William Shakespeare’s Hamlet

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 sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ‘tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. 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: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.—Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember’d.

William Shakespeare’s works are famous all around the world. Even the critics who express doubts about the authorship of the works attributed to Shakespeare still consider their author a genius.

The most well-known play written by Shakespeare is certainly Hamlet. It’s the only dramatical piece translated now into several hundred languages. There are several thousand stagings – no other piece of writing in the history of our civilization has gained so much popularity. Even Eastern cultural figures, who are usually indifferent to the pearls of the Western culture, have showed a great interest in Hamlet. Haruki Murakami, for instance, more than once claimed that it’s impossible to live without having read Hamlet, as such a life can’t be full.

The main character of the Hamlet tragedy is the Prince of Denmark himself, who is full of contradictions. These contradictions can be seen in the way he perceives himself (in his most well-known monologue “To be, or not to be? That is the question,” for instance), the way he treats others, and also in a certain opposition to the whole era.

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is a person who feels ill at ease in his era, with the people surrounding him, even with friends and relatives. He defies regulations existing in his society, and still is tied by the cultural stereotypes of his time. He blames his mother for an early marriage, although a woman living in that era could hardly decide her own fate, and so it was usual to marry one’s brother’s widow – people were even encouraged to do this. Yet Hamlet sends people to their doom or even kills them with his own hands without hesitations or remorse. Even the father of his beloved becomes one of his victims.

Hamlet is relevant even nowadays: the problems and inner conflicts showed in the play are painful for a person of any historic era. Is Hamlet’s father’s murder a sufficient reason for revenge? Where does the border lie between the light and the dark, reason and insanity?

The tragedy of people who can’t understand each other is probably the main topic of the play. So even today, when playwrights put Hamlet in modern surroundings, the words pronounced by the Prince of Denmark still resonate in the souls of spectators. Hamlet lives and suffers, and makes other people suffer. He is neither a teenager, nor a grown-up, he has royal decent, and so his deeds become known and discussed by many people. Hamlet doesn’t account for the sometimes absolutely criminal manifestations of his dissatisfaction with the world. It is other characters who take the responsibility: Ophelia, Polonius, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern. Anyone but Hamlet.

Hamlet, however, finds it hard that he doesn’t have to bear responsibility for his deeds and murders. In the same way a child finds it hard to live without the borders, created for him by loving parents. Being loved neither by his father, nor by his mother, Hamlet turns into a person, who is not ready for love. Not even ready to receive the love, generously granted to him by the young Ophelia.

The need to revenge his father’s death, that Hamlet considers his duty and responsibility, destroyed not only his own life, but the lives of the people close to him, and even the whole kingdom. Even today Hamlet is asking his question: is the life being lived for hatred worth it. Or should we better fill our lives with the love to our neighbors?

Reviewed by Katerina Sidoruk