Montaigne, in his essay, "Of the Inconsistencie of Our Action,"  (which appeared previous to the premiere of Hamlet) wrote: "We are all framed of flaps and patches and of so shapeless and...

Montaigne, in his essay, "Of the Inconsistencie of Our Action,"  (which appeared previous to the premiere of Hamlet) wrote:

"We are all framed of flaps and patches and of so shapeless and diverse a contexture, that every peece and every moment playeth his part. And there is as much difference found betweene us and ourselves, as there is betweene our selves and other."

Are there any parallels to Hamlet in Montaigne's words? 

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Indeed, Hamlet's character evinces many a "flap and patch" as his soliloquies demonstrate changes in mood, perspective, and action. In his first soliloquy, Hamlet is in a state of deep melancholy, wishing he could die-- 

O that this too too solid flesh would melt (1.1.129)

--as he mourns the dead king, his beloved father; he is also extremely disturbed by his mother's agreeing to marry her brother-in-law, and in such a short amount of time. 

Then, in his second soliloquy, spoken after his encounter with the ghost of King Hamlet, the young prince is raised to ire and revenge as he vows,

And thy commandment all alone shall live
Within the book and volume of my brain (1.5.102-103)

But, this enraged resolve is dampened and Hamlet does not act again until he is shamed by the tears of an actor as he rehearses the play that will be staged for the entertainment of the Danish court. Hamlet chastises himself for his inaction, comparing himself to the actor who "would drown the stage with tears..." for an imaginary queen when he cannot move himself to act for his beloved father. "Am I a coward?" he asks himself.  Then, in his resolve, Hamlet decides to use the play as a way of detecting the guilt of Claudius, thus assuring himself that his regicide will be justifiable.

Yet, Hamlet is burdened with his melancholy, and he returns to his thoughts of suicide, as evinced in his most famous soliloquy "To be, or not to be." And, so, he vacillates in emotion, ready to kill Claudius and avenge his father after the play when Claudius proves his guilt and hurries away after the player imitates the murder of King Hamlet; however, he is stopped later in his murderous path in Act III, Scene 3, as he views Claudius in prayer and cannot kill him because he does not want to send this murderous king to heaven as a martyr.

Earlier in Scene 2 of Act III, Hamlet vows to talk with his mother; his soliloquy reflects his conflicting emotions as he tells himself to speak to her harshly, but not to harm her:"I will speak daggers to her, but use none" (2.3.359). However,a nervous Gertrude cries out and the foolish Polonius, who hides behind a curtain, cries for help. Without thinking, as "every moment playeth his part," and Hamlet thrusts his sword through the curtain, killing Polonius. Ironically, this same Hamlet, who has hitherto seemed sensitive to situations, feels no regret for what he has done; for, when his mother calls his act a "rash and bloody deed," Hamlet retorts with venom,

A bloody dead? Almost as bad, good mother
As kill a king and marry his brother. (3.24.28-29) 

A great transformation occurs in Act IV when Hamlet witnesses the noble Fortinbras, a "delicate and tender prince"  whose honor leads him to battle for a mere "eggshell." Moved by the courage and honor of this prince regarding a minor issue, Hamlet vows to finally avenge his father.

In his treatment of Ophelia, Hamlet is a dual personality, but he acts strange because he is being watched. He tells Ophelia she has misunderstood some of his actions--"I did love you once"--and that he finds women to be devious and lies have "made me mad" (3.1.149).  But, in Act V, when he discovers that Ophelia has committed suicide and witnesses her funeral, Hamlet leaps into her grave and genuinely mourns her death.

I love Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers
Could not with all their quantity of love
Make up my sum....(5.1.241-243)

Truly, then, there is much difference between Hamlet and himself.

Read the study guide:

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question