“What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! / How infinite in faculty! In form and moving how / express and admirable! In action how like an angel! / In apprehension how like a God! The beauty of the / world! The paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?” (Act 2, scene 2) In Hamlet, Shakespeare utilizes the characters to examine the human condition and what it means to be human. The human condition is comprised of experiences that every human lives through, regardless of their social class, gender, or race. Throughout the play, Shakespeare attempts to answer what it means to be human. The answer to this question, according to Hamlet, is that humans are the ultimate paradox. Humans approach life with a bestial perspective, yet the humans live in fear of the concept of death.
The bestial perspective of life is shown when Claudius murders King Hamlet, which becomes known when the ghost speaks to Hamlet. “The serpent that did sting thy father’s life/ now wears his crown.” Claudius desired the throne, however he needed his brother dead in order to achieve his goal. This action is similar to what occurs with animals when a new animal wants to overthrow the old leader, and shows that greed for power can overcome any familial bond, an everyday human virtue. After learning this, Hamlet becomes determined to avenge his father’s death.
The famous “To be or not to be soliloquy” spoken by Hamlet in act 3 (scene 1), questions whether the concept of life is worth the troubles faced by people or whether running away from the problems is worth it. “For who would bear the whips and scorns of time/ Th’ oppressors wrong, the proud man’s contumely/ the pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,...” suggests that no person can bear the struggles of life, such as heartbreak, corruption, and uncertainty in the events. “ But that dread of something after death, / The undiscovered country, from whose bourn/ No traveler returns, puzzles the will,...,” describes how the fear of death forces the people to continue life and face their struggles. After the long speech about life versus death, Hamlet concludes that it is better to stay alive than to become dead, due to the fear of the unknown world of death.
The opening quote illustrates Hamlet’s perplexity at the concept of man, and the deeds that are done. The humans are...