Sonata in two Acts

“…there is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so” (II, ii, 250)

Hamlet is saying more than he realizes here. He tells this to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, but fails to grasp just what he has said.

Hamelet’s predicament is one rife with “bad”, but Hamlet fails to see the truth in his own words and realize that his own thoughts are leading him astray. Whether or not he is indeed playing mad, putting on an “antic disposition”, Hamlet’s own thinking leading up to the third act is doomed to lead him down a path upon which he will only encounter more “bad”.

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1 Response to Sonata in two Acts

  1. Señor Fizz says:

    I like your choice for a quote. This quote, and most of that dialogue, show us how Hamlet is thinking, what he’s feeling about Denmark, and how he feels about how he’s been acting. Hamlet feels like he is trapped in Denmark (not being able to go back to Wittenberg) by his Mother and Claudius, but he also feels like he is trapped by knowing that Claudius killed Hamlet Sr. as well as his overall thinking; his mind is wrought from all of his thinking and contemplating. He wants to kill Claudius, but he knows that he can’t because that would cause many more problems for him and would likely entail death for Hamlet.

    I feel like this summary of the dialogue explains it quite well:
    “When Hamlet calls Denmark a prison, therefore, the metaphor is apt. He is mentally and physically confined by the gaze of the king and his agents, and he feels trapped in the court’s general degradation—”Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” as Marcellus had said [see p. 135].

    Hamlet is a prisoner of his own thinking, and of his knowledge that his stepfather is a fratricide and his mother incestuous. When he states that “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so,” he’s not indulging in ethical relativism as much as wishing for blissful ignorance. He’s also implicitly damning the naïveté of the king’s new yes-men.”

    I find it quite humorous that after Hamlet says that Denmark is a prison because of is thoughts, Rosencrantz pipes back and asks if it’s from Hamlet’s “Ambition.” It’s ironic when we see characters say things like this because in actuality, they are describing themselves. We see R&G saying Hamlet feels Denmark is a prison due to his large ambition for the throne; Polonius dispatches spies to make sure Laertes isn’t goofing off with women in Wittenberg, whereas this is probably caused because that’s how Polonius was at that age; Later we see Polonius commenting on Hamlet’s reaction to Ophelia ignoring him, which reinforces the idea of Polonius being a “ladies man”. We also see characters like Gertrude who says that she believes Hamlet is being driven mad by her hasty marriage to Claudius, which shows her own feeling of guilt.

    Sorry for going off in a bit of a tangent…. I got carried away… lol.

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