Hamlet: Growing Pains


In the epic tragedy Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, Prince Hamlet is
entrapped in a world of evil that is not of his own creation. He must oppose
this evil, which permeates his seemingly star-struck life from many angles. His
dealings with his father\'s eerie death cause Hamlet to grow up fast. His family,
his sweetheart, and his school friends all appear to turn against him and to
ally themselves with the evil predicament in which Hamlet finds himself. Hamlet
makes multiple attempts to avenge his father\'s murder, but each fails because
his father\'s murder, but each fails because his plans are marred by very human
shortcomings. It is these shortcomings that Hamlet is a symbol of ordinary
humanity and give him the room he needs to grow.
The Hamlet that Shakespeare begins to develop in Act I is a typical
mortal, bowed down by his human infirmities and by a disgust of the evils in a
world which has led him to the brink of suicide. Hamlet voices his thoughts on
the issue: ‘O that this too too solid flesh would melt...\' (I. ii. 135). He
is prevented from this drastic step only by a faith which teaches him that God
has ‘fix\'d/ His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter\' (I. ii. 131-2). To Hamlet appears
his dead father\'s spirit, and he must continue to live in the ‘unweeded garden,
/ That grows to seed\' in order to fulfill the obligation he has to his father
(I.ii. 135-6).
Making Hamlet more a story of personal growth than a dark murder mystery,
Shakespeare emphasizes the emotional, rather than the physical, obstacles that
Prince must face in accomplishing his goal. Immediately, Hamlet must determine
whether the ghost speaks the truth, and to do so he must cope with theological
issues. He must settle the moral issue of private revenge. He must learn to
live in a world in which corruption could be as near as the person who gave
birth to him. He also must control the human passions within him which are
always threatening his plans. There are no more sobering issues than these
which would catalyze growth in any human.
Hamlet\'s widely recognized hamartia, or tragic flaw, is his inability to
make decisions on subjects with consequences of any weight. That he is aware of
his stagnation in such situations does prove to be helpful in defeating this
flaw. After passing up three oppotuities to entrap Claudius in the third act
(the nunnery scene on which the king was eavesdropping, during The Murder of
Gonzago, the scene in Gertrude\'s closet), Hamlet berates himself because of his
indecisiveness: ‘Why (must ) I live to say ‘This thing\'s to do; / Sith I have
cause and will and strength and means / To do\'t\' (IV.iv. 44-46). Hamlet
realizes that his strength and opportunity are of no avail until he feels
morally right in following through on his vengeful task. Looking towards
Horatio as a model of the Christian stoicism he needs to pull himself through
the play, Hamlet comments on him: ‘. . .thou hast been / As one, in suffering
all, that suffers nothing, / A man that fortune\'s buffets and rewards / Hast
ta\'en with equal thanks. . . .Give me that man / That is not passion\'s slave,
and I will wear him / I my hearts core\' (III.ii. 70-79). Hamlet must become like
Horatio. He must learn that evil is a necessary part of the harmonious order
that God created. When Hamlet can become impervious to the blows of fortune,
his mission will be accomplished.
The impending dark period Hamlet must endure is represented by the
sympathetic fallacy of the state of nature in Denmark. Francisco notes, ‘\'tis
bitter cold, And I am sick at heart\' (I.i. 8-9). This readies the audience for
the appearance of the ghost which will represent the perversion of the
harmonious order that Hamlet must restore.
Hamlet\'s reactions to his father\'s questionable death begin to reveal
his immaturity. Suffering from an unnatural grief over his father\'s death,
Hamlet lets his immaturity be revealed when he says the death was ‘a will most
incorrect to heaven\' (I.ii. 129). As of now, Hamlet has a ‘...heart unfortified,
a mind impatient, / An understanding simple and unschool\'d\' ( I.ii. 96-97). He
is, therefore, unable to bear the brunt of something tragic as his father\'s
death. Unable to see the god in things, Hamlet views the, world, God\'s own
creation, as merely a place of corruption: ‘How weary, stale, flat and
unprofitable, / Seem to me all the uses of tis world!\' (I.ii. 133-134). It
takes a mature man to delve