Hamlet is a complicated character, driven mainly by inner conflicts. His intense emotions and moral dilemmas affect the plot and everyone’s lives. Throughout the play, he seeks revenge for his murdered father while reflecting upon the ideas of life and death. He tries to reconcile with his fate. What makes Hamlet’s personality complex and multifaceted is the chaos of his own emotions. The gravity of decisions he has to make adds to his complexity.
Hamlet is one of the most conflicted yet magnetic figures of Shakespearean tragedy. He is indeed widely connected with grief, madness, existential questions, and darker subjects.
The somber tone of the story is already revealed in the First Act of the play. The Ghost of Hamlet’s deceased father appears to the guards and Hamlet’s friend Horatio. He later decides to tell of this incident to the Prince. The Ghost then comes to Hamlet himself, claiming that Claudius, King’s brother, has murdered him. The killer took over Denmark’s throne and re-married the Prince’s recently widowed mother. Gripped by anger and sorrow, Hamlet swears to avenge his father’s death.
Haste me to know’t, that I, with wings as swift
As meditation or the thoughts of love,
May sweep to my revenge.
(Act I, Scene 5)
The story is filled with grand twists, fatal mistakes, and tragic deaths. Hamlet caused most of them himself. The young man has to battle many doubts, at times questioning his judgment. He is unsure whether the Ghost of his father told the truth about Claudius being the murderer. Ultimately, Hamlet decides to feign madness while searching for answers and plotting revenge.
As the storyline unfolds, the Prince’s behavior becomes more and more erratic. His fictive insanity grows increasingly to turn into a real one. It affects other characters as well. Being rejected by his love interest, Ophelia, he kills her father, Polonius, by mistake. The woman goes mad and drowns herself in the river. In the Fifth Act, a duel occurs between Hamlet and Laertes (Ophelia’s brother). It results in a sequence of tragic deaths of all characters except for Horatio.
Grief, anger, and almost complete lack of trust ultimately drive Hamlet’s actions. He is unable to make explicit judgments and succumbs to the impulse of his emotions. This conflict, so deeply rooted in him, is what is called a tragic flaw.
Hamlet is, nonetheless, a shrewd and thoughtful observer. He never ceases to reflect on broader questions, as well as on the frailty of his own life. Upon concluding that he can never be content and satisfied, he contemplates the idea of suicide. Then he rejects it, as the unknown that comes after death is what frightens him the most.
The Prince alienates himself from Danish society and the court. He denies the possibility of love and trust. The aftermath of King’s death affected him too profoundly. He loathes Claudius, his mother, and his traitorous friends (except for Horatio).
After all, Hamlet’s battle is between humility and revenge. Melancholy and ruthless anger, impulsiveness and inaction go hand-to-hand in his mind. That is why his actions and emotions are varied and erratic. This inner complexity is arguably the primary feature of the play. This is the point that ultimately defines Hamlet’s unfortunate fate.