Hamlet by William Shakespeare: Introduction

Hamlet is the first tragedy in Shakespeare's series of great tragedies which is believed to be published in between 1601 and 1603. This play is one of his successful, perfect and best plays ever known. Hamlet centers on the problems arising from love, death, and betrayal, without offering the audience a decisive and positive resolution to these complications for Hamlet himself is ambiguous and the answers to these problems are complex.

William Shakespeare

In Shakespearean tragedies, the characters are presented with abnormal state of mind. But Shakespeare does not allow this abnormal state to be dominant action. It provokes the suffering to the protagonist. The supernatural elements in the dramas of Shakespeare are subservient to the main action. It provokes the protagonist to do certain actions. Shakespeare links the supernatural elements with the natural. Hamartia leads the downfall of the characters in Shakespearean plays. Hamartia is a kind of force that is already inherited in characters which works as a spiritual force. And it ultimately leads to destruction. The use of this force makes the Shakespearean tragedy different from the Greek tragedies.

It was a common tradition during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to borrow ideas and stories from earlier literary works. Shakespeare could have taken the story of Hamlet from several possible sources, including a twelfth-century Latin history of Denmark, a prose work by the French writer and Thomas Kyd's Ur-Hamlet.

In the original version Hamlet’s uncle murders the prince’s father, marries his mother, and claims the throne. The prince pretends to be weak to throw his uncle off guard, then manages to kill his uncle in revenge. But, Shakespearean version varies making his Hamlet a philosophical-minded prince who delays taking action because his knowledge of his uncle’s crime is so uncertain.

Shakespearean Hamlet can be studied as a Revenge play influenced by Seneca, the father of this genre. Shakespeare has revived the Senecan tragedy, in this sense, it is a Renaissance play. Here, Shakespeare uses the scene of violence, killing, murdering and bloodshed as Seneca used in his tragedy to satisfy the need of Elizabethan audiences. This revival made it Renaissance play. As a Renaissance character, Hamlet is suffering from the hangover between the medieval belief of superstition and reason, the belief of Renaissance. But, as a Renaissance student, he doubts on the appearance of the ghost. Hanging on the verge of scientific and superstitious belief is one of the features of Renaissance man. He doubts on the ghosts and thinks that it may be devil attempts to lure him to the crime. As a Renaissance character, Hamlet feels deeply and watches others to see what their feelings are. As a student of psychology, he experiments the crime through the similar story that matches to his father's killing. He wants to take revenge against his uncle when the crime is identified. And man centered philosophy of the Renaissance could be seen in the figure of Hamlet.

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