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Hamlet Essay

1158 words - 5 pages

MetzgerMark MetzgerMr. SchainEnglish 12 AP Literature & Composition20 December 2013The Eternal Struggle of the ConscienceConscience, the inner feeling or voice viewed as acting as a guide to the right or wrong of one's behavior, controls us. We act according to our conscience, and if we don't, we feel guilt. In Shakespeare's Hamlet, the protagonist Hamlet struggles with his conscience, and the decision of taking action in what may be right or wrong. The play revolves around the conscience and the state of consciousness. "The play's subject… is neither mourning for the dead or revenge on the living… All that matters is Hamlet's consciousness of his own consciousness, infinite, unlimited, and at war with itself" (Harold Bloom). In analysis of Hamlet and the state of consciousness, we can interpret that Shakespeare may be using Ophelia to represent the physical form of Hamlet's conscience. This is evident throughout the play, especially in the beginning of the play when Laertes talks to Ophelia about Hamlet (Act 1 Scene 3) and when Hamlet frightens Ophelia in her room (Act 2 Scene 1), Act 3 Scene 1, and when Hamlet discovers that Ophelia has died (Act 5 Scene 1).We meet our characters, Hamlet and Ophelia, as the play opens. We learn that Hamlet is struggling with his identity and that he is in love with the lovely Ophelia. Like the conscience, Ophelia is pure, chaste, and uncorrupt, but Hamlet will not love his conscience forever. We get some foreshadowing about Hamlet and the relationship with his conscience, Ophelia, in Act 1 Scene 3 when Laertes tells Ophelia that she needs to be cautious of Hamlet. "... As this temple waxes,/The inward service of the mind and soul/Grows wide withal" (1.3.15-17). Consider for a moment that Shakespeare is comparing Hamlet, the physical form, to a temple, and Ophelia, the mental form, to the mind and soul of the temple. The temple and the mind and soul grow together, at least until the temple has reached full bloom, and then the mind and soul continue to grow until it bursts out of the temple casing. This is foreshadowing for later in the play when Ophelia goes crazy, which I will touch on more later. But for now, take this comparison as Shakespeare Hamlet to the physical body and Ophelia to his conscience. After this scene, Hamlet discovers the Ghost and learns that Claudius murdered his father. He soon devises a plan to act crazy, so that no one will be suspicious of his behavior when he does kill the king. Soon after, in Act 2 Scene 1, Ophelia runs into scene, telling the audience of the ghost-like Hamlet that had just burst into her room. "Pale as his shirt, his knees knocking each other,/ And with a look so piteous in purport/ As if he had been loosèd out of hell" (2.1.91-93). Ophelia, the conscience, is frightened of Hamlet, the physical body, and of what the body wants to do. The instinctual actions of desire to kill the king scare and worry the conscience, beginning the division of...

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