Hamlet HelpArgue that "it is we that are Hamlet"

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Freud's terms, we all suffer from issues of the Id, Ego, and Superego just as Hamlet does.  There are many a man and a woman who, like Hamlet, has wrestled with the Id, or preconscious, as Hamlet does in his scorn for his mother which transfers to all women. and the Superego, the moral part of the psyche that operates on principle.  While Hamlet takes into account that he must avenge his slain father's death, it may not be the right decision for his situation.  This dilemma is what causes Hamlet indecision and procrastination.

Also, in Hamlet we see clearly the two conflicting central desires of human beings.  Freud defines these as (1) the Life drive (libido/eros) which includes survival, hunger, thirst, and sex; and (2) the Death drive, an urge inherent in all humans to return to a state of calm.  Thus, Hamlet struggles with these two drives in his soliloquy "To be, or not to be." Here the viewer/reader perceives the Freudian paradox of drives.  That is, there is a tendency of the unconscious to repeat unpleasurable experiences in order to desensitize, or deaden, the body.  After Hamlet slays Polonius, he is cruel to Ophelia in order to desensitize.

This paradox of drives and conflicts are central to the plot of "Hamlet."  Clearly, there is some of all of us in the Prince of Denmark where "something is rotten."

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drmonica | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Hamlet's dilemma is one where there is no good decision, only the least harmful of the bad. Every human being who reaches adulthood faces this situation, although most never have to deal with the depth of evil that Hamlet encounters. If he does nothing, he must live with guilt for not avenging his father's murder, as well as the lack of respect of his peers who expect him to do nothing less. If he does avenge the murder, he endangers his own life, risks political instability for Denmark, and kills his mother's husband. It is truly a no-win situation. Hamlet continues to resonate with audiences because of the universality of the dilemma.

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Hamlet is pulled apart by many conflicting influences. As a student of philosophy and theology, his religious beliefs are very much a part of his character. There is the matter of his own soul to consider. As his father's son and the Prince of Denmark, he feels responsibility to avenge his heinous murder. And, of course, there is the matter of his love for his mother and his reaction to her hasty remarriage. Considering all of these influences in his life and character, Hamlet is trapped by indecision. There is no easy out for him--not even suicide. It's hard enough to do the right thing, but figuring out what the right thing really is certainly complicates anyone's decision making and actions.

amy-lepore's profile pic

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

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All of us also handle loss differently.  Hamlet's problems stem from the grieving process over the loss of his father, but they are exacerbated by the hasty marriage of his mother to his uncle.  EEEOOOWWWW! What a gross situation.  No wonder he was in such a wishy-washy condition throughout the play.  He hadn't properly had time to grieve and he's got to decide whether or not to believe a ghost and get revenge. 

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epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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Everyone at one time or another has been indecisive about making a decision.  People have been paralyzed by fear over breaking up, getting back together, quitting our job, asking for a raise, etc. And while we continue to do nothing about our situation, we continue to believe that things will get better when in fact, we are doing nothing to improve the situation except tell ourselves that things are getting better. "It is we that are Hamlet."

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