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Is Hamlet changed when he returns from England?For the first three acts of...

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frizzyperm | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted September 17, 2008 at 5:53 AM via web

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Is Hamlet changed when he returns from England?

For the first three acts of "Hamlet", Hamlet seems wild, emotional and upset. But when he returns from England, he is changed: resolved, focussed and calm. Give examples of this transformation and account for them.

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podunc | College Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted September 17, 2008 at 8:33 AM (Answer #2)

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As Hamlet and Horatio return from England, they encounter a graveyard and a gravedigger who sings as he works. Hamlet is surprised by the gravedigger's cheerful attitude and remarks that a skull he has just uncovered "had a tongue in it and could sing once." He is astonished further when the gravedigger digs up Yorick's skull. Yorick was Hamlet's father's jester, and Hamlet knew him well as a boy. The graveyard makes Hamlet more contemplative about death rather than angry, as he realizes that death is inevitable and no one will escape it.

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robertwilliam | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted September 17, 2008 at 8:51 AM (Answer #3)

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Hamlet is still wild, emotional and upset when he returns from England: the first scene we see him in, Act 5, Scene 1, after the gravediggers' section, he wildly leaps into Ophelia's grave and fights Laertes at her funeral:

Dost thou come here to whine,
To outface me with leaping in her grave?
Be buried quick with her, and so will I.

 It is the next scene, Act 5, Scene 2 (also the last scene of the whole play) that finds Hamlet more gently reflective and more accepting of life's big questions as impossible to answer. At the very beginning of this scene, Hamlet, re-telling his journey to England to Horatio, famously proclaims that

There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will—

This is a Hamlet who believes that a larger fate shapes human life, no matter what humans try to do to resist it. This Hamlet also accepts death, both as something insignificance in the face of the wider universe ("And a man's life's is no more than to say 'One'") and as something remarkable, special, and provident. Look at the last thing he says before beginning the fencing match which kills him:

There's a special Providence in the fall of a sparrow... the readiness is all. Since no man has aught of what he leaves, what is't to leave betimes? Let be.

It doesn't quite line up with his return from England, but perhaps in one way the journey Hamlet undergoes is from the questioning "to be or not to be" to the acceptance of "let be".

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 19, 2008 at 6:48 AM (Answer #4)

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Hamlet is still upset...remember the scene at Ophelia's grave with Laertes?  Hamlet does not seem to have all his faculties.

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lilygirl3535 | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 1, 2008 at 12:20 PM (Answer #5)

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it can be argued that Hamlet isn't really crazy that he was just faking it so the King (his uncle) didn't think he was emotionally stable enough to plane his demise. Hamlet is still a little crazy after his trip with the pirates but it's only because he is emotionally destressed when he finds Ophelia dead.

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