What are internal and external conflicts in the first act of Shakespeare's Hamlet?

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sciftw's profile pic

sciftw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The first, and main, external conflict of Hamlet is the conflict that exists between Claudius and Hamlet.  In Act I, the external conflict is a bit one sided thought.  Hamlet suspects that Claudius murdered his father, so Hamlet wants revenge, but Claudius doesn't know this.  It's not an external conflict full of fisticuffs and sword fights until later.  

The internal conflict is squarely centered on Hamlet.  There are actually several.  First, Hamlet struggles with communicating with ghosts.  

If it assume my noble father's person, 
I'll speak to it, though hell itself should gape 
And bid me hold my peace

He wants the information that the ghost has, but Hamlet does worry about his eternal soul.  

Another internal conflict of Hamlet's is his love and relationship with his mother.  She's his mom.  He loves her, but he struggles with how he feels about her after knowing her actions with Claudius.  

The last internal conflict that is introduced in Act I is Hamlet's struggle with revenge and death.  He knows murder is wrong, but wants revenge.  He also is so distraught that he struggles with his own will to live while knowing that he should be seeking vengeance.  This last conflict will continue to grow throughout the rest of the play.  

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thanatassa's profile pic

thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The main cause for the conflict in the first act of William Shakespeare's Hamlet is that Claudius, who murdered Hamlet's father, is now marrying his mother. The ghost confirms that he was indeed murdered by Claudius and has Hamlet swear to revenge himself on Claudius but let God deal with Gertrude. Thus the main external conflict is between Hamlet and Claudius, complicated by the fact that Hamlet is in the power of Claudius.

Hamlet has several internal conflicts. The first is that speaking to a ghost carries a riusk of damnation:

 

If it assume my noble father's person,
I'll speak to it, though hell itself should gape
And bid me hold my peace

 

The other major internal conflict is between the filial love he owes his mother and his revulsion at her conduct.

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