Free Essays – Human Nature in Hamlet Hamlet essays
Human Nature in Hamlet
The play, Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, shows human nature to be greedy, self-involved and vengeful. Claudius is driven by his greed to commit murder. Polonius is always looking out for himself, currying favor at the expense of anyone in his way. Hamlet thinks only of vengeance from the moment he finds out about Claudius murdering his father. Human nature has been all of these things, but it has also evolved through the ages. We can be base and cruel, but we can also show great compassion and kindness.
Claudius kills his own brother so that he can claim the crown and the queen. He disposes of a good and noble king to satisfy his greed. He sacrifices his brother, the good of the country, and the happiness of many to fulfill his ambition. He cares only for himself. Knowingly or not, most humans, at one point or another, will be driven by greed. Most, however, will not have the determination and desperation that Claudius displays. This is partly because of the differences of the times. In the time period that Shakespeare wrote the play, murder was heavily frowned upon as it is now. Greed is part of all people. They see something they want and they tell themselves that it is only what they deserve. It is inescapable, but we can control it to a certain degree.
Polonius characterizes the aspect of human nature that is self-concern. He is constantly looking for ways to ingratiate himself to the king. He sacrifices his own daughter’s happiness so that he can prove his theories about Hamlet’s madness to the king. Self-concern is another inherent trait that humans cannot escape. People are constantly thinking about themselves and how things are going to affect their lives. They care deeply for their own well being. Certainly they think about others occasionally, but their own person is always number one in their minds.
Vengefulness is yet another inexorable human trait. Hamlet’s entire character is changed by his need for revenge. He starts out as a serene, learned young man but the need for vengeance twists his soul to the point where he is driven only by his need for pay back. He is drawn into intrigue and politics by his desire. Hamlet shows how the desire for vengeance that humans experience can warp a persons very being, making them totally single-minded in their quest. Every person experiences a need for revenge in his or her life, but it shows a rare strength of character to resist the pull.
In the beginning, man lived in caves and used rocks for tools. During this time, he had no use for complex emotions, just the will to survive. As such, at the time, man’s nature was to protect himself and his family, and to just live. Over time, as man has evolved, so has his nature. From simplistic to extremely complex, a need to survive to a desire for purpose and meaning, man has changed in innumerable ways. For a certain period, human nature involved pure greed, self-concern, and vengeance. But man has come a long way since then. An aspiration for higher learning, a sense of justice and values, these things comprise man’s nature now. In the words of Gordon Tibbles “The destiny of man is to become progressively less human and more humane, less compulsive and more creative, less instinctive and more intuitive, less material and more spiritual. Man’s destiny is to always become more fully divine.”