The Existentialist Views of Hamlet Essay
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The Existentialist Views of Hamlet
Do we matter? Will anything we do endure? These are questions from existentialism. The dictionary defines existentialism as "the plight of the individual who must assume ultimate responsibility for his acts of free will without any certain knowledge of what is right or wrong or good or bad" (Merriam Webster). In the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare, Hamlet struggles with the concept that nothing from our lives last and time grinds everything away. Hamlet's major conflict was his existentialist view of the world.
Does a prince of Denmark have any worth if "Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander returneth into dust; the dust is earth; of earth we make loam; and why of that…show more content…
Even with this proof, Hamlet will not kill Claudius during prayer because he believes his decision will matter and he must choose wisely. In the graveyard, Hamlet saw people's skulls and wondered what the courier's compliments or the jester's tricks had brought them but another spot in the earth. Hamlet saw the acts of well respected men not protect them from the grave and anonymity when he said, "This fellow might be in's time a great buyer of land, with his statutes his recognizances, his fines, his double vouchers, his recoveries: is this the fine of his fines, and the recovery of his recoveries, to have his fine pate full of fine dirt? will his vouchers vouch him no more of his purchases, and double ones too, than the length and breadth of a pair of indentures? The very conveyances of his lands will hardly lie in this box; and must the inheritor himself have no more" ( V. i. 98-103). Hamlet's inaction appeared in his relationship with Ophelia. He admitted at her grave that he loved her but he did not attempt to have more than a physical relationship. Hamlet's fear of action led to other problems.
Hamlet was so obsessed with his lack of action and the worthlessness of life that he contemplates suicide asking, "For who could bear the whips and scorns of time" ( III. i. 69-70). He believes he would be foolish to suffer through his life when he will simply be
Hamlet’s Existentialism Existentialism is a philosophical movement that can easily change a person’s view of the world. William Shakespeare, a man considered one of the most talented and complex writers of all time, laced one of his most famous works with themes of existentialism (hundreds of years before Sartre defined the term). Existentialism isn’t an exact science, so sometimes the philosophy can become a little vague and confusing; therefore, Shakespeare’s ability to incorporate existentialism into his literature is remarkable. Shakespeare not only placed elements of existentialism in Hamlet, but he also added to and developed the belief in ways that still baffle people. However, some themes of existentialism can easily go unrecognized. Analyzing Hamlet with the rules of existentialism in mind, one can find themes that are completely unexpected. The complexity and many layers of Hamlet can make Shakespeare’s ultimate message difficult to grasp: that “man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself. That is the first principle of existentialism” (Sartre). Existentialism can easily be misunderstood; people most commonly associate it with hopelessness or hatred of the world. There are minor truths in this association, but existentialism is much deeper than this shallow pessimism. The philosophy started through Jean-Paul Sartre as a self-description of his own belief. Through works of literature and philosophical analysis, existentialism was adopted and became a philosophical movement during the 1940’s and 1950’s (Crowell, Steven). Existentialism spread through works of literature and became a common phenomenon amongst philosophers. Some of the most notable existentialists are Karl Jaspers, Martin Heidegger, and Jean Wahl, all of whom followed Jean-Paul Sartre’s idea of what