What idea does Shakespeare develop regarding the individual in the midst of conflict?This applies to the play Hamlet.

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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I think Shakespeare develops the idea of the individual in the midst of conflict through Hamlet’s thoughts and words. This play is as much, if not more, about Hamlet’s existential debates with himself as it is the actual plot. Hamlet is not just in the midst of a conflict in the world: in Denmark. He is also faced with his own mental conflicts about how to act. I don’t think you can single out just one idea that Shakespeare develops with regard to an individual in conflict.

One idea is that the intelligent individual will expend a lot of time and effort contemplating a conflict. Hamlet constantly defers killing Claudius because he wants to carry it out in the most dramatic way. But he also defers because he constantly considers the moral and philosophical implications. In Act III, Scene 3, he intends to kill Claudius but stops because the king is praying. Hamlet reasons that this will send the king to heaven.

In the “To be or not to be” speech, Hamlet goes so far as to consider suicide as an alternative to the revenge plot. He goes on to question if there is an afterlife and he really is in deep philosophical territory here because he is so intent on doing the right thing. Hamlet’s outward madness and rudeness toward Ophelia is an act to allow him the time and space to think deeply about what he has to do.

This idea that Shakespeare develops is that an intelligent, caring individual will exhaustingly analyze a conflict in order to make a decision on how to act. Conversely, a thoughtless person would probably have just killed Claudius right away. The reader might find this a more desirable and justifiable act, but the play is just as much about the mentality of the individual as he faces conflict. In fact, this play is about what Hamlet thinks more than what actually occurs. Most of the frequently quoted lines are from soliloquies because these lines are the most profound. These lines convey what it means to be human and that the choices we make should be seriously and morally considered.

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