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Investigating Depression In Shakespeare's Hamlet Essay

1981 words - 8 pages

Hamlet is depressed from the exposition of the play. Why? It is a month after his father’s death. Why can't he just continue on with his life? Hamlet’s overwhelming depression first manifests itself after the visit from his father as a ghost. His father warns him of the deceptive and wretched qualities of his uncle Claudius. Hamlet suffers a great deal of sadness, feeling helpless in his father's request to exact revenge against Claudius and becoming distrusting of the incestuous nature of his mother. Hamlet, however rational, normal, and capable he may have been before the play begins, is unable to think rationally, instead over-analyzing every detail. This meticulous analysis cripples him, rendering him unable to make any sort of rational decision. This inability to make decisions is rooted in the intense internal struggle Hamlet must overcome: he cannot imagine himself killing someone and he cannot imagine himself not avenging his father’s murder. This duality of conscience causes Hamlet to spiral into depression and he must examine the depths of his soul before he makes a decision. To make a decision Hamlet must answer the quintessential Hamlet-ian question, “To be or not to be?” (Shakespeare 3.1.56). Hamlet is depressed and unable to act until he has an epiphany in Act V, wherein he must just “Let be”.
Hamlet is petrified into inaction by the quickness of events that transpires at the beginning of the play. His uncle Claudius has killed his father, and his mother in less than a month has married the same man who committed this heinous murder thus beginning an incestuous relationship. Hamlet addressed his discord with this speed and nature of this relationship, “A little more than kin, and less than kind” (Shakespeare 1.2.64-65). His uncle is now twice related to him but is more distant and wicked than ever. Claudius retorts asking, “How is it that the clouds still hang on you,” to which Hamlet replies “I am too much i’ the sun” (Shakespeare 1.2.66-67). Hamlet knows exactly what is going on and is shocked his mother's grief was contained in such brevity. He believes her love is malleable and pedestrian, admonishing her sexual activities, “Ay, madam, it is common” (Shakespeare 1.2.73). Hamlet cannot fathom that these events have transpired with such haste or that his mother Gertrude has married so quickly. Gertrude even affirms in the very next act why Hamlet is depressed: “I doubt it is no other but the main; His father’s death, and our o’erhasty marriage” (Shakespeare 39). However, before action, Hamlet will tactfully discover everyone’s role in the matter, to best exact proper justice to all parties.
In the first act of Shakespeare's tragedy, Hamlet’s depression is most evident when he sulks and mourns over his father's death, as opposed to the rest of the royal family, who have already put the death behind them. By dwelling in the past, Hamlet shows his overly analytical and indecisive qualities. Hamlet...

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