Hamlet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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In Hamlet, what are some arguments that can be made based on the observation of the lack of free will of the play's characters? I am eriting a speech on Hamlet and I need help formulating a good thesis/argument. I have noted that most of the charaters lack a certain free will and are controlled by the wills of other characters. But this is a mere observation, and I need a stronger thesis that can focus on one or two of the characters, and not on a brood description. Any suggestions?

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mwestwood, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Unless Shakespeare became a Calvinist, he would not portray any character as lacking free will. The problem in Hamlet is not that people lack the freedom of choice; rather, it is that they lack the courage and decisiveness necessary to make their choices.  Hamlet's hesitancy comes from his melancholic and extremely rational being; he constantly deliberates on what is the optimum method of ridding Denmark of its evils.  In addition, Hamlet is greatly affected by the Elizabethan concept of the Chain of Being and the superstition characteristic of the age.

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Tina Bishop, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Ophelia is controlled by her father. Even though it was customary of the time period for...

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quentin1 | Student

So in Act V when Hamlet says "There's a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will" (I think that's the quotation), what do you folks think he means by that? I'm asking because I don't know. The line hints at ideas of predestination. Is Hamlet saying God had a hand in killing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, or is Hamlet trying to justify his actions to his own guilty conscience? Has Hamlet finally collapsed into real madness after pretending to be mad in the previous acts?

missplum | Student

Unless Shakespeare became a Calvinist, he would not portray any character as lacking free will. The problem in Hamlet is not that people lack the freedom of choice; rather, it is that they lack the courage and decisiveness necessary to make their choices.  Hamlet's hesitancy comes from his melancholic and extremely rational being; he constantly deliberates on what is the optimum method of ridding Denmark of its evils.  In addition, Hamlet is greatly affected by the Elizabethan concept of the Chain of Being and the superstition characteristic of the age.

I'm with mwestwood. You'll have a stronger thesis if you discuss the abuse of free will or the neglect of free will.