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Home : Literature : Shakespeare : Hamlet
SHAKESPEARE : Hamlet

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Hamlet's Problem


Hamlet's problem is not exact; it cannot be pinpointed. In fact, Hamlet has numerous problems that contribute to his dilemma. The first of these problems is the appearance of King Hamlet's ghost to his son, Hamlet. Hamlet's morality adds a great deal to his delay in murdering the current king, Claudius. One of Hamlet's biggest drawbacks is that he tends to think things out too much. Hamlet does not act on instinct; however, he makes certain that every action is premeditated. Hamlet suffers a great deal from melancholy; this in turn causes him to constantly second guess himself. The Ghost is the main cause of Hamlet's melancholy. Also, Hamlet's melancholy helps to clear up certain aspects of the play. These are just a few of the problems that Hamlet encounters throughout his ordeal.


The last of Hamlet's problems stem from his relationships with the people close to him. Hamlet suffers from an Oedipus complex. Hamlet's relationship with Ophelia also causes him grief. All of the problems that
Hamlet encounters make him question nobility. These ideas all add to the lack of haste in Hamlet's murder of Claudius.

The appearance of the ghost to Hamlet causes him much confusion. As Dodsworth states, "Hamlet regards the Ghost as eminently 'questionable' (43), that is, 'which invites question' as Jenkins has it, but more pertinently 'uncertain, doubtful'"(Dodsworth 58). Hamlet does not know whether or not to listen to the ghost. If it is indeed the ghost of Hamlet senior Hamlet is obligated to follow his orders, "It is as he is flesh of his flesh that Hamlet is bound (by 'nature') to act on his father's behalf" (Dodsworth 59). In conclusion, the appearance of the eminently is the beginning of Hamlet's problems.

Morality is the next big challenge that Hamlet faces. Hamlet needs to morally justify the murder of the king to himself before he can go through with it, "Hamlet was restrained by conscience or a moral scruple; he could not satisfy himself that it was right to avenge his father"(Bradley 80). This idea connects directly with the idea that Hamlet thinks too much.
Although Hamlet does not act on instinct; he does understand what it is telling him to do, "Even when he doubts, or thinks he doubts, the honesty of the Ghost, he expresses no doubt as to what his duty will be if the Ghost turns out to be honest" (Bradley 80). Hamlet's morality and thought clearly stand in the way of his actions.

The melancholy that Hamlet experiences is a direct result of the presentation of the Ghost to Hamlet. Dodsworth states, "it inclines us to see the Ghost as the real cause for Hamlet's real melancholy" (Dodsworth 70). The first thing that Hamlet's melancholy accounts for is, as Bradley states, When Hamlet mentions, as one possible cause of his inaction, his 'thinking
too precisely on the event', he mentions another, 'bestial oblivion'; and the thing against which he inveighs in the greater part of that soliloquy (IV.iV) is not the excess or the misuse of reason (which for him here and always is god-like), but this bestial oblivion or 'dullness' (Bradley 105).Bradley goes on to state,

The second trait which is fully explained only by Hamlet's melancholy is his own inability to understand why he delays. This emerges in a marked degree when an occasion like the player's emotion or the sight of Fortinbras' army stings Hamlet into shame at his inaction (Bradley 106).

These two quotes explain that Hamlet only recognizes his inaction when his pride is hurt by it. In conclusion, Hamlet's own melancholy helps him to come to terms with his own inaction.

Hamlet has a problem similar to that stated in Oedipus Rex, that is, Hamlet lusts after his mother. Bloom states, "In Hamlet it remains repressed; and-just as in the case of a neurosis-we only learn of its existence from its inhibiting consequences" (Bloom 43). This problem, although not very significant, is another thing going on in Hamlet's head, making it hard for him to keep focused on what he has to do. Therefore, this is one more obstacle for Hamlet to overcome before he can kill the king.
Another problem that Hamlet has is his frustrating relationship with Ophelia. Hamlet loved Ophelia very much,

Now he takes a further step. He suddenly appears unannounced in Ophelia's chamber; and his appearance and behavior are such as to suggest both to Ophelia and to her father that his brain is turned by disappointment in love (Bradley 108).

This quote proves that Hamlet loved Ophelia very much; and in conclusion, this frustrating relationship added to the mental problems that Hamlet was encountering. All in all, delaying the murder of Claudius.As a result of all of his problems, Hamlet begins to question nobility. Hamlet's idea of nobility is one in which he must die in order to become noble. Hamlet asks,

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing, end them (III.1.57-60)

In reply to that quote, Dodsworth states, The militaristic imagery in which the choice of existence is expressed gives an immediate expression of how violent, and how desperate, is the struggle within Hamlet's own mind. The lines present a military situation in which final defeat is inevitable (Dodsworth 113). This quote shows that Hamlet's idea of nobility is one in which the only way to become noble is to die in the process.

In conclusion, it is clear that Hamlet's life contains many minor problems that make up the big problem. The Ghost of his father appearing to him is what began all of his problems. His next problem is his morality and excessive thought. Also, melancholia causes Hamlet a lot of grief, mostly because of the ghost. Hamlet's Oedipus complex also adds to the difficulty that he is experiencing at this point in his life. The frustration that is being caused by Hamlet's relationship with Ophelia is another problem that he must overcome in order to reach his goal. Lastly, Hamlet questioning his own nobility, and deciding that he must die to be noble is a contributing factor in Hamlet's lack of haste in murdering Claudius.



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