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In Hamlet, what are some distinctive qualities of Hamlet's character other than his...

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djx | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 8, 2010 at 12:09 PM via web

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In Hamlet, what are some distinctive qualities of Hamlet's character other than his being overly given to thoughtfulness?

I'm writing on how Shakespeare uses foils to portay Hamlet's character and trying to think of any other angle I can cover it from.

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susan3smith | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted June 9, 2010 at 11:31 AM (Answer #1)

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Maybe these will help:

1.  He is intelligent and highly educated.  He can use allusions to Greek and Roman mythology as well as to the bible.  These allusions are somewhat obscure:  Niobe, Hyperion, Mars, Jepthah.  He can recite long speeches from plays he has heard.

2.  He is well versed in drama.  He even gives the actors instructions on how to act.

3.  He is idealistic.  Because he is idealistic, he is very disappointed when others do not live up to his expectations.  We see this especially in his relationship with his mother.

4.  He is emotional.  He feels deeply.  He continues to mourn his father's death long after others have moved on.

5.  He is not only tough on others, but he is tough on himself.  In the last scene of Act 2, he is furious with himself that he has not acted to avenge his father's death.  In Act 4, he feels that Fortinbras is accomplishing more than he is.  But he is also tough on others:  he lectures his mother in Act 3, for instance.

6.  He is loyal to those who deserve it, and he is a good judge of characters.  Look at his relationship with Horatio, for example.

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted June 9, 2010 at 8:02 AM (Answer #2)

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Part of what creates a "thoughtful" Hamlet is his concern for morality in himself and others.  He is overwhelmed by the lack of morality around him (his mother's quick marriage to Claudius) and very early in the play calls this marriage, and therefore the new Denmark, an "unweeded garden."  He makes this observation even before learning from the Ghost that Claudius poisoned his father and then took his wife and his crown in one swift action.

Once he discovers Claudius is a murderer, he quickly moves from action back to "thoughtfullness" over his revenge.  He is concerned that the ghost be a 'true ghost' who is indeed telling the truth.  The concern being that if the ghost is a devil in the disguise of a loved one, then this ghost could be tricking him to a revenge that is not just, and therefore the revenge would damn Hamlet's soul to hell.  His concern for moral wrong and eternal damnation holds him back from acting rashly.  He spends the next two acts finding proof that the ghost is telling the truth.

This concern for his own morality is also seen in the first soliloquy when he mentions thoughts of "self-slaughter" but throws them aside because it is against God's law.

He is only able to act when he realizes that there is "a divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them how we will" (Act 5; Sc 1).

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