Melancholy, Method, Mayhem

A polished critical regarding the role emotional courage plays when an individual faces separation.

Response to “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare

It takes great bravery to be able to accept separation. When an individual is surrounded by people who they are comfortable with, they are not presented with circumstances where courage is required. Choosing to conform with the ideals of society, allows one to live life with the preset ideals and customs of their surroundings without much thought. This, however, requires one to be compliant with the injustice in their environment; if they are unable to, then being separated from society is the only viable option – an option that requires great fortitude and bravery when finding comfort in the discomforting position of being different. An individual who can do so is said to have unwavering emotional courage. The action of separation is the action itself, that, when taken, result in criticism from the people surrounding them. The character of Hamlet in William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet is immersed in this dilemma after his father’s death. Initially, the people around him distance himself due to his melancholy. However, his father’s words after two months of separation due to death cause him to shift his attitude to madness, increasing the barrier between himself and the world. In the end, he can neglect the obstacles of separation from his family and reveals the truth through the Murder of Gonzago, which shows his emotional courage when dealing with the repercussions of his actions. William Shakespeare’s play uses Hamlet to illustrate how an individual copes with the consequences of separation from society through melancholy, madness and finally, action. One may initially be able to separate, but being able to overcome the threat of criticism from society truly determines if an individual is strong.

When presented with an obstacle in life, an individual’s actions will cause others to separate themselves due to a lack of understanding between them. After the death of his father, young Hamlet wears only black clothes, visually symbolizing his separation from the living members of his family. While everyone is celebrating in the castle, and feasting at the wedding between Claudius and his mother, Gertrude, Hamlet curls within his existence, and becomes defined by his melancholy. Moreover, when Claudius speaks to Hamlet after his speech to Denmark, Hamlet’s hostile response contrasts with that of Laertes, the Queen, and Polonius, who had all had answered him affectionately. Gertrude, his mother, scolds him for this behavior, and Hamlet responds with “Aye madam”, showing his formal separation from his mother and temporary submission. Even though the new king is in charge, and Hamlet is at a point of weakness in the castle, Hamlet has the emotional courage to defy and insult the king through his deceptive innuendos, which makes him open to criticism as a result. Moreover, his thoughts represented in the soliloquy about his mother’s crime of incest shows how Hamlet is aware that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark” even before Marcellus says those very words. Through his outpouring grief for his father, Hamlet shows that he is willing to stand up for his morals to begin the search for truth and righteousness. When an individual feels that they have been wronged against, they separate themselves to derive truth from their surroundings. By doing so, they are willingly making themselves vulnerable, and open to criticism, but they are clear on their personal beliefs about why they left the comfort of society. Hamlet, although melancholy, was able to be clear in his mind that his uncle did not deserve the throne and his mother sinfully married. His emotional courage in the face of the King’s trickery and power shows his solid illusion of the people surrounding him; when the truth reinforces his beliefs, however, Hamlet’s attitude shifts from melancholy to madness.

An individual in separation, when pursuing a purpose, will separate further from society when their beliefs are validated – however, this may cause those closest to them to further themselves in response, resulting in the deterioration of emotional courage. The ghost presented Hamlet with a clear purpose: “revenge his foul and most unnatural murder”. Through a spirit, Hamlet is exposed to the truth, and feels validated for his previous disrespect towards the king, and closes the separation in understanding between him and his father. Additionally, Hamlet says, “For one may smile, and smile, and be a villain.” showing that he is fully able to understand the deception surrounding his uncle Claudius. While Claudius hides under the illusion of a virtuous king, Hamlet hides under the illusion of madness. He does not have the emotional courage to act on his whims, so he uses the deceptive skill of separating himself through the power of an image. He puts on the illusion of madness when scaring Ophelia out of her closet right after meeting the Ghost, proving that he is brave enough to separate himself from those he loves to reveal the injustice of his surroundings. However, when he is later presented with Ophelia’s symbolic act of separation through the returning of the gifts, he responds roughly, saying “get thee to a nunnery”. Although he may be emotionally stable when separating himself, he does not have the emotional courage when others separate themselves from him. The abruptness of his sentences shows not only the mental separation from Ophelia but also the hurt he feels from her actions. In his “to be or not to be” speech, he describes his love was “despised” but he fails to realize that he had separated himself through his feigned madness in the first place. Even though an individual may have the emotional courage to separate themselves to pursue their purpose, they may not be brave enough to deal with the consequences of their actions. Through Hamlet’s madness, he does figure out his surroundings, but this shifts when he finds out about the death of Ophelia.

When one in a way society deemed unacceptable, their separation may result in the loss of all emotional courage. After Claudius’ guilt was revealed through his reaction of the Murder of Gonzago, Hamlet goes on a mad frenzy of pursuing who is wrong. Hamlet goes on to “speak daggers” to his mother, and acts on a whim, killing Ophelia’s father, Polonius. This was the ultimate separator: a murder that was witnessed by a murderer’s wife. Hamlet’s thoughtless action causes not only Ophelia to separate from him, but the entirety of his family. At this point, Claudius attempts to physically separate Hamlet from Denmark by sending him to England to be killed. Ophelia, physically separates herself from Hamlet, through her act of drowning. Like domino’s, Hamlet’s quest to right societal wrongs causes a spiral of mayhem to take over his surroundings. This, however, does not impact Hamlet’s mind, for he courageously escapes Rosencranz and Guildenstern, returns to Elsinore, and duels Laertes. Symbolically, Claudius’ reaction to the play is the evidence of the truth that Hamlet attempts to use to reconcile the separation in understanding that he once created. Emotionally, he is willing to fight those around him to reveal the truth, but he has already made himself a target by this point. Therefore, when the world does not want to know the truth, and an individual presents it to them, absolute separation is the only option left. With a poisoned sword, Hamlet is unjustly killed, physically alienated through this treacherous act. By having the emotional courage to separate himself in pursuit of truth, Hamlet is taken away from the world through injustice. His bravery to be an individual was not enough to overcome the power of the collective treachery of Laertes and Claudius. Thus, in his death, Hamlet says to Horatio to pass on his story to others, showing that he still is brave in the face of separation, but is physically unable to overcome it. An individual may develop emotional courage after they feel validated by truth, but their attempt at sharing at will others may result in absolute separation and inevitable mayhem.

When an individual is presented with injustice in their society, they attempt to seek and understand the truth of a situation through purposeful separation. This action, however, requires emotional courage to stand by, as the act of separation exposes one to criticism from their surroundings. Hamlet begins by creating a barrier of melancholy between him and his family because he holds a firm belief as to what is right. When this reinforced by the Ghost, he separates himself through the illusion of madness, but he fails to show emotional courage when dealing with the separation of others. Finally, when he has solid proof of his belief to present to others, he has already separated himself to a point reconciliation is no longer possible, ultimately leading to his demise. Through Hamlet, William Shakespeare depicts how an individual’s emotional courage may not be enough for them to return to greater society after lengthy periods of separation. Once one chooses to separate from the collective, they will remain by themselves with truth as their only companion.

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