Discuss whether Hamlet is made cruel and inhumane by his thoughts of revenge throughout the play and without redemption from his "vicious" passion?Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Expert Answers

Want to remove ads?

Get ad-free questions with an eNotes 48-hour free trial.

Try It Free No Thanks
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While Hamlet recognizes the value of tradition, displaying courage in meeting with the ghost and in repelling the restraints of his friends who would hold him back, he feels no reverence for tradition. Tradition is in the essence of humanity, and Hamlet finds humanity repugnant.  In fact, it seems that his focus is more upon the reprehensible behavior of the court in Elsinore.  For instance, when he approaches his mother  on the urgings of the ghost to tell her of his murder and to put an end to the  unholy offense of the marriage between Claudius and Gertrude, Hamlet neglects to mention the murder of his father, instead chiding his mother for her sexual corruption.  (His father's ghost has to appear to remind him to get to the point.)

Thus, it seems that at first Hamlet's "vicious passion" is focused on this sexual corruption, rather than revenge for his father's murder. Critic Rebecca West in her "The Nature of Will" contends that Ophelia is "no correct and timid virgin of equisite sensibilities,"  or she would not have tolerated Hamlet's obscene conversations.  On the contrary, Ophelia is a disreptutable woman.  And, no innocent young woman would agree so easily to the disingenuousness of Polonius's dealings with her.  Yet, when Ophelia dies, not as a result of suicide, but as an accident, as Gerturde observes, Hamlet recognizes how the corrupt court of Denmark has exploited Ophelia, driving her to madness and a fateful end.  It is in this graveyard scene that Hamlet's character changes.  In the Act V, Hamlet has his moment of truth as he declares himself "Hamlet the Dane" and declares that

There's a divinity that shapes our ends,

Rough-hew them how we will (5.2.10-11)

He, then, assumes responsibility for his country which must be rid of its terrible corruption.  After he slays Laertes and names the "delicate and tender prince," Fortinbras his successor, Hamet is absolved of his "vicious passions," for he has acted for the good and moral beauty--a high ideal--of his country in ridding it of his corrupt court which includes Claudius.