The plot of Hamlet is filled with much action and betrayal, as well as an overload of contemplation, brought forth by the leading character himself. Unfortunately, despite his own wishes, Hamlet is unable to simply accept the driving force in his mind that wants him to avenge his fallen father, resulting in a lengthy period of inactivity on his behalf. Though many claim his inactivity is due to a lack of nerve or opposing moral insight, a more likely solution is simply that Hamlet is not the murderous and impulsive type of human being, instead being more of an intellectual figure.
Proving his own desire to end the life of his uncle Claudius with such dialogue as “O, from this time forth, my thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!” (IV, IV, 65-66), Hamlet continually fails even to attempt to commit the act of murder. Repetitively questioning the end result of his actions, Hamlet is engulfed by the ‘what if’ possibilities that could arise from his murder of the king, resulting in an overall lack of motive to follow through. As Hamlet says, “And thus the native hue of resolution/Is sicklied o’er the with the pale cast of thought” (III,I, 85-86), he becomes too concerned over the possibilities of what could arise afterwards, and in doing so, he contaminates his own thoughts and brings forth hesitation. It is until the very moment before Hamlet’s own demise that he is able to strike down the manipulative king, finally taking charge and getting caught up in the heat of the moment to see things through while he still took breath. With this, it can be interpreted that Hamlet was unable to initiate anything because it was not in his nature; He was an individual who excels in theoretical deliberation, rather than being a figure who took action and brought forth leadership by his own hand.
In the sense of archetypes, Hamlet was a hero profile who fits along the lines of something such as the ‘Philosopher’ or ‘Lost Soul’ archetypal figures. Primarily a philosopher, Hamlet was more likely to evaluate situations rationally, rather than take impulsive action. Comparing Hamlet’s archetype to other characters in the story, Laertes and Fortinbras are used as character foils to amplify and emphasize the defining factors in Hamlet’s behaviour, and through this, Hamlet’s faults become increasingly observable as time progresses. Laertes, being almost the complete opposite of Hamlet as the ‘Warrior’ archetype, is known for his quick action and impulsive temper that brings him into the heat of battle whenever his emotions are triggered. Fortinbras, fitting the ‘Chief’ archetype, is quick to take action when deemed necessary, and his goal-oriented motives are carefully plotted beforehand to ensure that things would be seen through to the best possible solution. As a result of the personality of these two characters, it is clear to see that Hamlet’s hesitation is not a factor of moral standing or external obstacles, but rather, the fact that Hamlet is simply not a fighter, or killer, by nature.
Though there are many other theories that have been presented over time supporting other reasoning for why Hamlet was unable to fulfill his desire for revenge. However, the foundation for other examples is not nearly as rock-solid, resulting in a hit-and-miss concept that leaves their main points of focus with a lack of development. For example, one theory revolves around the thought that Hamlet was being blocked by external obstacles, such as the Swiss guards protecting the King, resulting in the inability to follow through on Claudius’ murder. However, in Act III, Scene III, Claudius presents Hamlet with a perfect opportunity in the church as he prays, and yet, Hamlet decides to avoid the chance. The fact that Hamlet was royalty as well would have presented him with the ability to be able to evade the guards and achieve alone time with the king, allowing for more opportunities for Claudius’ demise. Even if the guards were hesitant to let Hamlet near the king, Hamlet could easily manage to create a situation that could easily grant him entrance, given the right preparation and setup.
Another inconsistent theory is one regarding the fact that Hamlet was unable to persuade himself that it was justified to commit murder, even with the added temptation of revenge. With this assumption, though, there is no direct evidence to approve of the act of murder, and through a variety of portions of dialogue, Hamlet continues to support his desires for revenge and murder even further. Claudius’ murder aside, Hamlet ends up murdering Polonius partway through his endeavours, showing no hesitation to cause harm when he felt threatened. To contradict this theory even further, Hamlet even followed through on arranging the murder of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to prevent them from interfering with his plans anymore than they already had. Through this, it can be said that Hamlet was even becoming more desensitized to the thought of murder, rather than retaining the concept of it being deemed morally incorrect.
With no impulsive bones in his fictional body, Hamlet is a character in a story that proves to the reader that he is deprived of all impulsivity. He is merely a philosopher, void of the ability to break through the boundaries of his own characteristic limitations. Even though he makes his feelings clear with countless cries of his innermost feelings of disgust toward his uncle, those cries are left unanswered, even by himself. Though the fact remains that Hamlet does eventually see his goal achieved, the utter turmoil at that point in the story can really make the reader wonder: Even with Hamlet being able to slay Claudius, regardless of all of his hesitation, did the route he take really end up as a true success in the end? Given all of the misfortunes and casualties along the way from Hamlet’s sheer inactivity, it is very unlikely.
When individuals face misfortune and setbacks in their lives, they strive to find a way to retrieve any lost honour and certainty that keeps their lives balanced and in focus in a number of different ways. Honour, defined as the “honesty, fairness, or integrity in one's beliefs and actions” or as “high respect, in regards to worth, merit and rank”, can be understood in different respects, depending on the perception of the specific individual. Certainty, however, is simply known as the structural inevitability in one’s life; the absolute freedom from doubt or reservation and to have confidence in the indisputable truth of factors that involve themselves in everyday life. Despite possibly knowing the methods to one’s salvation, actually being able to achieve such a feat is a different situation altogether.
In Setting Up the Drums, a poem written by Don McKay, the concept of taking advantage of tragic circumstances in one’s life is greatly emphasized. Don McKay wrote, “All this hardware to recall the mess you left back home and bring it to music and get back to the heart”. From this quotation, it can be acknowledged that McKay is trying to emphasize the fact that people can use their passions, be it drums or other forms of endeavours, as coping mechanisms to bring forth reflection on the issues that are taking place in one’s life, regardless of who the individual is as a person. With the statement, “How music will make itself walk into the terrible stunned air behind the shed where all the objects looked away”, the idea of music, or any activity, can allow for people to bring forth the darker times in their past to review and evaluate how they can make the future more prosperous. Ultimately, such techniques revolving around a person’s favourite passion or pastime can be a defining factor in providing them with the strength, as well as the willpower to press forward toward a future filled with redeemed honour and a refined focus on situational certainty.
The portion of the story Redemption by John Gardner portrays the character Jack Hawthorne as he is engulfed by the guilt of a farm accident, which resulted in the death of his brother. As a result of this, Hawthorne used his passion of playing the French horn as a way of coping through the sadness and despair that consumed his everyday thoughts. Upon attending lessons and practices, Jack was thrust into reality with his level of skill being criticized by his teacher. Despite being shot down, though, Jack was not ready to quit. Music had become the redeeming factor in Hawthorne’s life, and with his new passion, he was trying to move forward and pursue a future free of guilt. Through this, you begin to see a drastic alteration in Jack’s personality; he is no longer willing to simply isolate himself and avoid any and all circumstances around him. Instead, his fighting spirit has been born anew, and he is no longer simply living through the mindset that focussed on the loss of his brother. As a result, Hawthorne reaches a state of rediscovered honour in the sense of his past integrity and beliefs, and the fact that his passion has driven him to developing an objective shows that he has a regained sense of certainty in his life as well. These concepts can easily be generalized to relate to real-life as well, in the sense that when individuals find something they are passionate about, they become empowered to venture further into the depths of the activity to reach new lengths with their skill or enjoyment. Similar to the concepts discussed with Setting Up the Drums, the thought of using a musical instrument or tool to bring forth new motive to persevere is discussed thoroughly, and many individuals in modern day society, and even in the past, follow suit with the very same tactic. In the end, we all strive to pursue that enhanced motive, hoping that it will serve to be more beneficial than anything we have had occurring in our lives beforehand.
Though I have not experienced something as drastic as either one of the novels, music has still contributed to helping me maintain an overall focus on my beliefs and objectives. Throughout my lifetime, more directly through my years of high school, the pressures of friends and homework and trying to find a setting in which I feel comfortable has stretched across my mind for as long as I can remember. From having an anxiety disorder years ago and still experiencing minor effects of it to present day, I have always managed to be an easy target for stress, despite my reluctance to display it. However, even with every situation surrounding me, I have always found that music played a key component in bringing focus to my goals, as well as composure to my thoughts. Whenever something has the tendency to cause frustration, I simply turn on some music or start to play my guitar, and I temporarily leave behind all troubles and obstacles that I may be facing. With this, I can return to the situations later on feeling revitalized, ready to take on the task at hand with a clear perspective on my own sense of honour, as well as a firm grasp on the certainties of the environments around me. As a result of the positive benefits of music that I have experienced, I can firmly support the concept of music being extremely cooperative in helping anybody restore honour and certainty in their own lives as well.
Whether we choose to actually take initiative to follow through with the methods we come up with to overcome our misfortunes, or if we choose to let them ruin our lives, the final choice is ours alone. However, it can be said that music, or passions in general, will be there to catch us when we fall, and dust us off if we choose to get back up. In Setting Up the Drums, music is used to retrace the steps of the past and to assist the portrayed individual in trying to embrace the possibility of a future void of the calamities of the past. With Redemption, we see the potential of a man, driven by his musical passions, desperate to regain the life he once had, and ultimately, regain his own honour and perspective as an individual. In both pieces of literature, the characters portrayed have lost their focus on life, as well as their honour; a piece of their very essences. Through the drums and the French horn, both stories depict a hope for the future, and in conclusion, revitalization to each individual’s fundamental nature. When life chooses to knock us down, we can choose to fight back, struggling desperately to reverse the setbacks we experience throughout our everyday lives, knowing that the power of song will help us through the journey, so long as we let it.
"Claudius' Prayer" Speech
Act 3, Scene 3, Lines 37-73
Claudius has just ordered Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to accompany Hamlet to England, and Polonius has just made haste to Gertrude's closet to be ready to eavesdrop on her future conversation with Hamlet. Meanwhile...