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The plot being borrowed from the ancient legends, its adaptation according to the public requests, determined the topics and the ideas of the tragedy. The play has a lot of counterpoints, so each generation can find the truth in keeping with existing social issues. That is why the play remains applicable nowadays.
The theme of revenge is in the centre of the drama. Hero’s hesitation of committing requital has profound reasons. First of all, Hamlet is hesitating because he is humanist, influenced by the progressive ideas of that time – Prince of Denmark was the student of the university. On the other hand, he understands clearly that he cannot confront all that evil, existing in the walls of Elsinore and spread throughout the land. Some critics are intended to think that Freud’s theory of Oedipus complex is acceptable here as well. Hamlet’s grief, his mother’s indifference, cabal and evil make the hero experience insanity.
The climax of the drama is Hamlet’s soliloquy. Hamlet’s “To be or not to be…” means “To fight. Or not to fight…”, “To pretend, or not to pretend…” and what not, even his doubt if he should confess his feelings to Ophelia or not.
Hamlet says: “The time is out of joint”. After the truth about his father revealed to him, he feels that his time is limited. He decides to put on a mask, to pretend, unless he takes his chance either to grin and bear, or to arise for the sake of truth. The prince says:
I essentially am not in madness,
But mad in craft.
(III. IV. 187-8.)
“Antic disposition”, i.e. antic face is something critics deal with while investigating other plays by Shakespeare, e.g. Romeo and Juliet, Richard II, Henry VI. The notion of antic face means a mask. Behind it mystery, doubt, passion, fear, everything that the heroes believe in is hidden.
It necessary to admit that the story had historical background. These were the ancient legends and Danish chronicles, dating back to the XII century. Thankful audience was another factor, that characterised theatrical life of that time. Being a director of the Globe Theatre, Shakespeare himself knew how to please the spectators and had his own vision. Being a dramatic hero, Hamlet himself embodies all the features of progressive youth. Perhaps, this was a chance to show how dissentients were treated by Church Monarchs, how children were treated by their parents and elderly. Mind, that only King Claudius and his Court believe that Young Prince, “noble son” of Queen-Mother Gertrude, is of unsound mind.
“…do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, you cannot play upon me,” – these are Hamlet’s words to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Rather interesting fact is that Hamlet is the only one, who speaks prose. However, he is not the one, who had seen the Shadow of the King. In my opinion, though, this detail means not the madness of Prince, nothing, but worthlessness of Claudius’ pretender, another way to call the bluff of others. Dishonour, betrayal, disloyalty, cruelty – Hamlet fails to endure them.
On the other hand, Shakespeare depicts anyone, who faces the problem of choice and succumbs to emotions as a madman. Although, the author is full of compassion to them and preserves the historical truth. What happens to Hamlet? Why does he die? The reason of reliability and verisimilitude, referring to Saxon Grammaticus’ chronicle about young prince Amletus or the play by Thomas Kid and so-called “Ur-Hamlet”. The idea is the triumph of progress and order, even though brought by ancient rivals – in case of the play, the young Norwegian Crown Prince Fortinbras. This is, actually, what happened throughout the history – feud, in-fighting brought countries to the loss of sovereignty. That proves once again the talent of observation and foreseeing of Shakespeare’s genius.
However, now it is important to continue the research by mean0s of deduction. Karl Gustav Jung, one of the prime movers in the field of analytical psychology and gestalt-therapy, specified reflection as a psychological activity, based on particular content of consciousness, an instinct encompassing religion and the search for meaning. According to this, Jung developed the theory of archetypes. Archetype is a kind of an image, derived from the collective unconscious. They include the concept of self (the nucleus of one’s psyche). Karl Jung declared that a personality is made up of: intellect (knowledge and reason), emotions (feelings), sensations and intuition. The balance mental disorders of that kind. On the other hand, the balance between ratio and soul and their displays, make a harmonious personality. Hamlet is the unbalanced young man. But one should keep in mind that the hero acts in the proposed conditions. In addition, it so typical for young people in general. So the heroes, acting side-by-side with Hamlet, do – they act in the proposed conditions. That is why they cannot be regarded as etalon of impartiality and open-mindedness as well. Hamlet himself and his creator – Shakespeare, were the only people to know the truth. Perhaps, herein is his fascination – the ability to hold oneself, to face the fate, being held in the place by his force to redress an injustice, even though being a blade runner - walking on thin ice. So is our perception – readers’ and spectators’ psychology. But that is another sphere already.
The laws of the drama are mainly specified by the stage performance. Somehow this fact is underestimated regardless of classical renaissance drama. On the other hand, the psychology of audience should be taken onto account as well. All these notions together and historical concept compliance demand from the author great accuracy and plausibility. Having the sense of directot’s intuitiveness, Shakespeare definitely knew how to make the readers and actors to trust him, and how to make the audience believe him and his actors. In this case, all the discussions about Hamlet’s insanity lose their significance.
People who suffer mental illnesses or psychogenic disorders are not up to take the plunge. They invent their own world, they try to fool everyone, sometimes they pretend to simulate, but the truth is that they turn in upon themselves. Something of that kind misleads the reader. Anyway, to persuade us in hero’s insanity or his clear state of mind is far from author’s intention. I believe that Hamlet is alert to act like that and his behavior is far from the purity of insanity. The final of the tragedy proves the only moment of revelation. Insanity is revelation. The vision can disguise you, extort you from society, scare or mesmerize you. But still, insanity is a refinement from all things, Hamlet tried to escape from, being ahead of his time. That is what we face every day.