Hamlet the Sentimental Dreamer Essay Example
Hamlet: The Sentimental Dreamer The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark is William Shakespeare’s most well-known and analyzed work of literature. As the play unfolds, Hamlet has to face the difficult task of seeking revenge against his uncle, Claudius, for the murder of his father, King Hamlet. Hamlet has captured audiences and readers for centuries and has caused much inquiry and debate. Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a very psychologically complex character.
Throughout the play, Hamlet conveys two different sides; the young, emotional and intelligent prince, who is committed to honesty and loyalty; and his destructive and impulsive side which led to the death of Polonius and nonchalantly sent Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their deaths as well. The central question of why Hamlet let so much time elapse before he took revenge against Claudius is frequently disputed by c...
ritics and as a result, many theories have been developed. H. N.
Hudson, a respected Shakespearean critic, quoted, “It is easy to invent with plausibility almost any theory respecting Hamlet, but very hard to make any theory comprehend the whole subject. ” After reading Hamlet, H. N. Hudson’s assertion can be disproved. The theory that best supports Hamlet’s reason of delay, in my perspective, is the theory that Hamlet is a sentimental dreamer. This theory disproves Hudson’s assertion of that there is no theory that comprehends the entire subject because throughout the play there are many events where Hamlet is more a dreamer than a man of action.
Hamlet is a sentimental dreamer because words are more of his natural weapon as he too often deliberated his vindictive plans. By over-analyzing, Hamlet loses power to his actions, therefore delaying his act of
revenge. Romantic critics of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, viewed Hamlet as an appealing, young and intelligent man, yet he was incapable of carrying out positive action (Coleridge 344). This supports the theory that Hamlet was a sentimental dreamer because Hamlet as an individual, was broken apart by the fear and doubt of taking action.
As more of a dreamer, Hamlet was incapable of dealing with the painful realities of life. Shakespearean critic, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, went on to admit that he had much of Hamlet in himself, for, like the Prince, he was more prone to thought than to action. In fact, many Romantics felt that Hamlet's overdeveloped intellect made it impossible for him to act (344). Instead, he became a sentimental dreamer, just like many of the Romantics.
Hamlet was a sentimental dreamer because as he over-analyzed his actions, he lost power to his plans. As Hamlet spends much of his time thoroughly scheming out his proceedings, time elapses before he sweeps to his case. Throughout the play, Hamlet keeps making excuses and reasoning himself out of his purpose against Claudius. Samuel Taylor Coleridge believes that Hamlet mentally suffers from, “An overbalance in the contemplative faculty, man thereby becomes the creature of mere meditation, and loses his natural power of action” (344).
Hamlet is a very intellectual character who truly is filled with purpose, but he is deprived of that quality of the mind to accomplish that purpose. Throughout the play, Hamlet remains ambivalent and doubtful until the occasion to act is gone (345). For example, Hamlet devises a scheme to determine if his uncle had truly murdered his father. Hamlet arranges a play to be
performed which is bitterly similar to the murder of Hamlet’s father which the Ghost had described to Hamlet.
This action displays how Hamlet carefully thought-over his actions before taking revenge against Claudius. In his second soliloquy, Hamlet states, “The play’s the thing/ Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King” (Ham. 2. 2. 634-35). This quote means that Hamlet will study Claudius during the performance of the play, and should he change his behavior, he will know that the Ghost’s story was true and he can now take revenge. Even despite the fact . that Hamlet now knows that Claudius killed his father, he still delays his actions.
This goes on to show that Hamlet is an intellectual dreamer. Hamlet gets a perfect opportunity to kill Claudius but he neglects to kill him because he is in prayer. Hamlet delays in action of seeking revenge against Claudius when he quotes, “Now might I do it(pat,) now he is a-praying, and now I’ll do it/ And so he goes to heaven/ And so am I(revenged. ) That would be scanned: A villan kills my father, and for that/ I, his sole son, do this same villain send to Heaven” (Ham. 3. 3. 77-83).
Hamlet’s rationale for this was that he assumed Claudius was confessing his sins, and his death would send him to heaven. For Hamlet, taking revenge is just not about killing Claudius, but making sure that he suffers, another deeply thought-out belief. Hamlet is too much of a thinker and not enough of an actor. Even when Hamlet is given the opportunity to carry out his intentions, he delays and reasons himself out of it. Hamlet does
have an almost excessive desire to reason everything through thoroughly. As a reamer, Hamlet is lacking of that strength which would carry him through his actions. Hamlet is a more of a passionate and moral character, than a strong and ambitious character. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Shakespearean critic and Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship, states, “A fine, pure, noble and highly moral person, but devoid of that emotional strength that characterizes a hero, goes to pieces beneath a burden that it can neither support nor cast off. Every obligation is sacred to him, but this one is too heavy” (44).
Goethe is credited with first providing this sentimental analysis of Hamlet. Goethe viewed Hamlet as being unfit for the responsibilities needed of him. To him, Hamlet was deprived of, “the strength of nerve which forms a hero,” which ultimately helped lead to his tragic down fall (Goethe 44). This absence of strength is apparent after the player’s performance when Hamlet is upset with himself. In his second soliloquy, Hamlet states, “O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I! Is it not monstrous that this player here, / But in a fiction, in a dream of passion, / Could force his soul so to his own conceit / That from her working all his visage wanned; / Tears in his ees, distraction in his aspect, / A broken voice, and his whole function suiting / With forms to his conceit? And all for nothing, / For Hecuba! ” ( Ham. 2. 2. 506-14). After the player’s performance, Hamlet is questioning himself of how the actors can sum together enough true emotions for a fictional play, yet he cannot
gather his feelings enough to put them to action for a more just cause.
Hamlet is lacking of the personal strength that is needed mentally to carry out his actions. Hamlet is incapable of determining his character and seems puzzled with himself. Hamlet truly has a highly cultivated mind, with a sense of pride and ambition, but his weakness is too apparent. August Wilhelm Schlegel, Shakespearean critic, summarizes that Hamlet is a tragedy of thought that was inspired by the continual and never-satisified mediation on human destiny and dark perplexity of the events of the world.
Overall, Schlegel is intending to show that a calculating consideration, which exhausts all the relations and possible consequences of a deed, must cripple the power of acting (2). Hamlet himself expresses this in saying, “And thus the native hue of resolution/Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought; And enterprises of great pith and moment/With this regard, their currents turn awry, And lose the name of action” (Ham. 3. 1. 92-5). Hamlet explains that people submit to their sufferings of life rather than facing the fear of the unknown in death, which may be more miserable.
Hamlet concludes that it is excessive moral sensitivity that makes action impossible. He even goes on so far to say, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” (Ham. 2. 2. 268-70). Hamlet is asserting that it is thinking that decides what is good and bad. Hamlet is too sensitive for the corrupt dealings of the court, and he refuses to descend to their level. This goes on to prove that Hamlet was a sentimental dreamer as he was a tragedy
of thought. Throughout Shakespeare’s Hamlet, there are many examples when Hamlet delays his actions because of his over-analyzing of his plans.
As a sentimental dreamer, Hamlet allows so much time to elapse before he takes his revenge. H. N. Hudson’s assertion of, “It is easy to invent with plausibility almost any theory respecting Hamlet, but very hard to make any theory comprehend the whole subject,” can be proved wrong by the critical opinions stating Hamlet over-analyzed his actions and therefore lost power to them, lack of mental strength needed to carry through with his actions and the fact that he was a tragedy of thought because he was too sensitive and idealistic for the corruptness of the court.
As Hamlet rationalized his actions and deeply thought through them, he unwillingly lost power to his actions, which delayed his act of revenge against Claudius. It wasn’t until Claudius had also killed Hamlet’s mother which had prompted his revenge. Hamlet even delayed in taking revenge when he was given the opportunity because he rationalized his actions.
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