What are some examples of existentialism in the play Hamlet?

What are some examples of existentialism in the play Hamlet?

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Existentialism is a twentieth-century philosophy, but its proponents have made a practice of discovering existentialist attitudes and structures in earlier works, particularly drama. Thus, although Shakespeare would not have recognized the term, there is nothing unreasonably anachronistic in searching for existentialist thought in his work or, for that matter, in Seneca or Sophocles. An existentialist philosopher would contend that, though only recently diagnosed, what we now call existentialism has always been there.

There are several schools of existentialism and various philosophers and writers who refined the concept (some of whom, like Albert Camus, did not call themselves existentialists). As applied to drama, however, the central ideas of existentialism can be put like this. The protagonist lacks an essence. This makes his/her life inauthentic and causes angst. A crisis forces the protagonist to make a choice and determine what his/her essence will be and therefore what his/her...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 1158 words.)

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Last Reviewed by eNotes Editorial on December 10, 2019
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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on October 1, 2019
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