In Hamlet, what lesson does Hamlet tell Horatio he has learned about life and how does that lesson show a change in Hamlet's character?

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By the time Hamlet meets up with Horatio in the graveyard (act 5, scene 1), he has killed Polonius and, as he explains to Horatio, is responsible for the deaths of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. He will soon learn that Ophelia is also dead. Yet Claudius, whom he had intended to kill, remains alive because Hamlet had too many scruples to kill him while he was praying. On his way to England, however, Hamlet realizes that he will probably never have definite proof of Claudius’ guilt or Gertrude’s complicity and nor will there be some perfect time to kill his treasonous uncle.

He makes up his mind quickly to turn the tables on the two courtiers, realizing that it is them or him. He makes a decision:


And prais'd be rashness for it; let us know,

Our indiscretion sometime serves us well

When our deep plots do pal….

But Hamlet also realizes it’s only a matter of time before the news will come back to Claudius, who will then act even more swiftly to kill him. There is no time remaining to carry out his plan, and he must leave the outcome to fate.

There's a divinity that shapes our ends,

Rough-hew them how we will….

While this seems like an about face for him, in some ways it is an extension of his indecision about suicide expressed in the “to be or not to be” soliloquy. Hamlet is taking the decision out of his own hands and, by acquiescing to fate, admitting his own failure and absolving himself, as much as anyone else, of responsibility.

Later, after Osric enters, they learn that Laertes is to fight Hamlet and that Claudius has bet against him. Although Hamlet predicts that he will win the fight, he no longer cares. The news of Ophelia’s death has destroyed his heart. Although Horatio offers to stall the fight, Hamlet wants to proceed. He philosophizes that no delay will teach him any more knowledge about the future, so this time is as good as any other. Defeated, he is ready to die.

Hamlet: I shall win at the odds. But thou wouldst not

think how ill all's here about my heart. But it is no matter….

Horatio: If your mind dislike anything, obey it. I will forestall their

repair hither and say you are not fit.

Hamlet. Not a whit, we defy augury; there's a special providence in

the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be

not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come:

the readiness is all. Since no man knows aught of what he leaves,

what is't to leave betimes? Let be.

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Hamlet has spent the entire play thinking about what to do and thinking about how to do it and thinking philosophically about why people don't do things. The thing he realizes by the end of the play is that all this thinking isn't accomplishing anything and that he finally just has to ACT and REACT to whatever comes his way.

In act 5 he has decided to go into the fencing match with Laertes. Horatio has warned him that this could be dangerous, but Hamlet responds by saying, "We defy augury; there's a special providence int he fall of sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it he not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all." This is a refreshing attitude for Hamlet. He is essentially saying that while God knows about even the smallest events in the universe, we don't, and all we can do is be ready for whatever comes our way. Hamlet is giving himself over to fate rather than cursing it or trying to control it. This new understanding of fate frees him to act. He faces the unknown and accepts that what will be, will be.

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