Revenge, Lack Of Empathy, And A Thirst Of Power In Shakespeare’s Hamlet

February 8, 2022 by Essay Writer

The Shakespearean tragedy Hamlet conveys many ideas of human experience that remain relevant to this modern day. Despite its archaic language and complex form of writing, the emotions and experiences all the characters go through are classified as universal human experiences. While the context is largely situational, the drama addresses common problems of sexism, power struggles, and personal identification that are still pertinent in society. These conflicts can be reflected onto any time period, as most events occurring in history can be derived to the same basic motives and experiences.

Humans show signs of the spotlight effect where they believe that they possess a major significance in people’s lives, and that is portrayed through Ophelia’s consistent belief that Hamlet’s misfortune is due to his undying love for her, whereas in “though this be madness, yet there is method in’t”. More often than not, people’s poor choice of judgment is a consistent human trait, as people tend to overestimate their significance in the world and base their decisions on their on their own self-image. In the play, all the characters jump to the conclusion that Hamlet is going insane, but fail to decipher its source claiming that his madness is inconvenient. The lack of empathy shown by Claudius to Hamlet towards the loss of his father reflects on their personality that feeds on power and image. In today’s society, global catastrophes are often undermined, seeing as that people only seek interest in their own personal gain. Calamities such as the rise of concentration camps in Asia and climate change are brushed off as things that will eventually end. The tendency to overlook such dire states is known to be the bystander effect, during which there is a decrease in the willingness to help if there are others that can assist.

A thirst of power blinds a person’s logic and judgment about the effects it can inflict not only onto their self but onto everyone surrounding them. People strive for power with realizing all the implications that come with reaching the position that they are at. Idealists tend to think that there is a superficial solution that only touches the surface of the actual issue at hand. In the play, King Claudius ignores the true hierarchy, and marries Gertrude, without considering how the country will be affected as. His own selfishness prevented him from thinking about the nation’s welfare in all regards, putting on a façade that “may smile, and smile, and be a villain”. Politicians in the judicial systems compete over the position that holds the highest power, forgetting the well-being of the nation they are responsible for. The power clash often results in negative repercussions for the community such as violent retaliation of a large-scale conflict or extremes like poverty and corruption.

Even with the progression of the modern world and with the advance in fields of science and technology, people still struggle with an internal conflict of their own personal identity as did Hamlet. Life forces people to face an ultimatum of following your true potential and desire or pleasing tradition and family. Hamlet stayed to avenge his father instead of pursuing his intellects. A tendency to opt for the moral and what looks good in picture can stop people from living to their fullest. Throughout the course of the play, Hamlet often questioned the honor behind those who take their lives and those who live to suffer the tragedy of life and the uncertainty behind death itself. He claims that the main reason people endure the tortures of life is due to the unknown that follows death, since “nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”. One’s unresolved sense of self-efficacy often leads them to tip the scales in favor of inevitable fate and stops them from aiming to accomplish anything of value and meaning.

An animalistic characteristic of human beings is seeking revenge upon those who have wronged you as it the “most unnatural murder’. It’s often an impulsive urge that is irrational and will subsequently do more harm than good. Due to the ripple effect, revenge is a never-ending cycle of violence and that is often seen in gang wars, immigration laws and racism. Judgment also plays a vital part in revenge, as more often than not people perceive themselves as the exception and fail to accept inevitable fate. In the play, Hamlet deprives himself of love, friendships and intellect to “be revenged most thoroughly for his father”, and the mission later leads to him losing his life before he was even killed. He failed to consider the end result of his duty, and in turn lost his chance at love and happiness and his once respected repute diverged into that of a lunatic.

Having been almost half a century since Hamlet was written, its character’s thoughts and emotions are not that much different from people today. People still act upon their primal instincts, often forgetting the consequences it entails on the future. While the plot of events and language of the play are now considered outdated, the foundation of it is universal, since there is not set formula or explanation to the psychological phenomena of human behavior. 

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