Hamlet Is A Melancholic Puppet Essay

1370 words - 6 pages

“The world is sad, because a puppet was once melancholy” once said Oscar Wilde, the modern playwright in reference to Hamlet. It is understandable why. In Shakespeare’s tragedy, the protagonist, Hamlet is depressed after the death of his father and remarriage of his mother to his uncle, Claudius (the antagonist.) His depression is defined by Louis Menhand in The New Yorker as “the unhappiness of eternal disappointment in life as it is” or the German word, weltschmerz. To a great extent, this type of sadness is what shaped Hamlet’s decisions more than his reasoning though process. In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Hamlet’s weltschmerz degrades his ability through feminine allusions and body ...view middle of the document...

The weakness of women is alluded to in Hamlet’s first soliloquy when he cries out “Frailty, thy name is woman!” (I. ii. 146.) even when he personifies frailty and objectifies the woman, weakening her status even further; In the next soliloquy, however, he was referring to himself as the impotent woman. Hamlet cannot resolve his disappointment, weltschmerz, unless he can change the source of his disappointment, but because he is diminishing his own ability to resolve the conflict of the play and instead is being controlled as the puppet to these emotions.
Furthermore, Shakespeare’s Hamlet incorporates body imagery that expresses Hamlet’s own submission to weltschmerz. Upon his character’s introduction, he is the only man dressed in black and defends it as “’Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother/Nor customary suits of solid black” (77-78) literally meaning he feels black on the inside as well. It was a common belief, in the playwright’s time that the body was composed of four different humors: blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm and each also corresponded to temperament. Hamlet has an excessive amount of black bile, which represented feeling melancholy. His body’s composition of bile controls him enough for Hamlet to appear similarly on the exterior. Hamlet’s own body is weary and exhausted for a young prince. He considers even ending “The heart-ache and thousand natural shocks/That flesh is heir to” (III. i. 62-63) that he suffers through suicide. Hamlet’s heart, which represents humanity on the body (while heaven is in the head and hell in the feet) is aching like an old man’s body from an exaggerated amount of time that the natural order has hurt Hamlet (such as events like death, marriage, and the divine right of kings, which ironically all of which are unnatural in Denmark.) These pains are directed at Hamlet himself, and he is “heir” to it in how he is formed from his attempts to correct the natural order. “Heir” is also a pun on the word “air” saying that the suffering of the aches and shocks of life pass through the body and mortality as if it were air. This emphasizes overwhelming power of Hamlet’s suffering on himself as he had previously referred to his own flesh as “Too too solid” (I. ii. 129) which contrasts the gaseous property of air. The aches and shocks are powerful enough to pass as easily through a solid as a human would through air which is a metaphor for Hamlet’s own weakness against his struggles: the cause of his weltschmerz.
Finally, Hamlet’s “puppet” status is controlled by the triangulation of the people around him, forcing him to find stability in between. He loses much of his weltschmerz when he meets Fortinbras’s (the Norwegian Prince) army as they move through Denmark to attack Poland. Hamlet’s new purpose is formed from his previous melancholy because “How...

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