Throughout literature, one role that has, and will always be, controversial yet crucial to the human condition is the idea of truth and falsehood, an idea that is brilliantly portrayed in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, where the protagonist Hamlet encounters this double standard. Hamlet is known as a truly universal character because he represents something more than a depressed prince in Denmark. Hamlet has every imperfection that nearly all people cannot confront themselves when they look in the mirror.
Shakespeare uses Hamlet as the reflection of the audience in order to authenticate the actuality of their errors and to understand more about human nature. In more ways than one, Hamlet is the key to the center of the human conscience. In his play Hamlet, William Shakespeare proves the vast limitation of the human condition by strategically characterizing Hamlet as a confused, inert and lost soul, making the character of Hamlet one who seeks honesty, yet is overcome by his own deception and the deception of his society.
Only Shakespeare was able to realize that a person’s true character is revealed when they are brought into an unknown world which is impossible for the person to control. For example, Hamlet is forced by society and his human condition to feel utter responsibility to avenge his father’s murder by his own uncle, King Claudius, who took over his father’s throne. It is in this tragically unexpected tragedy where Hamlet now is driven to seek the truth behind this murder, but it is in his own nature to doubt himself and cover up his vulnerability and fear of what is to come with a facade of deception and madness.
He is naturally a contemplative man, so this fear of the unknown and his brutal honesty do not play towards his favor in any way. “You would play upon me, you would seem to know my stops, you would pluck out the heart of my mystery, you would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass, and there is much music, excellent voice, in this little organ, yet cannot you make it speak. ‘Sblood, do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you cannot play upon me. – Hamlet (Act 3, scn ii) In this scene from Act 3, Hamlet grows increasingly impatient and paranoid with Guildenstern to a point where even the slightest reference that is made to Hamlet’s tragic situation is seen as betrayal. His raw honesty and rampant thoughts cause him to fall into the traps of constant disappointment which eventually leads to his demise. These strong character flaws cause for his constant search of truth from the chaotic world around him, but also cause for his subtle changes in character throughout the play.
Although he is acting upon his father’s murder the way almost every man in a position such as his would, he is constantly running into obstacles which take him off track of his initial goal and cause numerous sub-conflicts. Although Hamlet’s brutal honesty and sense of falsehood eventually lead to his tragic downfall, this whole hearted honesty comes to play a crucial role when pleadingly trying to convince his mother, the newlywed wife of King Claudius, to escape the clasp of the deceiving and scheming King. Confess your love to heaven, repent what’s past, avoid what is to come, and do not spread the compost on the weeds to make them ranker…good night. But go not to my uncle’s bed; assume a virtue, if you have not. ” * Hamlet (Act 3, scn vi) Unfortunately, Hamlet’s impulse and dire need to escape his declining sense of power over his life and the life of others leads him to make the wrong decisions when stuck at a crossroads.
At this crossroads, the tragic hero, Hamlet, has the opportunity to choose a path of redemption and peace or a life of deception and pain, but his cluttered mind that constantly grows more corrupt loses sight of his true self and chooses the wrong path. Shakespeare chose to characterize Hamlet as a man who succumbs to the outside forces of his world. Hamlet finds no clearer way to handle his issues except suggest that the easiest way to deal with them is to commit suicide. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them. To die, to sleep—no more—and by sleep to say we end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to. ” – Hamlet (Act III, scn i) Shakespeare tactically makes Hamlet a man overpowered by nature and his environment which is made clear in his radical actions which interfere with his true beliefs.
Much like the people living in England during the sixteenth century, Hamlet was too weak to sustain the pressures of superficial society. He comes face to face with the feebleness when he views the player in the castle and says, “O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I! It is not monstrous that this player here, but in a fiction, in a dream of passion could force his soul so to his own conceit that from her working visage waned, tears in his eyes, distraction in’s aspect, a broken voice, and his whole function suiting with forms of his conceit?
And all for nothing? ” * Hamlet, Act II, scn ii) At this point in Hamlet, Shakespeare is making the audience have sympathy for Hamlet because he fully understands that he is stuck in a tragic situation, but more importantly, he is highlighting one of the biggest themes of the play and the real world—the fear of failure, a fear that causes people to commit actions that they do not believe in.
When someone like Hamlet loses everything they once cherished, that person comes in full contact with the biggest tragedy of all, which is the fact that humans are prone to failure and they cannot overpower nature, no matter how clever a lie or scheme may seem. Hamlet, although having suffered the flaws of a tragic hero, was a man of honesty and contemplation, but society’s influence on power turned his life head first towards his decline.