Hamlet Essay How Does Hamlet Hold Up A Mirror To Human Nature Year 12 English Advanced/Extension 1 Essay

1339 words - 6 pages

Through Shakespeare’s perspicacious genius, in Hamlet he has depicted an aspect of humanity that belongs essentially not to his age but ours. He does so by subverting the audiences’ expectations of a revenge tragedy through his characterization of Hamlet as having an over-active intellectual mind, which results in his delay from action. Hamlet spends the vast majority of the play ruminating over philosophical questions related to the typical themes of revenge tragedy; action, murder, revenge, but also the purpose of theatre, philosophical questions of life, family relationships and the importance of rituals (such as funerals). Therefore, Hamlet is essentially about the attempt to hold a mirror up to human nature and work towards expressing the inexpressible and scrutinizing the inscrutable aspects of human experience.
Hamlet as a whole is primarily concerned with exploring our relationship with death; that our fear of death comes from the notion that there must be something else, and therefore from the very fact that we cant ever know for sure if there is. This idea is explored in Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” soliloquy, where he realizes that we suffer the “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” rather than “by opposing, end them”, because of the “Dread of something after death”; the “undiscovered country”. For this reason theatre is presented as something potentially unsettling as it reflects the fear that life is nothing more than an act in some enigmatic drama. As well as this, theatricality becomes incredibly intertwined with Hamlet’s obsession with understanding death, as what he believes is that he can ‘stage-manage’ death to make it significant like a piece of art. He wants to give death, which in the play is messy and sudden, form and order; he wants to rehearse it like a play. All of which mirrors the aspect of human nature where we want things categorised and understood, whilst his failure to create meaningful death, also mirrors the fact that there are things that we cannot categorise and understand.
To reinforce this notion, Shakespeare places incredible importance on theatre in Hamlet, through the direct use of the theatre; the players and their play, theatrical metaphors and imagery; filling the script with words such as perform, act, show and encouraging his actors to perform in a self-consciously theatrical style for example in Claudius’s address in act 1. The effect of this was that it allowed the emphasis of the contrast between truth and pretence, reality and illusion. The plays and fictions of Hamlet fit inside one another until the boundaries between reality and illusion become incredibly blurred. The major themes that therefore arise from this blurring are the conflicts between truth and illusion, honesty and pretence, reality and appearance and the boundaries between youth and age, audience and actor, and most importantly the inescapable boundary between death and life. The play itself constantly hovers between...

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