Psychological Estrangement in Shakespeare’s "Hamlet"
In Shakespeare’s "Hamlet", the main character, Hamlet, is burdened with attaining revenge on his murdered father’s behalf from the king of Denmark, King Claudius. In attempting to kill Claudius, Hamlet risks enduring estrangement occurring within himself at multiple psychological levels. The levels of estrangement that risk Hamlet’s psychological sense of identity are religious estrangement, moral estrangement, estrangement from countrymen, estrangement from his mother, and estrangement from women in general.
Hamlet feels self-actualized from following basic religious principles of living. This is shown by Hamlet’s refusal to commit murder thus preventing Hamlet from committing suicide at a time when he felt like doing so to avenge his father’s death because both murder and suicide are considered sins (Cahn 97).
" To be, or not to be, that is the question:/ Whether’ tis nobler in the mind to suffer/ The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune/ or to take arms a sea of troubles…", (Act III, I.)
Hamlet is questioning if it is worth living in such misery or not as everyday he is burdened with trying to avenge his father’s death. At this stage Hamlet is suicidal and risks himself being estranged from his religious principals as he begins to think of suicide. If Hamlet were to kill Claudius, he would be violating a central religious principle against murdering another human being. Both suicide and murdering King Claudius would make him feel guilt at having violated religious coda, thus representing estrangement at the level of his religious consciousness (Knight 14). As Hamlet has the duty to avenge his father’s death by killing his father’s murderer, the King, Hamlet risks estrangement at the religious level.
Hamlet is also principled in a moral sense. To kill a king would mean violating his internal conviction against committing crimes that might harm the hierarchical order of a state's government (Scott 56). This is one of the reasons that Hamlet with a sword in his hand does not kill Claudius while he finds him in an act of praying. Deceit is also one of the main moral issues Hamlet has to face in order to avenge his father’s death that violates his moral conviction of being loyal. Hamlet risks estrangement from his moral sense as he decides to put on an antic disposition in order to trick the King of thinking that he is insane. With everyone around Hamlet, except Horatio, being deceitful, putting on an illusion to protect the King, like Hamlet’s friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlet is forced to also become deceitful and lose his attachment to his moral sense. Hamlet is forced to change the letter that initially ordered for him to be killed to having Rosencrantz and Guildenstern put to death. Hamlet demonstrates deceit here to save his own life and avenge his father’s death thus risking estrangement from his moral sense.
It is true that Hamlet has both the...