One of the most unique elements of the Hamlet character is that he is so human. Many
types of readers can identify with him. Hamlet is imperfect, and he is fretful. Hamlet has
human properties, and it is his humanity that I intend to explore. Indeed it is these human
qualities and imperfections that make his story so tragic. Another tragic part of the play is
the plays irony. Irony is an important tool in the hands of the playwright to achieve both
comical and/or dramatic effect. There is usually little reason for a tragedy to be funny, so
Shakespeare has used this tool to add more tragedy to the play. I will investigate the
nature of this irony. Also, I will investigate the types of conflict that play a major part in
the play and the relationships between Hamlet and the two people who have been closest
to him; Ophelia and the Ghost.
Hamlet cannot share his strong feelings and emotions with his mother or his
girlfriend. While his mother is literally sleeping with the enemy, Ophelia has chosen the
side of Claudius because of her father, Polonius. It is especially difficult for Hamlet to
talk to Ophelia. The only other woman in his life, Gertrude, has betrayed his father by
marrying Claudius. Hamlet may be obsessed with the idea that all women are evil, yet he
really does love Ophelia, because when he finds out Ophelia has died, he cries out, "I lov'd
Ophelia; forty thousand brothers could not, with all their quantity of love, make up my
sum."(Act V, Scene 1)
The ghost provides Hamlet with a dilemma. In Shakespeare's plays, supernatural
characters are not always to be trusted; think of the three witches in MacBeth, who are
instrumental in his downfall. Hamlet does not know whether the ghost is telling the truth
or not. If Hamlet had killed Claudius solely on the ghost's advice, he would certainly have
been tried and put to death himself. There would probably have been a war to choose the
new king. Being the humanitarian that he is, and taking account of his responsibilities as a
prince and future king, Hamlet most likely would want to avoid civil war. Even though
Claudius is a murderer, and probably not as noble a king as Hamlet's father was, he is still
a king. He brings order to Denmark. Hamlet does not wish to plunge his country into
chaos. He realizes that this will happen when he kills Claudius. Hamlet is unable to
combine the spiritual world (in the form of his father's ghost) with the tangible, every-day
world that surrounds him.
There is much irony throughout this play. One occurrence of irony I found
particularly striking was the fact that Hamlet effectively maneuvers himself into the same
position as Claudius. Claudius had attacked and killed a man who did not have the
opportunity to defend himself, but when Hamlet kills Polonius, is he not guilty of the
same? It is intriguing that both Claudius and Hamlet have killed fathers. It is interesting
to see how these two completely different characters deal with this problem in different
Other interesting parallels I found are the numerous deaths by poison. Hamlet's father
was murdered by Claudius with poison. In the final act, the queen is the first to be
poisoned, by drinking from Hamlet's cup. Then, Hamlet is wounded by the poisoned tip
of Laertes' sword. When they change swords, Hamlet gets the upper hand and Laertes is
poisoned. When the queen dies, Laertes explains all to Hamlet, before he dies. Hamlet
then kills Claudius before dying himself. It is ironic that, as Claudius is poisoned because
of his own plotting, he had already signed his own death warrant when he killed Hamlet's
father, the first tragic action of the play. There are only three people in this play who
don't die by poisoning: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern meet their deaths in England, after
being outsmarted by Hamlet. The third is Ophelia, who is drowned.
There are three types of conflict I can identify in the play: 'man versus man', 'man
versus nature' and 'man versus himself'. Hamlet's fight with Laertes in Ophelia's grave and
the subsequent duel would both easily classify as 'man versus man' conflicts. Man also
struggles with nature in this play, most notably in the form of Ophelia's drowning and
Hamlet's crossing the sea to England - although the latter conflict plays more of a
background role.
The 'man versus himself' conflict is most directly exposed in Hamlet's famous soliloquy,
where he is wrestling with his conscience. The realization he comes to in this soliloquy is
that we are afraid to kill