What are some of the conflicts in Hamlet?

Expert Answers
accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would like to answer this question by approaching it from a slightly different angle. I think it is easy to jump to thinking of the conflicts that Hamlet as a character faces, and clearly there are many that he has to confront. However, this temptation to jump to the title character can lead us to forget and ignore the other important characters and the conflicts that they themselves face.

For example, let us think of Ophelia and the many conflicts that she faces. She is clearly in love with Hamlet, yet both her brother and her father command her to have nothing to do with him:

I would not, in plain terms, from this time forth,

Have you so slander any moment leisure,

As to give words or talk with the Lord hamlet:

Look to't, I charge you; come your ways.

This clearly presents a massive internal conflict for her, as she must choose parental obedience over the desires of her own heart. Then, having been commanded to stay away from Hamlet, she is then commanded again by her father to act as bait whilst Claudius and he eavesdrop on her conversation with Hamlet. Again, she must choose between loyalty to her lover and loyalty to her father. Lastly, when Hamlet kills her father, we can see the immense mental agony this must have caused her, perhaps explaining why she goes insane.

Likewise, let us remember that Laertes faces a parallel situation to Hamlet. He, like Hamlet, has had his father killed through foul means, and he, like Hamlet wants to avenge his father's death. Yet he faces an internal conflict as to whether to do this through treachery, as Claudius is suggesting, or through an honest duel. Lastly, he confesses all, perhaps signifying the resolution of this conflict, as he opts for honesty.

You might find it interesting to examine other characters and the various conflicts that they have and seeing what light they cast on the play rather than considering Hamlet alone. For example, think of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Gertrude, and even Claudius and the conflicts that they face. Good luck!

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The biggest internal conflict is Hamlet's struggle to decide what to do about his father's death.  However, it is caused by the external struggle of his father's murder.  In the end, Hamlet is the one who has to deal with it.

tthakkar | Student

The play contains conflict on all levels. There is the conflict between Norway and Denmark. The fiery young Fortinbras wishes to reclaim lands lost by his dead king and father.

There is conflict between every member of the Danish royal family. Here are some examples of these conflicts.

  • Ophelia loves Hamlet, and Hamlet uses Ophelia.
  • Hamlet despises his uncle. Hamlet despises his mother for marrying his uncle and giving him the crown of Denmark.
  • Claudius wants to win Hamlet over, and hamlet wants to prove Claudius guilty of murder.
  • Polonius wants to prove Hamlet mad, and Gertrude wants him to spy on Hamlet.
  • Laertes wants to warn Ophelia away from hamlet because a Crown Prince can't marry a steward's daughter, and Ophelia is in love with and receives love letters from Hamlet.
  • Hamlet is friends with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and Claudius summons them to betray Hamlet, which they do.

On a social level, there is conflict between power and corruption and between royal excess and State security.

Just as every member of court conflicts with another, so too does each person conflict with himself or herself. Here are some examples:

  • Claudius's conscience seems to weigh heavy on him;
  • Gertrude knows not whom to align herself with;
  • Hamlet constantly berates himself;
  • the fair Ophelia must constantly question her own desires;
  • Ophelia is continually manipulated by every male that is close to her: Polonius, Laertes (through his admonition not to love Hamlet), Hamlet, Claudius.
jessica-w | Student

I believe that Hamlets inner conflict, which in summary is his constant self questioning about wether to avenge his father's death and kill Claudius, his inability to act, and his resulting fury with himself about not acting, was the result of all the external conflicts of the play, which include conflicts between him and his mother, with Claudius, with Ophelia and with Laertes. All the innocent deaths of the play are the consequences of Hamlets prolonged decision to kill Claudius. The conflict between his action and delay all in all is Hamlets main downfall and Because of his inaction and obfuscating nature i criticize him. This conflict to me, is the main conflict of the whole play and is the reason for the tragic ending that is 'Hamlet'.

:) x

arjun50 | Student

First of all, it should know that there are two kinds of conflict: internal and external. As far as internal is concerned, it is found between man and his conscience.

As you know Hamlet is quite involved in it: "To be or not to be." He leaves Claudius without killing because he is performing prayer. The disgust of Hamlet regarding the marriage between Claudius and his mother. The rewritten play within the play ("The Murder of Gorganzano") is the result of Hamlet's internal conflict.

You see the external conflict between Hamlet and Claudius. Hamlet is ready to kill him in order to get the vengeance of his father. Fate saves Claudius but he continues to try to hurt Hamlet by sending away to his death.

There is conflict between Hamlet and Ophelia. Ophelia is made of stuff innocent and naive and is condemned herself to be mad.

There is conflict between Laertes and Hamlet. Laertes is endeavoring to punish Hamlet for revenge. At last they fight and the drama ends.

You will find the conflict between innocence and tyranny. There is conflict between virtue and vice. It is conflict that is proceeding throughout the story and makes Hamlet delay. Due to the conflicts between innocence and tyranny and between virtue and vice Hamlet's tragedy occurs.