The underezding of the effect that Hamlet’s mental

The Elizabethan play The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark
is one of William Shakespeare’s most popular works. One of the
possible reasons for this play’s popularity is the way Shakespeare
uses the character Hamlet to exemplify the complex workings of the
human mind. The approach taken by Shakespeare in Hamlet has generated
countless different interpretations of meaning, but it is through
Hamlet’s struggle to confront his internal dilemma, deciding when to
revenge his fathers death, that the reader becomes aware of one of the
more common interpretations in Hamlet; the idea that Shakespeare is
attempting to comment on the influence that one’s state of mind can
have on the decisions they make in life.
As the play unfolds, Shakespeare uses the encounters that
Hamlet must face to demonstrate the effect that one’s perspective can
have on the way the mind works. In his book Some Shakespeare Themes ;
An Approach to Hamlet, L.C. Knight takes notice of Shakespeare’s use
of these encounters to journey into the workings of the human mind
when he writes:
What we have in the exploration and implicit
criticism of a particular state of mind or consciousness.In
Hamlet, Shakespeare uses a series of encounters to reveal the
complex state of the human mind, made up of reason, emotion,
and attitude towards the self, to allow the reader to make a
judgment or form an opinion about fundamental aspects of human
life. (192)
Shakespeare sets the stage for Hamlet’s internal dilemma in
Act 1, Scene 5 of Hamlet when the ghost of Hamlet’s father appears and
calls upon Hamlet to “revenge his foul and most unnatural murder”
(1.5.24). It is from this point forward that Hamlet must struggle
with the dilemma of whether or not to kill Claudius, his uncle, and if
so when to actually do it. As the play progresses, Hamlet does not
seek his revenge when the opportunity presents itself, and it is the
reasoning that Hamlet uses to justify his delay that becomes paramount
to the reader’s underezding of the effect that Hamlet’s mental
perspective has on his situation.

In order to fully underezd how Hamlet’s perspective plays an
important role in this play, the reader must attempt to answer the
fundamental question: Why does Hamlet procrastinate in taking revenge
on Claudius? Although the answer to this question is at best somewhat
complicated, Mark W. Scott attempts to offer some possible
explanations for Hamlet’s delay in his book, Shakespeare for Students:

Critics who find the cause of Hamlet’s delay in his internal
meditations typically view the prince as a man of great moral
integrity who is forced to commit an act which goes against his
deepest principles. On numerous occasions, the prince tries to make
sense of his moral dilemma through personal meditations, which
Shakespeare presents as soliloquies. Another perspective of Hamlet’s
internal struggle suggests that the prince has become so disenchanted
with life since his father’s death that he has neither the desire nor
the will to exact revenge. (74)
Mr. Scott points out morality and disenchantment, both of which belong
solely to an individuals own conscious, as two potential causes of
Hamlet’s procrastination, andtherefore he offers support to the
idea that Shakespeare is placing important emphasis on the role of
individual perspective in this play. The importance that Mr. Scott’s
comment places on Hamlet’s use of personal meditations to “make sense
of his moral dilemma” (74), also helps to support L.C. Knight’s
contention that Shakespeare is attempting to use these dilemmas to
illustrate the inner workings of the human mind.
In Hamlet, Shakespeare gives the reader an opportunity to
evaluate the way the title character handles a very complicated
dilemma and the problems that are generated because of it. These
problems that face Hamlet are perhaps best viewed as overstatements of
the very types of problems that all people must face as they live
their lives each day. The magnitude of these “everyday” problems are
almost always a matter of individual perspective. Each person will
perceive a given situation based on his own state of mind. The one,
perhaps universal, dilemma that faces all of mankind is the
problem of identity. As Victor L. Cahn writes, “Hamlet’s primary
dilemma is that of every human being: given this time and place and
these circumezces, How is he to respond? What is his
responsibility?” (69). This dilemma defined by Mr. Cahn fits in well
with the comments of both L.C. Knight and Mark Scott, because it too
requires some serious introspection on the part of Hamlet to resolve,
and also supports the idea that Shakespeare is using Hamlet’s dilemma
to illustrate the effect that perspective, or state of mind, can have
on a given situation.

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Hamlet’s delay in seeking revenge for his father’s death
plays an important role in allowing Shakespeare’s look into the human
mind to manifest itself. If Hamlet had killed Claudius at first
opportunity, there would have been little chance for Shakespeare to
develop the internal dilemma which all three critics, L.C. Knight,
Mark Scott, and Victor Cahn, mention in support of the widely held
view that, in Hamlet, Shakespeare is attempting to make a comment
about the complexity of the human mind, and the power that a person’s
mental perspective can have on the events of his life.

Works Cited
Cahn, Victor L. Shakespeare the Playwright: A Companion to the
Complete Tragedies, Histories, and Romances. New York: Greenwood
Press, 1991.
Knight, L. C. Some Shakespeare Themes & An Approach to Hamlet. San
Francisco: Stanford University Press, 1966.
Scott, Mark W., ed. Shakespeare For Students. Detroit: Gale Research
Inc., 1992.
Shakespeare, William. “Hamlet.” Literature: An Introduction to
Reading and Writing Ed. Edgar V. Roberts and Henry E. Jacobs.
Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1995. 1129-1230.