Thursday, May 6, 2010

Character Connection - Hamlet

This is a very interesting meme from the Introverted Reader, where the goal is to spotlight one character of interest every week.

My choice this week is Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, one of Shakespeare's greatest characters, and possibly the greatest dramatic character ever. I've been inspired by the gorgeous and extremely talented David Tennant's version of Hamlet which was aired on PBS last week, and which I have seen three times already and can't get enough of!

Hamlet's character has been analyzed to bits by scholars, and I'm going to make my case as to why I personally love this character. Hamlet is a very sensitive and emotional young man, but not crazy as he is made out to be sometimes. To see what he is going through, I would like you to put yourself in Hamlet's shoes for a bit.

Your father, whom you loved deeply, has passed away. While you are filled with profound grief, your mother marries your uncle who is now king. Your are shattered by this event, when the ghost of your father appears before you and tells you that your father was actually murdered by your uncle, and wants you to avenge this murder.

This is indeed a tough situation for anyone. Hamlet is driven by conflicting emotions. He loves Ophelia, but mistrusts women because of his mother's actions. He has an opportunity to kill the king, but does not do so. In the meantime, the king is plotting his murder. All this leads to Hamlet being directly or indirectly being involved in the death of more than one person, eventually ending in tragedy all around.

It is hard to have a crush on Hamlet, but I like this character, because Hamlet is sometimes a part of me. There are moments in all our lives when we are faced with difficult questions and choices and find it hard to decide what is right and to act on that decision. Hamlet is given several soliloquies where he debates himself, is conflicted, very emotional and even appears crazy. How can I not cite his best speech

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep -
No more - and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to! 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep -
To sleep - Perchance to dream;
ay, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.

Ultimately Hamlet is a very good person, trying to do the right thing, and
Shakespeare brings this out very well indeed. Here is Horatio's final tribute to

Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet Prince,
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.


  1. I just got more about Hamlet out of your post than I ever did out of my English classes. I don't ever remember getting where he was coming from before. Thanks!

    I've never seen any Hamlet movies. I'll have to check this one out!

  2. great choice! i haven't seen this particular adaptation, but i'm sure david tennant is fantastic in it! :) shakespeare's quotes are just priceless - it's sometimes hard to catch everything :) i also think it's much better to see his plays on stage rather than read, it leaves such a great impression!

  3. just remembered there's a great Hamlet movie with Kenneth Branagh!

  4. Great choice! He's a very complex and interesting character I think.

  5. I love David Tennant! His Doctor Who was the best one! I missed this, but I am planning to get it on Netflix or something as soon as I can.

  6. Jen - Thanks so much! This adaptation had a modern setting, but was very well done indeed.

    Daria - I agree completely that it is better to see Shakespeare (and many other playwrights) on stage - it is easy to miss out on a lot of nuances while reading. I watched part of Branagh's Hamlet, but really need to revisit it - he is such a great actor!

    Sullivan McPig - You hit the nail on the head - complex is the perfect word to describe Hamlet!

    Heather - I am a huge fan of Tennant too - he is such a great package. He is my favorite Doctor too! He was unbelievable as Hamlet- very restless and caught all the tortured emotions so well. Very different from Olivier and Branagh but just as good. It is really worth watching!

  7. +JMJ+

    Great choice! =) I think my own favourite character out of Shakespeare is Isabella from Measure for Measure.

    When I read Hamlet in uni, the lecturer seemed to be leaning heavily towards the "Hamlet goes insane" reading. =(

  8. A lovely choice! Makes me want to read the book again. Have you read the spoof of Hamlet in Jasper Fforde's Something Rotten? It's so hilarious and Hamlet will never be the same again :D

    Btw...I have an award for you on my blog :)

  9. Enbethiliel - I have never read Measure for Measure, did you like it? I read Hamlet in uni too, and decided to forget all that I learnt and start again with a blank slate, our instructor was so insipid :(

    Kals - No, I have never read Jasper Fforde at all, but I would love to read a spoof of Hamlet! I really have to get it now..