Hamlet ThemesI'm writing a paper on a theme of Hamlet that is difficult to understand. Here is the paper topic: With Hamlet, Shakespeare presents a character who possesses knowledge but who doubts...

Hamlet Themes

I'm writing a paper on a theme of Hamlet that is difficult to understand.

Here is the paper topic:

With Hamlet, Shakespeare presents a character who possesses knowledge but who doubts himself so chronically that he seems incapable of acting. Beyond merely analyzing the play as a literary text, discuss what Shakespeare might be attempting to describe about the dilemmas of the coming modern world. Is Hamlet mad? Is he sane? Are these relevant questions we might raise about ourselves in today's modern world?


I'm not so sure how anything in Hamlet relates to anything about the modern world. Does anyone have a better idea?

Asked on by emm2192

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lmetcalf's profile pic

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

Posted on

One suggestion would be to focus on the "To be or not be" soliloquy -- especially the last 6 lines.  It is here that Hamlet is summing up his thoughts, and where I think the play becomes very universal and relevent to all audiences -- then and now.  It is in these lines that he realizes that the reason people don't act is because they are afraid of the consequences of their actions.  He specifically asks why people don't kill themselves and end the heartache of life in this world, but the idea works for everything!  Why don't you cheat on a test?  You are afraid of getting caught or afraid of not learning what you will need for the next test.  Why don't you ask out the cute guy or girl in class?  Because you are afraid of rejection.  Why don't you eat the whole pan of brownies?  Because you are afraid you are going to get sick (or fat).  Human beings are quick to think of things they would like do and equally quick to think of all the reasons they shouldn't or can't.  As Hamlet says, "the native hue of resolution ( idea of action) is sicklied over with the pale cast of thought (inaction due to thinking)."  It is stuff like this that makes Shakespeare still interesting and relevent 400 years later!

reeja's profile pic

reeja | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted on

The main theme of Hamlet is his inability to act in time.He contemplates too much on what is right and what is wrong .On one side he is caught in the hold of the religion. He fears that  the murder of Claudius will cause the damnation of his soul.On the other side the desire to revenge his father's murder is as strong as the fear of God.This dilemma is applicable to the modern generation as well.The present era,just like the Elzabethans,are under a confusion about right and wrong. They are under constant conflict about the moral and social conventions and their own personal aspirations to live their life according to their own will.This universality of themes is something that make Shakespeare's works transcendental.

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