What are 3 examples of how Hamlet embodies/does not embody Emerson's description of a man in "Self-Reliance"?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There are precepts of Emerson's Self-Reliance which Hamlet follows:

Ne te quaesiveris etra

[Do not seek for things outside yourself].

This idea is an essential part of the doctrine of Transcendentalism, and Hamlet is excruciated in several soliloquies as he seeks solutions within himself for his personal dilemmas. For instance, after encountering the ghost of his father, Hamlet anguishes in his first soliloquy over the situation he is in to avenge his father's murder, wishing he could commit suicide.  Perhaps wrongly, Hamlet does not look outside himself, but knows he must hold his tongue.

O that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! (1.2)

  • Then, in his second soliloquy, Hamlet promises his father that he will not disobey his request, and he will keep it to himself,

And thy commandment all alone shall live
Within the book and volume of my brain,
Unmix'd with baser matter: yes, by heaven! — (1.5)

  • Other soliloquies exemplify the individualism of Hamlet as he deliberates with himself until he finally accepts the Emersonian precept of "trust thyself" and announces himself,

This is I,
Hamlet the Dane. (5.1.254-255)

Finally, Hamlet concurs with Emerson:

Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company in which the members agree for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender his liberty and culture of the eater. ["Self-Reliance"]

  • Hamlet feels as Marcellus says, "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark" (1.4.90), and Polonius, Guildenstern and Rosencrantz, Ophelia, and Laertes all conspire against him as Polonius tells Hamlet's mother that he is mad; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern betray their friendship for Hamlet in their effort to spy on him for King Claudius, and Laertes conspires with King Claudius against Hamlet.

However there are some precepts of Emerson's Transcendentalism to which he does not adhere. Here is one: 

Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict everything you said today

  • Hamlet dissembles and does not reveal himself to anyone.
Sources:

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