In Hamlet, what are the main characteristics of Prince Hamlet?    

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Hamlet is, above all, psychologically introspective. He thinks. He analyzes. He examines his own personality, his actions, his motives, and his failures. I believe he is, in fact, the first introspective character in English literature. He is by nature gentle, sensitive, idealistic, and conscientious. He embraces morality and rejects sinful behavior, in himself and others.

Because of his own nature, he is destroyed when he is thrust into the corruption of the court at Elsinore. Hamlet is trapped between his own identity and the cultural demands placed upon him as prince and son to avenge his father's murder. He strives to do the right thing, but there is no right thing for Hamlet in his situation.

Hamlet is a dynamic character, as well. The idealist becomes the cynic. The gentle philosopher who once agonizes over  mortal sins becomes murderous. When he accidentally kills Polonius, he expresses no regret: the old man should not have been such a meddler. When he sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their deaths in England, it is no accident; he has plotted carefully to do them in. Hamlet, because of his circumstances, becomes as secretive and deceitful as those around him.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of Hamlet's life is not that he died but that at the time of his death, he bore little resemblance to the young prince he had once been.

 

 

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sboeman eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I view Hamlet as rather indecisive and bipolar.  His mood swings are very extreme, contemplating man's pointless existence at one moment but then flying off in fits of rage in the next, killing old friends, Polonius, etc.

I've seen the play many times and also a few movie versions, and each actor chooses subtle differences in how he presents Hamlet: is he really a victim in this?  How much internal struggle is he really facing?  How deep is his love for Ophelia and how does it affect him?  How could he be so cold to his own mother?

Hamlet is also truly a man of the moment, easily influenced by his surroundings.  I mean, he's traveling along, then learns about the fate of his old court jester Yorick.  He is witty, flippant, and rude also.

Good question.

 

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Hamlet is complex in the broadest, deepest sense of the word.  If I had to describe him in one word, it would be intense.  He grieves intensely. He loves Ophelia intensely, which is why he must push her away.  He loved his father intensely, which is why he must shame his mother into recognizing her failure in marrying the inferior Claudius. He seeks revenge intensely, at times.  He is intense about acting and friends who have turned traitor.  Hamlet is an intense character in every way, which makes this role, I think, the most demanding for any actor to play.

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amy-lepore eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Extreme intellect (otherwise he wouldn't have been able to "act" crazy and get by with it among people who knew him best): He is able to quickly assess a situation and cleverly figure a way out of it, hence the predicament he finds himself in with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern on their way to England and the...

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jps5087 | Student

In Hamlet, the main characteristics of Prince Hamlet are (1) his indecisiveness and (2) his feelings of melancholy. However, the play also makes it clear that he is brave, intelligent, a noble gentleman, handsome, and potentially an outstanding leader.

Hamlet's indecisiveness is at the core of the play. Although Hamlet believes he should avenge his father's murder by killing his Uncle Claudius, he seems incapable of taking this drastic action. In act four, Hamlet says, "I do not know why yet I live to say 'This thing’s to do,' sith I have cause and will and strength and means to do ’t." In other words, Hamlet is perfectly aware of his indecisiveness--although he doesn't fully understand the reasons for it.

Throughout the play Hamlet procrastinates taking action against Claudius. In particular, he passes up an excellent opportunity for killing Claudius when he is at prayer. Hamlet is, in fact, only capable of killing his uncle "in the heat of action" during the final scene of the play, when he learns that his uncle has tried to kill him by means of poison.

From the beginning of the play, it's apparent that Hamlet feels extremely melancholy over the death of his father and over the marriage of his mother, Gertrude, with his uncle. This is the subject of Hamlet's first soliloquy, which is in act one. He says, "How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world!" In this soliloquy he is already talking about committing suicide--which he also speaks of, even more famously, in his "to be or not to be" soliloquy in act three.

Nevertheless, Hamlet is a very complex character, and there's much more to him than merely indecisiveness and melancholy. We know that he's brave from the way he goes charging after his father's ghost, even though his friends try to restrain him. We know that Hamlet is intelligent from the many brilliant, insightful comments that he makes--such as about the theater in act three.

Ophelia explains that Hamlet is (or, rather, was, before his father's death) a very noble gentleman: she calls him a "noble mind" and "the glass of fashion and the mould of form" (in other words, a much-admired person). It's also obvious that Ophelia thinks that Hamlet was quite handsome when she refers to his "unmatched form and feature."

Moreover, we surely feel that, but for the extraordinary circumstances Hamlet found himself in due to his father's murder, he otherwise would have had the potential to become an outstanding leader. Fortinbras, the dynamic, young Prince of Norway, explains at the very end of the play that Hamlet would probably "have proved most royally" if he had lived to become King of Denmark.

Further Reading:

https://www.enotes.com/hamlet

zumba96 | Student

Hamlet is very indecisive and rash at the same time. He cannot make decisions and waits the whole play to finally get revenge. I'm also pretty sure he did not make it clear why he murdered Claudius which is why he told Horatio to live so he can tell them what is actually the truth. He can never make up his mind because one second he wants to kill Claudius and the next second it is himself. Then he thinks death could be a scary thing, to death is an honorable thing, to being indifferent. 

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wenridake | Student

i think it is quite complex. he in some way is a crowd but mostly, he conquer himself, he is a contradict and herriated person, but always, he is a honest person.

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