In act two, Hamlet presents a self loathing soliloquy, reflecting upon his hesitation in taking revenge upon King Claudius. Shamed and inspired by the courageous tone of a play actor’s speech, Hamlet vows to catch the King’s guilt though a play of his own. However, while his plan may be viable, Hamlet’s reasoning suggests a tainted mind.
The speech immediately focuses on Hamlet’s praise for the actor and disdain for his own lack of action. He displays a deep envy for the character’s passion, while disparaging himself for lacking the same fervor. “Had he the motive and the cue for passion that I have? He would drown the stage in tears.” In reaction to his envy, Hamlet devises a vengeful plan. However, while indeed witty, attempting to sight someone’s conscious hardly qualifies as the act of passion and significance that Hamlet so yearned for earlier in his soliloquy. This contradiction insinuates Hamlet’s inability to register emotion on a physical scale. While his mind can generate phrases and ideas of articulacy and beauty, it’s too tainted and preoccupied that it can not transfer the eloquent words he recites into reality. Thus, time and time again he will completely ignore the task at hand.
Hamlet’s plot also suggests a weakness in his ability to understand human disposition. He plans on catching a grimace of evil or worry upon Claudius, believing that the sight of his own actions will prompt the King’s emotions. “I’ll observe his looks, I’ll tent him to the quick.” So Hamlet’s important scheme hinges on a man publicly revealing his inner sentiment. While of course, such a notion is unreliable and impetuous, Hamlet trusts its validity. “The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.”
A man that would commit such a terrible crime, as that accused of Claudius, would hardly be affected, at least externally, by Hamlet’s plan. Hamlet obviously lacks a full understanding of the complexity of man. He evolved earlier in act one, when he so forcibly learned and noted that “There’s never a villain dwelling in Denmark but he’s an arrant knave.” Evidently, his mental evolution lacks completion, as true human nature is virtually unbeknownst to Hamlet.
These imperfections, while proving a tainted mind, also serve to accentuate Hamlet’s character. Not often can a man speak his ideas so eloquently, yet express them with little resemblance, and understand them with even less accuracy. Perhaps the contradiction suggests a direct correlation between Hamlet’s secluded upbringing and schooling and his lack of understanding of human nature?
Courtney from Study Moose
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