“Go, bid the soldiers shoot”

I’d like to post one last thing to cap of my whirlwind summary of my thoughts on Hamlet, as I approach the end of the unit.
I’d like to simply consider the play as a whole, and voice some of my thoughts about it.

Hamlet was a remarkable story. Naturally, it followed the typical themes of a Shakespearean tragedy, but Hamlet seems to take them so much further. Perhaps this seems to be so only because so much more has been done with this play, and we have uncovered so much more meaning to it than we have with others of Shakespeare. I find this rather interesting. Is it simply because it is longer? I’m tempted to say no. I feel it is only because we have devoted so much more time to it. Hamlet is one of the most studied works of literature in the English language. I feel that if we were to spend as much time with another of the bard’s works as we have with Hamlet, we could uncover just as much searchable meaning and depth (not to say that we have found none in Shakespeare’s other works, just not as much as in Hamlet).

However, for the time being, we dwell on the meaning of Hamlet. Now, the meaning of Hamlet is not something easily categorized. After all, there has been so much meaning to Hamlet uncovered by scholars and other literary types. But, for a moment I’d like to speak about the meaning I have gleaned from my reading of Hamlet.

I see Hamlet as a story of (among other things) self-exploration and discovery. Although Hamlet spends much of the play concerned with the affairs of others, I think he is, throughout the course of the play, on a journey into himself, and discovering who he really is. The only catch being: I don’t see Hamlet as ever reaching an end to his journey of self-discovery. He dies too soon, and while his last words are quite prophetic (see my last post), I don’t think he fully understood himself and his place in the world before he passed.

The Hamlet mad/not mad debate is a popular point of argument for the play. I rest comfortably on the “not mad” side. I do not believe Hamlet was mentally unwell; rather, he was confused. He did not yet understand who he was. And even today, I think such a state is misinterpreted as a form of mental illness. Hamlet was a victim of terrible events, but they did not drive him to madness. He simply needed time, and perhaps some outside aid to help him sort out his thoughts and realize where he fit into the situations around him. Unfortunately for Hamlet, such aid was not available to him, and he slowly spiraled (through what I believe is only partially fault of his own) into the events that ultimately brought about his demise.

“To Be or Not to Be”, of course, is Hamlet’s greatest exploration into himself and his own death, and furthermore. his own non-existence. I wrote about the difference between death and non-existence; “not to be”, on one of our Hamlet quizzes. I feel that Hamlet, in his soliloquy, comes to the realization that death and non-existence are two different thing, for in death, unconscious thought may still play a role in the form of dreams (“what dreams may come”), and such thought is inescapable, creating what I think Hamlet sees as a sort of undesirable afterlife. After all, it is thinking that makes things good or bad. No, Hamlet peruses sheer non-existence, not to be, where there is no thought, no action, no noise (the rest is silent), nothing whatsoever. Hamlet realizes that thought and thinking is what ultimately caused the troubles of him and those around him ,and to escape such thought would be salvation. Sadly, thought I see this to be the conclusion Hamlet reaches, he is unable to bring about his own salvation. He only grazes the tip of the iceberg before he is thrown into further chaos, and becomes unable to shed any more light on  the matter.

I think I’ve made clear that I have a certain fondness for Hamlet, praising him as sane and profound. I may very well be biased in favour as Hamlet, having played him in our class readings of the play. However, being an actor myself, I think this is one of the best ways to truly understand a character. To perform them is to know them, and know their thoughts. And I think I started to glimpse Hamlet’s thoughts as I spoke his lines, which has led me to all these conclusions about him. I remain firmly of the opinion that Hamlet was good, and wise, and capable of much more than he had time for.

Indeed, Hamlet was a remarkable play. These are just some of my musings brought about by reading it. All in all, it proved to be an excellent text, and certainly my favourite Shakespearean play read for school. I apologize for having written so much in this summary post here, and if you’ve gotten down here after reading it all, I thank you, and hope you gained something from it.

There won’t be much more about Hamlet on here, unless I end up posting my song. For now, I leave the discussion to you – what are your final thoughts on Hamlet, both the character and the play?

That is the question.

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One Response to “Go, bid the soldiers shoot”

  1. I share your fondness for this play and we are definitely not alone in our beliefs about his sanity. You make some interesting observations about the benefits of role playing in this excellent post.

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