Sicklied Hues of Resolution: A Tale of Your Favourite Manic Depressive Adonis
“To be, or not to be? That is the question—
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And, by opposing, end them? To die…
Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveler returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.”
(Act III, Scene 1, Lines 57-61, 78-90)
Hamlet. In a character steeped in such mystery and labelled an enigma by readers since the time of the Bard, it is almost with a certain twist of irony that Hamlet has been long studied in his quest for certainty in a world abundant in illusion and deceit. However, Hamlet’s paradoxical nature is precisely what makes him such a fascinating study; he is both depressed and manic, angry and calm, compassionate and manipulative. He combines madness with reason, and spends his days contemplating life while considering death. Due to his behaviour, no absolute truth about Hamlet can be extracted, thereby introducing a sense of doubt that is infused throughout the play and shedding light on the struggle to restore honour, through certainty (or lack thereof), in a way no other character can. As the son of the late King Hamlet, Hamlet attempts to retrieve honour for Denmark’s throne after evidence emerges that his uncle, Claudius, murdered the king in order to claim the crown for himself. He is deterred from taking action, however, by his doubts regarding the truth underlying the claim and he is forced to express his divided loyalties through words, instead of deeds. Therein lies the struggle Hamlet faces to avenge his father’s death, as his own uncertainties prevent him from reinstating certainty and honour in a kingdom robbed of its dignity. In the play Hamlet, Shakespeare introduces the notion that the mad pursuit of certainty and honour in a world that lacks it proves almost impossible, taking a toll on its pursuers and drastically affecting their relationships, testing loyalties as well as one’s own state of mind. He explores this idea through the character of Hamlet, who, in his quest for truth, eventually becomes a martyr for the certainty and honour he struggles to restore. In the following compilation, readers will gain a sense of empathy for Hamlet through the perspectives of other characters, recognize the universality within the play through observing human experience, and explore how William Shakespeare reveals the consequences of facing uncertainty and dishonour in the way that Hamlet did.
Mad For You
A woman is only seen when she is wanted and heard when spoken to; as a result, I am rarely ever seen, rarer ever heard.
Even with all that, Hamlet has begun to take notice of me. His advances make me nervous, in the most spectacular sense of the word, and it seems that I may be beginning to feel the same for him. In his eyes, I am like a kaleidoscopic blend of colours that cannot be ignored, an orchestral symphony – delicate yet spirited. Is there a woman who could deny herself some sort of delight in such attention?
He worries me though.
With all his naughty remarks I have not been able to keep my eyes off his countenance – my efforts have proved futile – and I believe he’s truly gone mad. While serving as a spy for the King, I heard him make some most concerning comments about taking his own life.
I am not sure what could be taking such a heavy toll on him that he is questioning the morality of his every action and the validity of his entire life – it must be gravely troubling. He was murmuring something or other about the impasse of life and death; as if ‘twere up to him, and not God, as to whether he lives or dies. His tangent continued with the contemplation of taking up arms; arms against what precisely?! I thought the war had ended but it seems, for Hamlet, it has just begun.
I am not sure with whom he is battling but hopefully it is quickly resolved; I miss the gentleness I found in him through his letters.
When I realized his mad utterings had wisdom far past both our years combined, a pang of nervousness overcame my spirit – perhaps we are both mad then! At this, I could listen no longer; I began to approach him. Alas, I wish I had allowed myself to listen longer, maybe I would understand which plight of his brings about such dejected madness.
If his lunacy is not overcome he may forget that he loves me so. Forget the letters he wrote, forget the tender glance we shared, forget the way his quips painted my cheeks scarlet, forget my very name. Hamlet’s affection gave me an effervescence that I will not soon wish to part with or ever wish to forget.
With all this he was still able to say he did not love me.
It must have been the madness.
Lord, I pray whatever is weighing on his heart may be quickly removed to rid him of this and restore the man I have grown to love. Who, at one time, chose to love me.
Without his love I would return to the routine of speaking when spoken to, being seen only when desired. I have grown so joyous in this beautiful blend of colours he has allowed me; if it were to be lost I would become just as every other woman.
Explanation for Creative #1
As outlined in Mad For You, Ophelia, a minor character easily disregarded by the other characters in the play, as well as by readers, served to lose her new found love and self-confidence if Hamlet’s illness, as a result of his difficult restoring honour to the crown of Denmark, were to persist. While he attempted to act on behalf of the ghost of his father, there was a level of secrecy required in order to avoid any sort of suspicion about his intent to kill Claudius. This, however, resulted in Hamlet being forced to manage the resulting emotional and mental strain alone – an arguably selfish undertaking as he failed to consider the impact his martyrdom would have on those he loved and, more so, those who loved him. Thus, evoking a conflicting sense of sympathy for him as readers find him selfish but being able to get a glimpse into Ophelia’s take on it all they are shown he seemingly had no choice but to lie to her and had to watch her struggle to ascertain why he was growing so distant. Further, through young, lovestruck Ophelia’s perspective as she attempts to manage the whirlwind of emotions that Hamlet wrapped her in, while sane, I was able to address the concern that accompanies watching a loved one go mad as they attempt to win an unbeknownst battle. Ergo, evoking empathy for Hamlet further as readers are able to experience a mixture of fear and concern for him as Ophelia did when she watched him suffer with little to no insight as to why. My take on Ophelia’s perspective of Hamlet’s sufferings serves as support for the notion that as an individual struggles to restore honour and certainty they become so blinded by their pursuit that they become apathetic toward or are unable to recognize the impact their words and actions have on those who care about them; thus, jeopardizing the relationships with those closest to them, as well as their state of mind.
Creative Piece #2
Explanation for Creative #2
Despite the prevalence of ghosts in the stories of the world’s peoples (with Shakespearean England being no exception), many individuals refuse to believe in the existence of spirits and it is often therein that readers of Shakespeare’s Hamlet find empathy for the play’s titular protagonist. It is not to Hamlet’s disbelief in ghosts, however, that audiences relate, but rather to the sense of confusion that he understandably undergoes after the encounter. Like his scholar friend Horatio, Hamlet is at first skeptical of the apparition; it is later evident, though, that upon seeing his father’s ghost, Hamlet’s doubts do not spring from disbelief, but rather from the uncertainty of the ghost’s claims. Through the drawing, titled Doubting Hamlet, I attempt to convey Hamlet’s sense of fear and awe upon meeting the ghost of what seemed to be his dead father, the previous King of Denmark, through the eyes of Marcellus and Horatio. Hamlet’s expression reveals his hesitation to believe what he is seeing, a doubt that permeates his thoughts when he wonders if the ghost is “a spirit of health or goblin damned” (1.4. 43). His thoughts are made clear in the illustration, where orange, sulfurous flames surround the ghost, suggestive of hellfire, while a bright halo adorns his head, suggestive of heavenly light. The coexistence of these contradictory elements also suggests the possibility of purgatory, the state where souls destined for heaven first undergo purification, as the ghost claims; the addition of another possibility only serves to fortify the wave of uncertainty that follows Hamlet on his quest for truth and honour, an understandably difficult pursuit that would make any individual grow mad with irresolution. The drawing, edited to look like a vignette, also illustrates the darkness that clouds Hamlet’s thoughts. It represents the passing of time from the date of the apparition to the day Hamlet actually takes action, as its style as a vignette serves to create a distant atmosphere for the scene, depicting the apparition as a memory or recollection. This demonstrates Hamlet’s hesitation to act on his promise to avenge his father. The drawing itself is inspired from various depictions of “Doubting Thomas,” a Biblical episode in which Thomas, a follower of Jesus, refuses to believe that the resurrected Christ appeared to the other apostles. He remains skeptical until he sees and touches the wounds of Jesus inflicted upon him during his crucifixion. In a contemporary context, the word has come to mean anyone who refuses to believe in something without proof. Hamlet, because of his skepticism, is the quintessential Shakespearean-era Doubting Thomas, the prince of Elsinore who, regardless of evidence, is hesitant to believe in the claims of his father’s spirit. However, as is suggested by the illustration’s atmosphere, Hamlet cannot be blamed for his incredulity. As seen through the eyes of Horatio and Marcellus, friends of Hamlet who try to protect him from the ghost and subsequently witness the encounter, Hamlet faces the understandable dilemma of whether to believe the ghost or not. Through fear, one cannot help but question the truth of the ghost’s claims and this forces Hamlet to take precautions; ultimately though, it is because of these doubts that Hamlet faces the conflict of thought over action, doubts that eventually lead to his (whether genuine or feigned) insanity.
Driven by blind ambition and an equally blind sense of certainty, Hamlet faces the conflict of thought over action, a struggle that not only deters him from reestablishing honour for his dead father (and consequently, for the throne of Denmark), but also prevents him from fostering healthy relationships with those closest to him. Ophelia, in her uncertainty regarding Hamlet’s madness, fears for the love they shared. In his battle for honour, Hamlet garners empathy by effectively sacrificing his life when he estranges himself from the woman he loves, all because of the love he had for his own father. Ophelia, as another victim of broken passion, also appeals to pathos as she evokes the pangs of love, which, however sweet, prove to be swift and fleeting. In Mad for You, she fears that she would be forgotten, their love becoming nothing more than a memory. Given her perspective and ignorance of the truth, the piece effectively demonstrates the pain she endures due to her love for Hamlet, feeling hurt that he, who loved her once, could not bring himself to love her again. Understandably, she attributes his actions to madness, one that she prays would soon pass away. This madness is born of Hamlet’s thoughts, a part of a plan consisting of many words, but little action. His inability to act upon his promise arises from his fear that what the ghost claimed is nothing but a fallacy, all the while wishing to remain loyal to his father. As faithful friends of Hamlet, Horatio and Marcellus attempt to keep him away from the ghost’s potentially evil influence as well, their fear mirroring Hamlet’s as they try to remain wary of the unknown. Faithful until the end, epitomized especially in the character of Horatio, his companions witness the encounter between father-and-son and begin to fear for Hamlet’s safety. Horatio, as a scholar, remains apprehensive about the ghost, and his concerns are reflected in Hamlet’s own doubts. Given their perspective, Doubting Hamlet truthfully portrays the fear Horatio and Marcellus feel for Hamlet’s welfare. The ghost’s ominous appearance and the confusion surrounding the apparition are enough to produce doubt, thereby making not only Hamlet’s uncertainty, but the apprehension of his friends as well, completely understandable. As such, many readers have found empathy for Hamlet’s character; in all his humanness, he connects to the universal human experience as he treads amidst the dangerous circumstances that surround him, enduring the pain of his fears, doubts, and sacrifices. In his love for his father, he gives up his love for Ophelia; at the same time, he doubts the legitimacy of the ghost’s claims, leaving him to wonder in anguish if his efforts would prove to be for nothing. His musings on the danger of uncertainty prompt him to think about the ever-elusive truth and the meaning of his own existence, dooming him to a life of thought instead of providing him with a life of action, a fear much of the world today has lived to regret.
Relating to the complexity of Hamlet’s character proved simple when held in comparison to my own complexities and conflicts, specifically that of the conflict of thought over action. In the likeness of the tragic hero of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, when forced to face a difficult situation I find myself indecisive about my every action which, much like Hamlet, becomes my tragic flaw. Though seemingly melodramatic, my inability to allow my passion to lead me, when necessary, is the source of the majority of the regrets I have harboured in my young life as, in the end, I convince myself it is better simply not to act.
I experienced a great deal of difficulty in regard to finding and affirming my own truths at the young age of thirteen as I ventured out of grade eight into the soul crushing trails of high school – prime time for existential crises. In the midst of managing the strain of the changes to come in high school, a terrifying yet mystical and seemingly far off place, at the time, I was also attempting to figure out the person I wanted to be. I saw high school as an opportunity for self improvement and a place to exemplify the person I truly was; I wanted certainty for others but most of all for myself. Along with this, I needed to ensure that I did this while living a life that was honouring of my belief system. Proving to become increasingly difficult as I progressed into the demanding environment of high school, I suffered through periods of immense, inescapable sadness and inexplicable nervousness which I felt I had to manage alone – a greatly self imposed mindset. Both were, in part, a result of my stifling of my emotions in hopes of sparing the people in my life the burden of my thoughts. Akin to Hamlet, I allowed my uncertainty about life and difficulties attempting to live an honest, honourable one get the better of me and compromise my mental health.
Ergo, Hamlet and my thirteen year old self are both angsty, self-destructive individuals who allow themselves to believe their isolation and emotional masochism is an act of sacrifice for the greater good. However, this is where our complexities diverge; I, unlike Hamlet, was able to overcome my madness and began to proceed with my life. I allowed myself to live out my truths and attempted consistently to live a life that upheld my faith while coming to terms with the fact that failing at both was a necessary step in being able to attain either. Although my life is frequently imperfect and I continue to struggle with the acquisition of honour and certainty, I know I am far happier to struggle with it than to let my ambition over take my life.
When confronted with the task of introducing truth and dignity to a society founded on deceit, the individual who bears this burden may be painted courageous upon first glance; this label, however, is quickly discontinued as the sacrifice of their sanity is realized. In Hamlet, the playwright Shakespeare reveals to his readers the dangers of such an undertaking through the character of Hamlet and his resulting madness. Shakespeare illustrates the negative influence of uncertainty in the life of an individual, suggesting to his audience it can lead to a life destroyed, not only by doubt, but also by the division of loyalties that often follow. Through this, it is revealed that in difficult situations, individuals often rely on their own perspective alone (paying no regard to the perspectives of others) to decide their next course of action; however, the lack of reliable knowledge about the circumstances surrounding uncertain events can lead to the employment of drastic measures. In utilizing desperate measures, such as Hamlet’s feigning of insanity, Shakespeare further demonstrates the plight of an individual torn by contending loyalties, as Hamlet only acts mad, sacrificing his love for Ophelia in the process, due to his filial piety and his desire to see honour restored to the throne of Denmark. Further, Shakespeare’s introduction of the notion that an individual who, faced with contending loyalties, chooses to live a life devoted wholly to act on someone else’s behalf leads themselves into madness as they begin to disregard the influence their actions have over those in their lives. Thus, the interplay of martyrdom and alienation is illustrated in the play through Hamlet’s self-induced alienation as a result of his martyrdom – done in hopes of restoring honour to the crown of Denmark and introducing truth regarding his father’s passing – resulting in his mind’s corruption. Moreover, Hamlet’s alienation reveals too the resulting abandonment and emotional abuse of those in an individual’s life, as a result of said obsessive pursuit, seen in Ophelia, as she lost her lover, and Gertrude, as she lost her son – in essence. Shakespeare’s Hamlet, to many, acts as the tragic tale of a chaotic, vengeful heir but, upon further consideration, is able to act as a narrative outlining the perils of attempting to restore honour and introduce certainty to a people who have grown accustomed to being drenched in fallacy.
The seemingly noble pursuit of the restoration of honour and certainty quickly becomes an individual’s tragic flaw if they allow their doubts to cloud their better judgement and consume their thoughts. William Shakespeare’s Hamlet acts as a cautionary tale in this regard as the main character’s allowance of his undertaking to jeopardize his sanity exemplifies the mental strain that comes about as an individual attempts to restore honour and certainty within their life. This notion is supported through Shakespeare’s development of Hamlet’s madness – genuine and fictitious – as he attempts to restore honour to the crown of Denmark by removing it from the incestous head of Claudius by introducing certainty regarding the death, in actuality murder, of his father. However, as his ambition to restore truth and dignity progressed and his over thinking tendencies developed, his ability to control his acts of insanity faded – thus, Hamlet fell victim to his goal. Further, Shakespeare is able to introduce the concept of the accompanying strain on the relationships of the pursuer as their loyalties are tested when pitted against their new found devotion. Misguided by their ambitious quest, an individual begins to disregard the significance of the connections they have formed and allow their goal overshadow all else as Hamlet did regarding his affairs with Ophelia. With this, it is revealed when attempting to restore honour and certainty an individual compromises their relationships and may begin to struggle with their mental health; leaving them, and those they love, marred as a result.
Credit Where Credit Is Due:
Jieo – Intro, Creative 2 & explaination, Transition & Insight
Ibukun- Creative 1 & explaination, Personal, Insight & Conclusion
~Images (in order of appearance)
“hamlet” by tintiny: https://tintiny.deviantart.com/art/hamlet-205036011
“I don’t want to name my work, (i)” by Ibukun -> includes “intimacy on display”by Agnes Cecile
“Hamlet Gif”: https://giphy.com/gifs/hamlet-1EJut2zNnnD8s
“Doubting Hamlet” by Jieo
“Doubting Thomas” artist unknown: https://goo.gl/Ntpy4r
“Spooky Ghost Gif”: <http://gph.to/2hMDEVJ>
“unknown” found via Tumblr, original artist unknown : <https://goo.gl/ZXNFKX>
“I don’t want to name my work, (ii)” by Ibukun
“Can You Feel The Doubt Tonight?” by Jieo