The Most Original of Characters

Quotation (N)

…rich, not gaudy,

For the apparel oft proclaims the man,

And they in France of the best rank and station

Are of a most select and generous chief in that.

Neither a borrower nor a lender be,

For loan oft loses both itself and friend,

And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

This above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Farewell. My blessing season this in thee.

~Polonius (1.3.77-87)

“This above all: to thine own self be true”

This is the quote that could summarize Hamlet’s character. Hamlet struggles to be true to himself for the majority of the play, and struggles in putting his past behind him, which evidently affects to a great extent his life in the present, his perceptions and plans for the future. Hamlet has come to learn that not only has his father died, his mother already remarried, his birthright as heir has been revoked only temporarily by the man whom he believes to have murdered his father. Any single one of the events that have unfolded at the beginning of the novel is enough to leave any individual in a state of shock or disbelief. It is because of this that Hamlet struggles to be honest to himself because he no longer knows the meaning of honesty and the truth has become a diluted lie, obscure and hidden away in mystery and uncertainty. Thus, how can a character with such a skewed perception of the truth be true to himself? Hamlet struggles to find certainty in his life which he seeks in order to gain clarity to take the right course of action in order to exact his version justice or retribution to those who have been dishonest. This is what makes him such a wise character; Hamlet, unlike other Shakespearean heroes, does not take the word of people or the supernatural by their face value, Hamlet shows intelligence by analyzing and considering what each part says and implementing methods and strategy in order to find out the truth; shown by him casting the play The Murder of Gonzago to trigger Claudius’ guilty conscience.

Opening: (A)

Hamlet. Of all possible and original characters, our group has clearly taken lots of time researching and identifying the most personally touching attempts at someone struggling to restore honor and certainty. But the more you read about him, the more apparent it becomes that all of Hamlet’s doings within the play stemmed from a simple desire. The simple desire to restore two things: Honor and certainty. To define them, honor is something that is held in high respect, and certainty is the firm conviction that something is true. To restore something means that it was taken away in the first place. Hamlet’s position of honor and certainty was that of his father – King Hamlet, King of Denmark. His death, and the subsequent loss of the throne to Claudius. His honor of being the next king – gone. His certainty of a future – also gone.

Creative Piece #1 (R)

Monologue by Gertrude after Hamlet has killed Polonius and left with the body (between the end of 3.4 and 4.1)

Hamlet has always been one to rely on the light of those around him, and even then he is one to tread slowly. Yet why does he act so impulsively now? I thought it strange that he rejected the light I provided for him, but I had merely written it off as the disobedience that comes before maturation. I should have reprimanded him for straying from my guidance, but I refrained from doing so… my sacrifices have all been for nought. I have forsaken my marriage with my truest love and lost my pride as a woman. All just so that I may live to see Hamlet become King. His insanity has laid waste of my ambition. He has become a murderer when instead he was to be a king! Powerful. Respected. Virile. Honored. His bloom was snatched from him after his father’s demise, but I – the one who raised him from his very roots– sacrificed my marriage, my love, my life… everything. For what cause? To give my flower another opportunity to bloom. Alas, he has let himself wither away, and when one’s withered away he may bloom no more. That wretched old thing had been waiting behind the tapestry before Hamlet had even entered. I had heard him coming in, but was unsure of it. I had not known that Hamlet would be so impulsive, else I’d have checked behind the tapestry. What’s done is done now!  The most I may do to him is save him from death. Claudius will surely adhere to my words; he never had the steadfast resistance to charm that my dearest king took pride in. But he has passed. And Hamlet will join him in Heaven if I am not quick with my words. I will have him sent to England, where he may live out the remainder of his life; none shall be able to trample over my wilted flower there.   

Monologue Piece is to be taken in combination with a quote:

Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills

– Arthur Shopenhaur 

Creative Piece # 1 Explanation (R)

The quote acknowledges the lack of control an individual has over their own life. It begins with the truth that an individual can “do what he wills”, and it contrasts this statement by saying “he cannot will what he wills”. Ultimately, it is the cause – the stimulus which will trigger the desire to act- that controls the individual. Hamlet is the ideal example of this, in that Hamlet is the antithesis of the advice Polonius gives to Ophelia, “To thine own self be true” (1.3.84). In contrast to this connection, I’ve written a monologue as Gertrude, the moment after Hamlet leaves dragging Polonius’ body. In the monologue, I’ve likened Hamlet to a plant that has begun to wither, despite the best efforts of the gardener in trying to make the flower bloom. This is symbolic of Gertrude’s wishes to restore honor and certainty –  both of which were disrupted when Claudius unnaturally became King – by giving Hamlet the opportunity to become King once more. Gertrude is not “true” to herself, for she gives everything in order to allow Hamlet to become King. In comparison, Hamlet is only “true” to those around him, to the point where Hamlet’s behaviour is determined by other characters. Hamlet has lost all honor as a noble prince from the moment he hears the story of the Ghost, for that is when the stimuli in Hamlet’s environment conflict with one another.

 

 From what I’ve written as Gertrude, she wishes to restore the honor of being King to her son, yet her son does not accept the “light” she radiates, “light” in this sense being influence. The conflicting “light” in Hamlet’s environment force Hamlet to choose to adhere to one over the other. Since Hamlet is unable to come to a final decision, he cannot commit to an action. A refusal to accept either influence results in Hamlet’s inaction, and this uncertainty is the moment that Gertrude notices Hamlet beginning to wither away.  In order to recover certainty, Hamlet displays an edited version of The Murder of Gonzago in front of Claudius, noting his reaction. This is successful in verifying the story of the Ghost, and for that reason Hamlet is able to act once more, to the point where he even seems “impulsive” in the eyes of Gertrude. When writing as Gertrude, I intentionally left out Gertrude’s horror in the death of Polonius; as a mother, Gertrude is more concerned with her son’s loss than the loss of an individual whom Gertrude had barely known. To Gertrude, Hamlet is a flower that she is trying to grow, which I’ve symbolized through the metaphor of comparing Hamlet to a growing flower.

 

Hamlet is at the mercy of those around him for the entirety of the play. I made it so that Gertrude would make this a quality that Hamlet has always had. In this way, I wanted to establish empathy: Hamlet acts in the way that he does because it is intrinsic to him. Individuals will often empathize with others when the other person is portrayed as a victim. Despite being a murderer, the comparison between the quote and my self-written monologue portrays Hamlet as a victim of fate. In the way that I’ve written her character, Gertrude appears to be part of the hand of fate that controls Hamlet, given by how she laments over all the work she has put into giving Hamlet the chance to be king.

Creative Piece #2 (T)

All warfare is based on deception

-Sun Tzu

Creative Piece #2 Explanation (T)

Humans have an unhealthy habit of viewing themselves in a far greater light than they should be. We tell ourselves that we are strong and capable of doing the right thing. However, the deception of this warfare is our doubts and our pride.The very pride that drives us to commit actions different from our own. The very doubts that drive us to fear and question what we believe is right. His ultimate goal was to reclaim his title of King, and to avenge the murder of his father. Hamlet’s goal was simple in his mind, but this proves to be a far greater challenge than he could have ever conceived. As a result, Hamlet began to find motives towards his actions. Yet, he succeeds only in changing the people around him such as Claudius and Ophelia, delaying his well being to change others. Little does Hamlet himself know that he has only injected himself with a lethal dose of uncertainty. A deadly uncertainty that makes his future unclear, and potentially very violent. In addition, Hamlet succeeds in defiling his own honor in his pursuit of certainty. Telling his lover, Ophelia, to go to a nunnery, while at the same time building of a facade of madness over love, shatters any honor that he once had. However, Hamlet believes that this act is necessary, only furthering the deceit he bestows upon himself. Hence, the war that Hamlet fights is one of deception. Believing that each act one commits has purpose and reason, but producing only more uncertainty was his reality.

Transition ( R)

Hamlet’s character is centred around restoring the honor that Hamlet would have had as King of Denmark, and both creative pieces revolve around the methods in which Hamlet does so. The first creative piece introduces the idea of Gertrude being the hand of fate that guides Hamlet to the throne. Under that notion, it can be said that Hamlet is never truly in control of “what he wills”. The behaviour of the character Gertrude in the play is uncertain, as her motivations cannot be discerned from her actions; the written monologue takes the perspective that Gertrude is – like any mother would be – ambitious about the achievements of her child. Empathy is played upon from that perspective: the reader would understand Gertrude’s qualities as a mother given the severe emphasis on the sacrifices she has made. The second piece recognizes Hamlet’s loss of honor as the point in which Hamlet incorporates deceit into his “warfare”. Hamlet’s acting – which is for the purpose of restoring his certainty –  is the ultimate form of deceit. This war of “deceit” is two-sided because Claudius himself uses deceit in order to ascend to the position of King; this is also reflected in the fact that “warfare” itself involves two or more parties. The loss of honor is defined in this piece as the usage of deceit in warfare, but in the first piece, it can be said that Hamlet’s deceit is the result of his conflicting influences. Hamlet is uncertain of what he must be “true” to, for he is unsure of the reality of his situation. People are always attempting to spy on Hamlet for King Claudius and Queen Gertrude (namely, Polonius, Guildenstern, and Rosencrantz) which can be seen as a show of deceit, for often, they feign having other intentions. Hamlet’s method of dealing with such individuals involves indulging in the very thing that the spies are practitioners of: deceit. 

Personal (A)

When you are ten years old, there is very little honor and certainty to worry about. Ten years old, in a summer camp, and surrounded by friends. There should nothing to worry about here. But children have a savage relationship with one another. There is this entire subculture of dominance within the world of being a child. And, because they are so young, people can climb to the top of this ladder through any number of terrible or senseless ways. Basic bullying is just one of them. Gossip, jokes, teasing, comparing, and judging are the many things children do to one another to assert themselves at the top of the social pecking order. And when you are young, this struggle is actually about honor and certainty. It sounds so ridiculous, but when someone is young, it is all they have. Someone’s honor is synonymous with their popularity, and further their certainty of future is based on friendships.

 

Her name is Emily. Emily is a ten-year-old girl I had the pleasure of getting to know over the summer. When I first met her, she was with a group of friends, people who turned out to not be the best of friends. They were rather rude, and always teased or excluded her from many activities. Even when she was with them, they would always make her do things that she did not want to do. One time, they ‘dared’ her to try to kiss a boy. It was clear she did not want to, but there is always something overwhelming about peer pressure, a threat to our honor as children, the chance that you will lose your standing. I had never actually realized how bad her situation was with her ‘friends’, sour people with bitter demands. I was sitting by the van, refilling water bottles for other children when she came over and told me what her friends had said. Her friends hadn’t just told her to find a boy and kiss him, they said it had to be me. Ignoring all legal and ethical problems with that, why would anybody want to see their friend kiss a camp leader? How does that give anybody a rush of enjoyment to watch something like that? Children are vicious. I took Emily back to her ‘friends’ and had a long talk with them about using friendships to build people up, not to pick on one to make the rest of you laugh. I advised Emily to stay away from them, and with that began a week-long journey for her to find a new set of people who actually cared about her. And when you’re a child, your friends define your honor and certainty.

 

Most of this summer was me watching the many ways that Emily found her new friends, people who were infinitely kinder, friends that she deserves. To restore the honor and certainty of a young girl seems like something that is not worth the time of many. I watched Emily find new meaning in her new friends, a new feeling of belonging with people who actually care for and respect her.

Insight (N)

“What’s the influence of perspective in shaping the ways individuals struggle to restore honor and certainty? What are the consequences of such responses?

 

Hamlet’s greatest trait is that he is an intelligent hero, he is skeptical and analytical, and he observes possibly outcomes with logical reasoning; unlike other Shakespearean heroes like Macbeth and Romeo. However, this is his greatest flaw as a character; Hamlet had considered so many possibilities and perspectives that he had forgotten about his own, which had left him in a perpetual state of confusion in his quest for certainty. Hamlet had been wronged from the beginning of the play, his dishonor was twofold; revoked of his rightful throne as his father’s successor, and having his mother mary a usurper. Hamlet is being fed lies in his state of grief and confusion left right and center and is unable to find a glimpse of truth or hope to cling to in order to gain some sense of certainty and confidence to take action. The result of which, Hamlet has grown to trust no one and pushes away those who are supposed to close to him because of the fear of betrayal. Hamlet is caught in a storm of doubt and confusion has instigated Hamlet to act in ways which he think will bring about a sense of certainty in his life; he casts the play to find out Claudius is guilty, but does not kill him fearing he will ascend to heaven, He kills Polonius out of frustration of his mother and fear of espionage, and he tells Ophelia to get herself to a nunnery so that he will not have to worry about her in the process. Shakespeare demonstrates the result of such actions, Hamlet has caused problems for the court, and he is later deemed a threat to the kingdom based on his recent actions and motives, therefore Claudius conspired against him. Hamlet’s quest for certainty and restoration for honor involve for the current king to die, which is a possibility Claudius is not too fond of, fortunately for Claudius, a confused Hamlet had not acted decisively nor swiftly leaving him with lots of room to act. It is only when Claudius sends an assassin after Hamlet after deporting him that Hamlet develops some sense of direction, Hamlet realizes at that moment that it is either his life or the king’s which forced him to finally avenge his father’s death and expose Claudius for what he truly is, only after being fatally wounded of course.

Conclusion (N)

When a sensitive individual is exposed to many life-altering circumstances they may find themselves in a vicious cycle of both uncertainty and confusion: developing a skewed perception of truth and reality. Consequently, they will begin to doubt their reality and begin acting in unusual ways that they believe will bring clarity. Such is the argument presented by William Shakespeare in his Hamlet. Hamlet’s journey he searches for clarity when there is offered none and honor where it has been robbed, yet he seeks out through different and logical methods in order to get the results that he needs in order to strategize a method in which to act under. Hamlet proves himself to be a wise character throughout the story, but not necessarily a decisive one, for he is certain that through his actions that he will restore his honor, but he also realizes that because of his actions that a new future could possibly unfold; one that could possibly be worse than the present in which he lives in now.

 

LIST OF WHO DID WHICH PARTS:

Areeb: Opening, and Personal Connection

Nilave: Quotation, Insight, and Conclusion

Rehman: Creative Piece #1 + Explanation,  and Transition

Tim: Creative Piece #2 + Explanation

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3 thoughts on “The Most Original of Characters

  1. Dearest Rehman, Areeb, Tim, Nilave

    What wonderful work you guys have done! This was an interesting piece to read, and put into words a lot of the thoughts about myself I’ve been struggling with. Particularly the idea that we see ourselves far greater than we are. “Humans have an unhealthy habit of viewing themselves in a far greater light than they should be” Rehman, let me say you did an amazing job explaining this idea. So frequently do we think ourselves more capable than we actually are, we’re arrogant, we’re conceited. I remember reading an article about why people think they’re more competent than they really are, and the general conclusion was because people who are incompetent at something don’t know enough about that thing to realize that they are incompetent, while competent people generally undermine their own skills because they know enough to realize that they don’t know all that much. Counter intuitive, but true when given thought. How many times have you had road rage when driving, or been in a car with someone who has? It’s always that no one but them knows how to drive, right? Have you ever given any consideration for how many times you might have been that bad driver, or how many times you’ve given other people road rage? Probably not. What it boils down to is pride, and though I am no religious person, pride is one of the seven deadly sins, and I think you guys illustrated that in relation to Hamlet very very well.

    As for things to work on, I would say that your conclusion, while functional and conclusive, was a bit on the formulaic side for me. One thing I would do to improve this whole blog, perhaps for future reference, is to find different ways to format your conclusion, just so it keeps the reader 100% engaged. Fantastic work guys, you’re all very talented and I can’t wait to read more of your work.

    Regards,

    Liam

  2. Dear Areeb, Tim, Nilave and Rehman,

    Once again, the brilliance you four share leaves me shook. You were able to take such broad, comprehensive ideas and fit them into your piece perfectly, without it ever getting boring or lengthy. Looking towards Gertrude for your creative piece was an incredibly interesting choice, as we got to see more of Gertrude as a mother instead of her more comfortable lens as a naive, frail woman. I also really liked the Personal Connection paragraph and the second Creative, because of how well they tied into the themes you four talked about. The choice in quotation as well was exquisitely thought out! One quick suggestion; personally, I feel as though the thesis in the first paragraph was a little bit wordy, which affected the extent to which I was able to understand it. There were also a few minor run-on sentences and grammatical errors here and there. Cleaning these up will really add to your blog as well. However: it’s also important to note that I’ve had a really high fever these past few days, and I may or may not be delirious. As it is, take that piece of feedback however you want to. 🙂 Good job guys!

    Hijab

  3. Dear you four hooligans (Rehman, Areeb, Tim, and Nilave),

    I was reluctant myself to pick Hamlet, as I believed him to be a character that we had discussed many times, and that I couldn’t possibly beat the dead horse and still be insightful. You gentlemen have proved me wrong in my judgement, and I thank you for the insightful work you have posted. You all split up the work evenly, and coherently connected it all to your character. Your intro is successful in hooking me as a reader, as I seldom thought of Hamlet’s motivation to be king himself; therefore, your claim intrigued me. The first creative piece was brilliantly written, as Gertrude’s character was encapsulated in your writing in a perspective I did not think to look for. As for the second creative choice, I personally would have liked to see more than a simple quote; that being said, your explanation about Hamlet’s fallibility and how he essentially deceives himself is insightful and fitting. The personal story was an interesting take on honor and certainty, and it was interesting to see just how young these qualities are inflected upon us as kids, and how malleable they are in our youth. I enjoyed the portion of the Insight into Hamlet, as you showed how contradictory of a character Hamlet is, and just how difficult it would be to restore honor and certainty in his scenario. The idea that he cannot kill Claudius while he is praying has always stuck out for me, so your take on this was enlightening. Finally, the whole thing was wrapped up nicely with a theme statement and thesis that applied well to the project.
    One thing to watch out for, mostly in the Insight portion, is to use correct punctuation, and just read it over out loud in case you find sentences that don’t quite flow well.
    Other than that, amazing job guys!

    -Lucas

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