machiavelli “A prudent ruler… cannot and should not observe faith when such observance is to his disadvantage and the causes that made him gives his promised have vanished” (182). Hamlet lets his belief in faith keep him from avenging is father by not killing Claudius when he sees him praying because to Hamlet “Now might I do it pat, now he is praying and I’ll do’t: and he goes to heaven. A villain kills my father; and for that, I, his sole son, do this same villain send to heaven” (3.3.74-9).
Another trait in which Machiavelli writes about is generosity. He states “Commencing then with the first of the characteristics...