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Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s four most important tragedies – the other being Macbeth, King Lear and Othello. The way Shakespeare handles the character of the protagonist of the play is unique in every aspect. The eNotes study guide on Hamlet notes: "Hamlet endures as the object of universal identification because his central moral dilemma transcends the Elizabethan period, making him a man for all ages. In his difficult struggle to somehow act within a corrupt world and yet maintain his moral integrity, Hamlet ultimately reflects the fate of all human beings.” This projection of "fate of all human being" is probably the most important aspect of the character of Hamlet and must be kept in mind while writing personal reaction on the character of Hamlet.
When I first read this play, I was annoyed with Hamlet. He seemed whiney and waffling and weak. He iritated me, and I just wanted to shout at him, "Make a stinking decision already!"
However, as I read it again and again (in college, graduate school, and now as a teacher of British literature), I have come to appreciate Hamlet's predicament. He is young, in a tragic situation, and truly has no one to turn to that he can trust with whom he can discuss his thoughts and feelings...Horatio aside, that is.
Hamlet is the quintessential teenager trying to find his place in the world. Where do I fit in? What the heck is going on here? What do I do next?
He is a sympathetic character if not an adorable one. Of course, I've always felt more for Ophelia than Hamlet, but that's another essay.
Hamlet seems a timely character as depression and its resulting inaction are chronic problems in our society. The young man who has a missing father and a mother who is absorbed in her relationship with her new husband are not uncommon situations in modern society. In addition, his thoughts of suicide are reflective of many of the thoughts of young people today as they, too, wrestle with some of the same problems, including the treachery of friends like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern who betray Hamlet.
Since this is a personal reaction question, it really calls for your own response, yet here are some ideas - First of all, Hamlet is viewed as a heroic tragic figure even though his indecision cripples him in an understandably crippling situation. His mother has taken on a new husband, his uncle, when his father is not "two months dead" (1.2.142). The world as an unweeded garden becomes the metaphor for Hamlet's Denmark where everyone's motives are easily questioned. Worse, Gertrude, his mother, represents all women to him: "Frailty, thy name is woman" (1.2.150). His relationship with Ophelia is also dismantled by the court politics and Claudius's and Polonius's plottings. Hamlet has way too much on his plate,and then he is told to avenge his father's murder by a somewhat dubious ghost who he still questions in Act II may be a devil.
So, why do we care about Hamlet as he contemplates suicide? I would pose a question: Could he not represent the disillusionment with the world we all must face as we age?
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