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The Struggle of Mental Health in "Hamlet" by W. Shakespeare

Why Everyone Should Read "Hamlet"

By Francesca Giulia GeronimiPublished 3 months ago 3 min read

Whispered in the darkness, this inquiry initiates a narrative of intrigue, deceit, and ethical ambiguity. In a theatrical production where each character conceals something, the response to this question is anything but straightforward. Penned by William Shakespeare between 1599 and 1601, "Hamlet" portrays its eponymous protagonist tormented by the past, yet paralyzed by the future.

Shortly after the abrupt demise of his father, Hamlet returns home as a stranger, plagued by uncertainty about the lurking shadows. However, his contemplation takes a twist when a specter resembling his father pays him a visit. This apparition claims to be the victim of a "most heinous murder" and convinces Hamlet that his uncle Claudius has seized the throne and won the heart of Queen Gertrude.

The prince's grief transforms into fury, and he commences scheming his retaliation against the newly crowned king and his group of plotters.

The play takes on a peculiar form of tragedy, lacking the sudden brutality or all-consuming romance that are characteristic of Shakespeare's other works in this genre. Instead, it delves into the depths of its main character's indecisiveness and the tragic consequences that follow.

The ghost's revelation entangles Hamlet in numerous predicaments - what actions should he take, who can he trust, and what role can he assume in the pursuit of justice?

These inquiries are further complicated by a complex network of characters, compelling Hamlet to navigate through friends, family, court advisors, and love interests - many of whom harbor hidden agendas.

The prince consistently procrastinates and hesitates in his interactions with others, as well as in his approach to seeking revenge.

Hamlet's character can be quite frustrating at times, but it is precisely this quality that makes him one of Shakespeare's most relatable and human creations. Instead of acting impulsively, Hamlet becomes consumed with deep contemplation and overthinking.

Throughout the play, his endless questioning resonates with our own racing thoughts. To achieve this effect, Shakespeare employs introspective language, using melancholic monologues to create a breathtaking impact.

This is best exemplified in Hamlet's famous declaration of existential angst: "The question is whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer The hardships and misfortunes that life throws at us, Or to take action against a multitude of troubles And, by opposing them, bring them to an end."

Hamlet's existential dilemma is vividly portrayed in this monologue, as he grapples with the conflict between contemplation and action, and the difficult choice between life and death. However, his incessant questioning gives rise to another source of anxiety: is Hamlet's madness a deliberate act to confuse his enemies, or are we witnessing a character teetering on the edge of insanity?

These uncertainties heavily impact Hamlet's interactions with every character, as he is preoccupied with his internal struggles. Unfortunately, this self-absorption often blinds him to the havoc he unintentionally wreaks. One of the most tragic consequences of his erratic behavior is the cruel treatment of Ophelia, his ill-fated love interest, who is driven to madness.

Her tragic fate exemplifies how the unfolding tragedy could have been easily averted, highlighting the far-reaching consequences of Hamlet's manipulative mind games.

Throughout the play, there are numerous warning signs of impending tragedy that go unnoticed or disregarded.

Occasionally, these oversights arise due to intentional ignorance, like when Ophelia's father disregards Hamlet's disturbing behavior as mere infatuation.

In other instances, tragedy originates from purposeful deceit, such as when a case of mistaken identity results in further violence.

The unsettling awareness that tragedy arises from human mistakes is evident in these moments, even if our mistake is simply failing to make a decision. Despite all these uncertainties, one thing we can always be certain of is Hamlet's humanity.

However, we are constantly faced with the challenge of determining the true nature of Hamlet. Is he a noble son seeking revenge for his father? Or a deranged prince causing disorder in the court? Should he take action or remain passive, doubt or have faith? Who is he? Why is he present? And who lurks in the shadows, waiting for their moment?

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