Prince Hamlet: Coward or Nobleman?

Prince Hamlet: Coward or Nobleman?

  • Submitted By: Aurelius
  • Date Submitted: 02/16/2009 10:20 PM
  • Category: English
  • Words: 1168
  • Page: 5
  • Views: 958

In Shakespeare’s renowned play Hamlet, its central character, Hamlet the Younger, is filled with a great deal of indecision and reluctance to act. Interestingly, Hamlet’s hesitant behaviour is much an exercise of nobility.

Before enquiring into the truth of this statement, it is necessary to understand the European beliefs of the time at which the play was written. Influenced by classical Christian thinking, the ideal ‘noble man’ would have exhibited a high quality in the elevation of the mind. For instance, a person of noble birth would have been expected to display superiority in will that was unlike the animalistic imprudence of the lower class.

Hamlet’s prestigious query “To be or not to be” is incredibly meaningful as it exemplifies his double-sided method of thinking, and is a dominant attribute of his character which forms the basis of all his decisions throughout the play. Such a statement implies hypothetical investigation, in which one would estimate the results of committing or not committing an action, like weighing out the pros and cons of each course of action. In a conversation with his lover Ophelia, he confesses “Thus conscience does make cowards...thus the native hue of resolution Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought”, acknowledging the fact that his deep contemplation and moral questioning is as cumbersome as it is exhausting, offering further time for his enemies to plot against him.

Hamlet, too, is depicted as a man governed by principles. We are given the impression that he wishes to attain justice but at the same time not abuse his own morality. In a case when Hamlet is given the opportunity to kill the defenseless King while praying, he soon goes against his immediate urges, clearly stating “Why this is hire and salary, not revenge”, elevating himself above low level thinking (much unlike Claudius in his decision to kill Hamlet the Elder). It may seem cowardly on the surface, but Hamlet is true in his argument, “I,...

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