Rational Action Vs Emotional Action In Shakespeare’s Hamlet

3121 words - 12 pages

In Shakespeare’s tragedy, Hamlet, the idea of rational action versus emotional action plays a big role. It is seen very clearly throughout the entirety of the play in various scenes, but specifically through Hamlet’s first soliloquy. Rational is defined as “based on facts or reason and not on emotions or feelings, and also as having the ability to reason or think about things clearly.”(Merriam-Webster) However, emotional is defined as “dominated by or prone to emotion.”(Merriam Webster) The two ideas are related for the fact that they both deal with emotion. The difference between the two will become clear as they apply to Hamlet and the shift Young Hamlet portrays, through his soliloquy, from rational action to emotional action.
Hamlet’s soliloquy is able to encompass his ever-changing feelings and emotions into one. There are examples of both rational and emotional action throughout its entirety. It develops all of Hamlet’s personal issues and also foreshadows what is to come throughout the rest of the play. The beginning of the soliloquy is of utmost importance because it shows not only Hamlet’s ability to think rationally, but it also shows an emotional side as well.
Hamlet: O that this too too sallied flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the everlasting had not fix’d
His canon against [self-]slaughter! O God, God,
(1.2.130-132)
Through the first part of his soliloquy we see that he seems to be talking to God about the fact that suicide is a sin. It is inferable that Hamlet is contemplating suicide, which seems to be the first indicator of emotional action, but also rational action. His contemplation of suicide is indeed one based on emotion; however that is as far as it goes. The fact that Hamlet is still able to acknowledge that, in his belief, suicide is a sin and adhere to that law portrays rationality. It is no accident that Shakespeare wrote it that way. He was successful in portraying the combination of rationality and emotion to display Hamlet’s ultimate inner battle. Also, the sentence structure Shakespeare utilized was straightforward in nature and therefore rational. There was no room for confusion at this point.

Hamlet: How [weary], stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on’t, ah fie! ‘tis an unweeded garden
That grows to seed, things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come [to this]!
(1.2.133-137)
One could see that he is very put out by all of the things of the world at this point. He refers to the things of the world as “weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable.” (133) The words he used are rather strong and emotional which give the audience a sort of window into the mind of Hamlet at this time in his life. However, he was specific in his choice of...

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