From the innumerable works of William Shakespeare, Hamlet is one that seems to be written about the most. Being the longest of Shakespeare’s tragedies, Hamlet is a work that seems to be full of wisdom and insight, as well as many famous quotes. In ‘The Essay of Death: An Essay on Hamlet’ by G. Wilson Knight, the intricacies of the human emotion as portrayed by the lead character, is described and analyzed. The play aptly provides wisdom and insight into the human emotion and mind, especially when the mind is wrought with suffering and pain.
Very early in the play, we are introduced to the pain that Hamlet suffers from the tragedies that have taken place. In fact, when we are first introduced to him, he is in mourning of his recently deceased father (the King of Denmark). It seems that he is suffering a lot from the loss of his father. In his essay ‘The Embassy of Death: An Essay on Hamlet”, Wilson Knight analyzes this suffering as:
“ Alone in the gay glitter of the court, silhoutted against brilliance, robustness, health, and happiness, is the pale, black-robed Hamlet, mourning. When first we meet him, his words point the essential inwardness of his suffering”.
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This quote explains that Hamlet is very upset over his father’s death, and shows it by wearing black robes. As the play advances, we realize that Hamlet’s pain is not only from the death of his father. Hamlet’s mother, Queen Gertrude, decided to marry his uncle, King Claudius, who has taken control of the throne of Denmark. Not only did Hamlet lose his right to throne, but also his own mother betrayed him by marrying her recently deceased father’s brother. It is at this point that we fully realize how much pain Hamlet is really going through. Wilson Knight explains that Hamlet has lost his entire sense of purpose, and has given up on his life.
The essay clarifies this misery that Hamlet is feeling because of both his parents. His father, who he was very close to, is dead and his mother has forgotten her husband and married his brother, which Wilson Knight equates to as an act of incest. To add to his current state of chaos, Hamlet encounters the ghost of his father, who tells him that his uncle (the new King of Denmark and now his step-father), was the one who murdered him. This really upsets Hamlet, and makes him to lose his mind.
These major events in Hamlet’s life leave him traumatized and clueless as to what he should do next. These problems had a large influence in causing Hamlet to go insane. Although written many years ago, Shakespeare notices the significance of traumatizing events, and how they play a role in a person’s sanity. Although in Shakespeare’s time there was little known about the human mind and emotion, he had the insight and wisdom to create a play that deals with the effect of traumatizing events on the human mind.
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