Samuel Johnson writes "Hamlet is through the piece rather an instrument than an agent." This statement is true, it is exhibited in several ways. The manner in which Hamlet's father manifests himself is an indication of his true intentions. Hamlet acts as an earthly means of revenge, he is the output for actions directed by a mortal being. Inner weakness has riddled Hamlet's life, it runs rampant in his decisions, or lack of, and has plagued his fate. His inability to overcome insecurity, procrastination, and an over analytical mind contribute, overwhelmingly, to his downfall. Hamlet allows negative character attributes to steer his life, the point being, He is an instrument of his own indecision, which spawned from flaws within his character. Establishing Hamlet's sanity is a difficult task. It's stability in his life is questionable, but his contemplation of madness has left him vulnerable to its control. This control has led Hamlet to act outside of character and in an extremely peculiar fashion. Hamlet is an instrument of his father, his own self, and of sanity.
The appearances of the Ghost, although sporadic, do not come without meaning. Hamlet Senior, arguably, is one of Shakespeare's finest creations. The character was molded using the Elizabethan view on death and apparitions. Such belief stated hauntings had a communication value that was used to seek resolve in unfinished business. The basis for Hamlet Senior's untimely visits should be sought. "Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder." (Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. United kingdom: Longman Group UK Limited, 1995. Act One, Scene Five, ll 29.) The above quotation provides insight into the Ghost's purpose. Hamlet is a device that is readily available for use, he is the bridge between death, vengeance, and reality. Hamlet had been already effected by the marriage of his Uncle, Claudius, to his Mother, but the factor that remains liable for Hamlet's eventual downfall is the involvement of the apparition. To classify
Hamlet as an instrument of his father is not farfetched. His obsession with life and it's happenings cannot be attributed to his madness, the revenge that coursed through Hamlet's veins provided a platform for his antic disposition to finally be laid out. One must not lose sight of the fact that Hamlet's vengeance was spurred by his father, thus making him a tool of Hamlet Senior's involvement and wishes.
Flaws in character have also proven to be costly for Hamlet. Instead of relying on positive characteristics, Hamlet emphasizes weakness in will, procrastination, and indecision. "He seems incapable of deliberate action, and is only hurried into extremities on the spur of the occasion, when he has no time to reflect, as in the scene where he kills Polonius and again, where he alters the letters which Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are taking with them to England purporting his death." (Bratchell, D.F. Shakespearean Tragedy. New York: Routledge, 1990.) Hamlet has fallen to a poor will, he acts blindly and therefore behaves in a harsh manner and without cause. "Begin murderer; pox, leave thy damnable faces and begin. Come; the croaking raven doth bellow for revenge." (Act Three, Scene Two, ll 258.) His obsession with revenge is terrifying, it has mangled his thoughts and damaged his will. "He clearly was a heroic revenger, a procrastinator, lost in thought and weak of will." (Courtney, Richard. Shakespeare's World of Death: the early tragedies. Toronto, Simon & Pierre Publishing Company Limited, 1995.) Hamlet is a brave soul, but his sense of good judgement wanders, and procrastination becomes more apparent with each new day. It is by his "...Careless of death" attitude that Hamlet "loses the power of action in the energy of resolve." (Bratchell, D.F. Shakespearean Tragedy.)
Madness can be taken on in two forms, one being the insanity of mind and the latter being of the heart. Madness of the mind would entail that a person is capable of planning and
scheming harmful events and/or weapons. Madness of the heart is much more devastating. To be mad at heart would mean that the ability to make critical decisions is still present. Hamlet is mad on both levels. "His contradictory extremes of conduct were reminiscent of the Elizabethan accounts of melancholy...Such an approach makes Hamlet mostly mad and rarely sane." (Courtney, Richard. Shakespeare's World of Death: the early tragedies.) Courtney comments on Hamlet's feelings in relation to his actions. Hamlet's mind, on occasion is critical, but his actions are those of a madman. The madness that pervades him is, ironically, admitted easily. "I essentially am not in madness, but mad in craft." (Act Three, Scene Four, ll 206-207.) He is conscious of his actions and openly admits to madness in them. The problem that lies is its control. Sanity is questioned to the point that it has become overbearing and manipulative. It has molded Hamlet's life, he no longer has command, it is has been lost in madness.
The Ghost of Hamlet Senior, indecision, and sanity are important factors that contribute immensely to Hamlet's life. His actions in life will surely be remembered in purgatory, but what must be examined is his individuality. He, by no means, was a leader. His indecision, which lasted for months at a time, revealed his character. The decisions that his actions backed were clearly made in haste and can be to the credit of an outside force. Sanity and life, two factors that rip Hamlet in two, are result of an overactive mind that has countered all action through the ability to find reason in inaction. His follower and procrastinating lifestyle has made him an instrument of many elements within his life.
1. Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. United Kingdom: Longman Group UK Limited, 1995.
2. Bratchell, D.F. Shakespearean Tragedy. New York: Routledge, 1990.
3. Courtney, Richard. Shakespeare's World of Death: the early tragedies. Toronto: Simon & Pierre Publishing Company Limited, 1995.
An Instrument of Life; Hamlet's contribution to the play
Name: Philip Tome
Teacher: Mrs. Hastings
Due Date: Monday, December 2, 1996