Prompt: The ways in which individuals struggle to restore honor and certainty
Thesis: In Shakespeare’s, Hamlet, an individual pursues the restoration of their family honor, sacrificing their morality in the process, causing them to lose certainty in their sense of direction-ultimately jeopardizing their ability to act until influenced by an admirable and distinguished force.
To many individuals, honor is bound in bloodline-and when that blood is spilt, all conventions flee from one’s vision as they become devoted to cleaning up the mess. Unfortunately, blood is difficult to remove after it has stained a seemingly pure surface; no matter how hard one scours, there will always be a slight pigment. Due to the amount of passion they exert to reverse the split blood, an individual may begin to neglect their morality and become solely committed to restoring honor; therefore, the individual would be willing to sacrifice themselves and the ones around them in order to fulfill their duty. However, since the individual lost their morality, they also lose their certainty; and as a result, become unable to follow structure. Due to this lack of structure, the directionless individual is incapable of action. In Shakespeare’s, Hamlet, an individual pursues the restoration of their family honor, sacrificing their morality in the process, causing them to lose certainty in their sense of direction-ultimately jeopardizing their ability to act until influenced by an admirable and distinguished force. This is represented by the character Hamlet, who struggles to restore honor in his family after his uncle, Claudius, marries his mother, Gertrude, after his father died. The indicated abrupt change in Hamlet’s life disrupts the structure and flow of his life, consequently filling him with uncertainty about whether he should do something about it or not. When visited by his dignified yet troubled father’s ghost, Hamlet is informed about the spillage of his father’s blood and makes an oath to restore honor into the Denmark throne. Although, despite Hamlet’s certain desire to kill Claudius, Hamlet lacks the direction he must take to avenge his father- making Hamlet impotent to act. However, through his uncertainty, Hamlet is still committed to restoring the honor and structure into the throne. He does this by sacrificing convention and overall his own mental health in the process of completely cleansing the throne of the dishonor Claudius befouled upon the state of Denmark.
Initially, Hamlet is unable to cope with the loss of his father and his mother’s hasty marriage to his uncle; this lack of structure sends Hamlet into a melancholic standstill, however, the appearance of his father’s ghost sets him in the direction towards restoring his family’s honor. Shakespeare demonstrates this shift within him in Act 1, Scene 4, “Ay, thou poor ghost, whiles memory holds a seat/ In this distracted globe. Remember thee!/ Yea, from the table of my memory/ I’ll wipe away all trivial fond records,/ All saws of books, all forms,…/ And thy commandment all alone shall live/ Within the book and volume of my brain,/ Unmixed with baser matter…/ So, uncle, there you are. Now to my word.” After Claudius receives the throne and Gertrude’s hand, Hamlet feels as if Denmark has lost a king and he- a father. Due to this disorder, Hamlet is only inspired to act when his father’s ghost manifests in front of him and tells him the truth of his death. This motivates Hamlet to act since it is the first instance when someone is truly honest and straightforward with Hamlet-no spying, lies, or equivocations- fulfilling his need for certainty. Hamlet, having vowed to clear his head of all he has stored in his mind to wholly dedicate himself to executing his father’s goals, summons determination by sacrificing all independent thought in order to restore honor in his bloodline. While analysing the rhetoric of Hamlet’s soliloquy it is depicted that he is distressed yet passionate after meeting his father’s ghost; therefore, he lacks logos. The absence of logos makes Hamlet unable to think rationally-ultimately causing him to discard his perceptions of others and sense of direction. When one loses this perception, the individual is at risk of becoming obsessed with their end goal without completely considering the path they must take to achieve their goal. With this acquired certainty yet lack of perception, Hamlet is left filled with determination but with no direction to guide him.
Now having a new purpose, Hamlet’s pursuit of honor becomes challenged by his conscience. This happens because of his own pensive nature and his uncertain surroundings; therefore, the factors that once motivated him to take action now remind him of his unfortunate circumstances and challenges his ability to act. At this point, Hamlet has developed a plan to avenge his father- however; “the whips and scorns of time,/Th’ oppressor’s wrong…/The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,”(3.1) have all caused him to reconsider whether life is worth living. This is because his conscience makes him aware of all the uncertainties around him. Hamlet relies heavily on his environment to give him direction so when it is in disarray, Hamlet is unable to be assertive and find the motivation or route of endeavour within himself. Following this realization, Hamlet states, “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 pith and moment/With this regard their currents turn awry,/And lose the name of action.”(3.1) Hamlet has now admitted that his pensive nature is unnatural and is a factor causing his indecisive and manic behavior. It is common in theatre (theatre is relative to Hamlet since it is a recurring theme throughout the book) to say that “thinking is death”, because it stops one’s natural impulses-automatically making an actor seem inauthentic. This break in character is due to the actor questioning their motives; when an individual begins to doubt themselves and their ambitions they’re actions are judged by the ones around them- and often times- the individual does not fulfill their motive. In order for Hamlet to restore his family’s honor, he must establish a clear path towards avenging his father-taking advantage of the uncertainty around him rather than letting it take over his ability to act.
After witnessing Fortinbras leading his army through Denmark for the sake of winning back land, that King Hamlet took from Fortinbras’s father, Hamlet realizes that he has been incompetent in restoring his family’s honor and summons certainty while repealing morality, so he can finally, thoughtlessly and ruthlessly, avenge his father. While Hamlet has deliberated life and death, inaction or action, and other’s uncertain intentions, an admirable individual such as Fortinbras conquers a seemingly insignificant offence against honor by acting quickly and severely. In many ways, this provides a sense of direction and inspiration for Hamlet because he understands that he must take his circumstances:” a father killed, a mother stained,/Excitements of my reason and my blood,”(4.4),and use them to provoke his natural, violent impulses rather than fuel his brooding tendencies. Overall, Hamlet’s tone during his soliloquy in Act 4, Scene 4, demonstrates how an individual may feel ashamed after they discover that they “…have cause and will and strength and means/To do ’t. Examples gross as earth exhort me[them],” (4.4), yet they are too affected by their environment to actually act. Self awareness such as this creates a domino affect where an individual is able to find certainty in a lack of morality- ultimately pushing them towards a direction where they will be able to restore their family’s honor due to the influence of a reliable and distinguished character. When Hamlet states, “Oh, from this time forth,/My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!”(4.4), he has finally found a path and although it may be bloody, it will certainly fulfill his purpose.
A single drop of poison can disperse through an entire capsule of blood the same way a single dishonorable act can completely ruin family honor. Family honor is a symbol of distinction but also of certainty; therefore, when an individual is represented by tainted family honor they feel lost due to an absence of past structure and morality- causing them to go through any means to restore honor and certainty. However, due to a lack of structure and morality, one will have no sense of direction or plan to accomplish their goal-consequently seeking answers within themselves and others. In Shakespeare’s, Hamlet, an individual pursues the restoration of their family honor, sacrificing their morality in the process, causing them to lose certainty in their sense of direction-ultimately jeopardizing their ability to act until influenced by an admirable and distinguished force. To some audiences, Hamlet is depicted as a whiny and moping character due to his inability to solve his problems through actions. Hamlet only truly meets his objectives when he stops doubting his morality and analysing his circumstance and begins to view them in a motivating perspective- with help from his virtuous father’s ghost, and the galvanizing Fortinbras. In spite of that, it is only after everyone in his family has died that he essentially purifies the throne and restores honor to the kingdom-since the dishonor was so deeply rooted. Once convention is taken over by ambition, an individual embraces uncertainties as a way to validate their lack of morality; furthermore, they become driven by their human impulses- and in the end- act upon them.