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Hamlet's Existential Crisis Essay

1772 words - 7 pages

When looking at Hamlet, one could say that William Shakespeare put the play together as a very cathartic tragedy. The emotional result of dealing with so many deaths brings on a plethora of emotions which are not usually felt in a typical play. Hamlet begins not with the normal prosperity and good fortune as do most tragedies, but with a more stifling and depressing sort of mood (Tekany 115). However, something else could be said about this play as well. The play centers on Hamlet and his existential characteristics, such as angst, isolation and his confrontations with nothingness. The exhibition of these characteristics proves Hamlet to be an existential character.
The idea of Hamlet's father's (King Hamlet of Denmark) passing is what begins the cycle of existential thoughts and feelings within him. From the conflict raging inside Hamlet, stemming from the loss of his father, blooms the beginnings of a bigger, overall existential conflict that soon leads to his cathartic downfall. He visits places filled with nothingness and abhorrence with a sense of frailty and pulsating frustration.
Hamlet’s existential crisis begins with the death of his father and the remarrying of his mother. At this point, for Hamlet, the questions start pouring in; “to be or not to be” (Hamlet 3.1.57), and so on. From questioning his existence and fighting with himself about the purpose of his life begins to show the beginnings of the existential crisis that is soon to consume him. Also, this questioning of himself and his existence in the universe are the basis for which he is about to define his own human state of being in his world of chaos and pain. This type of thinking puts forth a variety of different paths in front of him; kill himself and be done with everything? Or do his late father’s dirty work and kill Claudius for the sake of revenge and risk going to Hell over the whole situation? Or just wander around and slowly begin to lose his sanity? There were also questions asked concerning things such as "death, the meaning of human existence, the place of God in human existence, the meaning of value, interpersonal relationship, the place of self-reflective conscious knowledge of one's self in existing" (Webster). Existential problems and questions such as these plagued Hamlet throughout the play, unaware that each and every one were soon to consume him.
As these thoughts ravaged about inside his mind, Hamlet showed all of the signs of severe angst and anxiety, essential parts of an existential character. A perfect example of these feelings comes about when Ophelia returns his effects of love after deciding for herself that he has gone mad. The situation begins when Ophelia returns the “remembrances that she has longed to redeliver” (Hamlet 3.1.94-95). Yet Hamlet refuses to accept them back, saying “I never gave you aught” (Hamlet 3.1.97). Here, hamlet begins to ignore his past thinks naught of Ophelia but of his plot for revenge.
Throughout the play,...

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