Hamlet = daddy's boy

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I view Hamlet as spoiled daddy's boy. Who is lost without his father companionship and guidance. Who is afraid to act on his father well and rightful vengance even after he knows the allegation of true (after the play). It takes a near death experience to make Hamlet realize that every "dog will have his day" and that fate gives him opportunity. But that oppurtunity (Clauduis kneel trying to pray) has passed him and his fate is doom. That's just one opinion. What do you think?

-- Nick (nic4@lehigh.edu), December 03, 1999


In a way you have a good point, definetly arguable though. Hamlet did treat Ophelia very poorly, like a spoiled boy would treat his girlfriend. But back then, the prince did have a certain "right" to be spoiled, so maybe he was just acting like he was taught to. He is definetly insecure and afraid, he4s just seen his father4s ghost, his mother married the murderer in less than a month, so maybe when he had the oppurtunity to kill Claud he just didn4t feel ready. We must recognize that Hamlet is an indignant and unsure guy, we can4t expect it to be easy for him just because he4s spoiled.

-- Larissa (tvmaniac31@hotmail.com), December 03, 1999.

I think you are definitely right in thinking that Hamlet was a spoilt brat- some-one finally agrees with me! Think of it this way- what other explanation is there for the way Hamlet treated his mother in the closet scene? He was rude and violent towards her, having to be told by his father's ghost to be more considerate- ironic, don't you think, considering Hamlet senior should be the angrier of the two as it is his wife that has remarried so quickly. Despit being spoilt though, I think that Hamlet is actually very intelligent-maybe he could have put it to good use if he had not been so consumed with selfishness, jealousy and hatred....

-- Farah Ali (s.ali@tinyworld.co.uk), December 04, 1999.

Just a thought: Has anyone ever tried to kill their uncle? Kill their mother's husband? Or murder the reigning King? Or kill any person? I may be seeing this too simply, though I am not being sarcastic (OK, maybe a little overly dramatic for the emphasis of the point). Perhaps there was no other way for the plot to unfold but to have Hamlet 'paralyzed' with thought and consideration (I don't mean the 'kindly' type either, for he was not at all, though intentionally so). What would happen if he did kill Claudius and lived? What if his mother had lived as well? One problem though is that if Hamlet thought he had some time to perform the dread command of his father, he should have known that he was to be sent to England by the time that he stealthily observed Claudius in the confessional. As you point out this would have been the perfect time to act had it not been for the apparent repentance of his uncle. Other than this: it is true that his mother was exceedingly doting, (as told to Larertes by Claudius). And, it is likely that his father favored him as well (of which Kenneth Branagh gives us a not-so-obvious-to-this-point, tiny hint by way of his 'reflections' back to Hamlet's father, mother and he at play). My guess is that the son of a King would necessarily be overly looked after, especially one that was such a favorite of the masses, courtiers (again, Claudius to Laertes), mother and in all likelihood, father as well. Spoiled? Probably, yes. But is this at the core of his 'tragic flaw'?

-- gkandia (gkandia@prodigy.net), December 12, 1999.

I agree. Hamlet is no more spoiled than Fortinbras by way of royal privilege. He does, however, seem to have led a more sheltered life. His life has been consumed with education and theater. He has never had to develop the kind of thought process required to kill a man. His background does give him the awareness that killing a reigning monarch can be hazardous to your health (not to mention your soul). He is overwhelmed with what is being asked of him and needs time to adapt to the situation (commit murder, probably die for it, possibly be damned for it, have a nice day). Now Laertes and Fortinbras are totally different animals. Laertes states that he will kill and be damned and does not give a rat's ass about it. His revenge is all-important. Fortinbras lies to his uncle and gets a whole bunch of guys killed ("casual slaughter") for the sake of his, what?, revenge?, familial honor? (maybe he got a visit from his dad, too!). In any case, he either doesn't believe in damnation or doesn't care. Hamlet does, and he knows that's what is slowing him down in the revenge business.

-- mikken (mikken@neo.rr.com), December 13, 1999.

I agree that Hamlet appears a bit spoiled, in the Branagh film especially; but I have to wonder how old he really was intended to be. Even though he may physicaly be old enough to show a little more maturity, I think he really wasn't ready to have his life changed, or especially to loose his father. Remember that when his father dies, Hamlet does not take the throne, why not? Isn't he heir apparent? In fact, his mother has to convince him to stay and not go back to school. I think that without his father's guidance, Hamlet wasn't ready to take on such large issues. He must have felt that he had some big shoes to fill. After all, he has the same name as his father. Part of my proof on this point, is how protective he is of his mother, and his suggestive relationship with her. In short, Hamlet seems to me like a young child. His maner of dealing with problems, as well seems childish: pretending to be mad! Shakespeare was one of the first writers to bring psycology and human nature into text. I think that how this character delt with extreme circumstances, was part of Shakespeare's intreauge in this area.

-- Kat (kitkat_6215@hotmail.com), June 20, 2001.

I beg your pardon, but LOOK at what this boy is dealing with and judge not unless you’ve been there, or even part-way there. Go lose your father before he should die. Go watch your mother marry your dad’s brother a few weeks after your dad dies. Go see your dad’s ghost. Go try and kill your uncle, and your president/prime minister/king. Go get dumped by your girlfriend because her father told her to because he thinks you’re a using and abusing sex maniac. Go get spied on and interfered with and questioned with no Big Brother prize at the end of it. Go do it all in four months and see how you like it and react.

I’d feel a hell-of-a-lot better if I yelled at a few people. Moreover, I do fencing: it feels real good sometimes, too, to jab a sharp, pointy object at someone :)

Hamlet is a teenager, about seventeen or eighteen. That’s what constitutes a ‘young man’ in the Renaissance. He is consistently described as, and called, young. Thirty (which he is sometimes taken to be purely because of the gravedigger’s few very debateable lines about time in V.i.138-178) was definitely middle-aged. In fact if you made it to thirty you were lucky. Nobody, but nobody, especially of Hamlet’s class, was still studying at university at thirty. You left school and went to university as young as eleven or twelve. By the time you were in your late teens you were out fighting battles, or managing your estates, or filling important roles in the Church, especially as much of the previous generation had already died off.

Hamlet, though, doesn’t get the throne because Denmark’s kings are elected and the electorate elects Claudius. Because we know Hamlet is popular with the people, he is presumably not elected because he is considered too young still, when Claudius is available, and also because he’s away at Wittenberg, so not in Denmark to push his case.

(How is it spoilt/childish for him to want to go back to Wittenberg, anyway? He came from there. Living away from home is quite normal, especially if you’re not getting on with your family. And he wants to go study, not party.)

Hamlet’s nature is to treat people with kindness and courtesy and friendliness (as we see with Horatio, Marcellus and Bernardo, the players, the gravedigger, his greeting of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, for a few lines with Ophelia in III.i), unless they betray or hurt him or his. Claudius, Gertrude, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are all fairly clear, yes? The ones we have problems with are Ophelia and Polonius.

Even with the best intentions, Ophelia hurts and betrays him in III.i. Until then, even though she’s dumped him, he’s polite. Afterwards, verbally he’s not very brutal with her, and I see no indication for violence in the action. And killing her father is quite unintentional.

As for Polonius, by II.ii Hamlet seems to have found out that it’s Polonius who has taken Ophelia from him. That’s a major point to the Jepthah reference - the guy sacrificing his daughter (JUDGES, 10:6 - 12:7). II.ii.181-186 indicate he also knows why: that Polonius thinks he’ll just use Ophelia sexually. Which is downright insulting to someone who values the intellect, self-control and courtesy as much as Hamlet.

So Hamlet is a bit rude to Polonius in II.ii and III.ii, especially as Polonius thinks he’s nuts anyway, so won’t be, and as we see isn’t, really offended or hurt. But Hamlet does not intentionally harm him. Swords and knives were the Renaissance sunglasses for nobles. They were everyday street-wear. You wore them all the time and used them when you needed to. But Hamlet doesn’t use his for months, though they’re right there to hand. If he were spoilt and childish he would. When he does, in III.iv, it is because he thinks Polonius is Claudius and his moment to avenge has come at last. And let’s face it: Polonius, bless his misguided, meddlesome heart, is asking for it. And it’s proof Hamlet isn’t chicken or procrastinating in III.iii, but angry and overwrought enough to really mean what he says about wanting to give Claudius a one-way express ride to hell.

Why doesn’t he do it sooner? Well I reckon one really good reason is that a monarch is almost never without people around him - attendants, courtiers and so on. And Hamlet has no evidence of Claudius’ guilt. Even “The Mousetrap” only proves it to himself and Horatio. III.iii is probably the first time Hamlet finds he could do it without being seen. As he dies at the end, Hamlet is concerned about the “name” he will leave behind him, his reputation. He doesn’t want to be remembered as the Prince who committed treason against his own king and country.

And of course then there’s that little problem of damnation - and honestly, we’re talking about eternity in hell. Revenge is a sin (the “turn the other cheek” stuff), killing is a big sin, killing the anointed king is, if possible, a bigger sin.

Also, Hamlet loves his mother (as her son, for God’s sake, not her lover). Now look again at the Hecuba thing in II.ii. Hamlet requests of the player, ‘Come to Hecuba’, and the player obliges. It’s double-edged, like so much in HAMLET. Yes, it’s how Gertrude should feel about Old Hamlet’s death. But it’s also how she could feel if Hamlet kills Claudius as Pyrrhus killed Priam, Hecuba’s husband, in revenge for his father, Achilles.

Hamlet compares himself to Fortinbras because he’s tough on himself (again, not a trait of the spoilt), but that doesn’t mean we should: Fortinbras just doesn’t have anything quite like Hamlet’s problems. Fortinbras is off killing nameless Poles, not his own flesh and blood and his king. And conquest of foreign lands doesn’t have the soul-damning potential of Hamlet’s chore.

As for Laertes, the lad is just full of self-indulgent bombast: if anyone’s spoilt or childish, it’s him. That’s one point to V.i.239-294 and the ‘dog will have his day’ thing. Laertes talks so much about what he would do that we all believe him. But what does he really do? He bursts in in IV.v, armed and backed by a powerful rabble, fully believing Claudius is responsible for his father’s death. If he were as true as his word, he should run Claudius straight through. But Gertrude, an unarmed woman, can hold him back, and then Claudius can talk him round. Then Laertes allows Claudius to corrupt him so that when he does come to kill Hamlet, it’s through lying, scheming, cheating, and dishonour. Hamlet never stoops to those methods, at least. And anyway, even if Laertes had killed Claudius (how happy for everyone) it still wouldn’t have been his own flesh and blood, and his mother’s husband.

Pretending to be mad isn’t really childish. Long before Hamlet, and even Saxo, the HAMLET source, the idea was ancient Roman: check out the Lucius Junius Brutus story in Livy, end of Book I. Brutus was a young fella who feigned madness in much the same way and for much the same reasons as Hamlet. (Hamlet’s probably even read it, and thinks pretending craziness is just crazy enough to work!)

Of course, the fact that he does it has more to do with dramatic convention and effect than with Hamlet’s character; but hey, it works doesn’t it? Under cover of it, Hamlet can camouflage his true feelings and true intentions for months. And he’s good at it. He’s convinced half the HAMLET audiences for 400 years that he really is mad.

Seriously, though, for his age Hamlet is remarkably mature. And for his position, as an only son and only prince, he isn’t spoilt. His position confers some privilege but gives him no ‘right’ to be spoilt. It actually gives him responsibility - personally, familially, and with regard to the nation - of which he shows he is aware and which he tries to fulfil (I.ii.158, I.ii.222-224, I.ii.255-256, I.v.196-197, III.i..56-60, III.iv.151-157 and 173-179, V.ii.63-70 and 343-344 and 349-350 and 359-363). He is ready to have his life changed, because although it is hard he faces the changes, thinks about them, copes with them as best he can, learns from them. He’s a young man who, thrust into extraordinary and devastating circumstances, deals with them extraordinarily. He doesn’t mean or want to hurt anyone but Claudius; and though others do suffer, it is Claudius’ fault rather than Hamlet’s.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), February 18, 2002.

Hamlet did not kill claudius while kneeling to pray because of this fact: He knows that he wants revenge, yet killing claudius while he is praying seperates him from the secular world, and makes claudius at one with god. This belief is commonplace in jacobian and shakespearean attitudes; so killing him at this time would send him to the gates of heaven instead of hell.

This would otherwise, effectively be doing claudius a favour in the name of senior hamlet. This would not be the type of revenge hamlet is looking for.

-- tom (16 years) (daytime_television@yahoo.com), March 09, 2004.

He was simply playing a part in a tragic role that he created in his mind to justify what horrific act he was about to part take on. He treated opelia bad merely to stay in character.

-- benjamin jenkins (jnjnb05@aol.com), February 24, 2005.

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