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Deniz Kaya

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Unnatural Effects on Hamlets Character

In Shakespearean tragedy, characters have an important meaning. They are chosen to

create a tragedy. Simply it can be said that there would not be tragedy without the characters.
Shakespeare uses those characters effectively in his plays by choosing people from noble class
and putting them in a hard situation. They have a problem and they need to solve it but the
solution ends brutally or in blood. Shakespeare creates brilliant ideas from those characters based
on plays. He knows how to criticize the moral, real life or politic situations by using those
characters very well. He also knows how to explain personal problems with the help of tragedy
like in Hamlet. Hamlet is one of the most popular and important plays that Shakespeare wrote
about the problematic characters. In this play, we see Hamlet, the character, as a person who
needs to find the truth after his fathers death. He is in search of the reality and he also searches
for his own true identity. That is Hamlets problem and he thinks that this problem needs to be
solved eventually but he also thinks that solving this problems will not be easy and it will have
consequences. In this sense, Hamlet is subjected to a psychological study like Harold R. Walley
explains in his essay Shakespeares Conception of Hamlet:
Two characters go mad. A queen is terrified nearly to death. A play breaks
up in a near-riot. An insurrection batters the palace gates. A brawl desecrates a suicide's grave. A duel explodes into murder and general butchery. There are poison, incest, war, and debauchery. This is not closet drama
for the philosopher's study; it is blood and thunder for the popu-lar stage.
Nevertheless, Hamlet is also one of Shakespeare's most thoughtful plays.
Permeated with moralizing and philosophical speculation, it pre-sents in
its central character a most elaborate psychological study. As for the reader

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these are unquestionably the most enduring elements, so to the elucidation
of these criticism has devoted most of its attention. (777)
Even before that, he is afraid to find out the truth because he knows that he will not be the same
person anymore after learning what really happened to his father. All of those thoughts keep him
stay away from the truth in the first place. What he needs is actually an inspiration and this
inspiration comes from unnaturalness which will also cause some changes on Hamlet. Hamlet is
not courageous person but he is intelligent. He senses that he should do something about his
revenge however taking action is not easy for him. To take action he needs to experience some
situations that will give him power. This power will also provide him completely different
characteristics and it comes from unnatural events. Unnatural events have a key role in Hamlets
search of identity. It creates a chance to react for Hamlet and he uses it efficiently. When we
approach all of those situations and Hamlets experiences, we can definitely say that unnatural
events in Shakespeares Hamlet caused changes on Hamlets character.
Firstly, murder of his father by his uncle has a direct effect on his character change. This
situation has a huge effect on Hamlet because this is an unnatural death. Fratricide is an
unacceptable situation. Hamlet does not actually know that his uncle killed his father in the first
place but he knows that his father died and it causes him to question the life and fairness. Hamlet
thinks that his father does not deserve to die. What he thinks is that his father is a good person
and he does not have enemies and it makes Hamlet doubthful. Even his father could die although
he did not do something wrong, Hamlet does not find it equitable. He even starts to doubt his
uncle but he cannot prove it as he does not have any legal proof. All of those things are actually a
big change for Hamlet because he learns that life does not always go well and we have to learn to

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live with that. There is not any guarantee in life and even his father died without any reason.
Hamlet can understand this very important fact only after his fathers death.
Besides that, Claudius and Gertrudes marriage makes Hamlet think more about family
and moral. Hamlet cares about his mother Gertrude very much but he finds this marriage
unnatural and wrong like most people do. He cannot accept the situation that his uncle will
become his new father. He cannot also accept how Gertrude could easily forget his husbands
death. Hamlet can only realize importance of Mother after he sees the marriage. Then he starts to
question life and the reason of his Mother by again suspecting his uncle. This marriage helps
Hamlet completely look at his family in a different perspective. His uncle and his mother are not
same people for him anymore because of their betrayal. This betrayal also increases Hamlets
hatred against Clauidus. He realizes how much he can hate one person if he hurts him and this is
an significant example about his character change because he takes another step about changing
and becoming a different person including being a murderer. Hatred only causes Hamlet to want
revenge more and it gives the idea that revenge will come one day although Clauidus did not kill
his father because of this hatred.
Appearance of ghost in front of Hamlet is an another event that makes Hamlet resolute
about learning the truth. Hamlet sees this ghost as a symbol of truth and revenge. He cannot be
sure if this ghost is his father but ghost is an unnatural figure and it changes Hamlets mind. It
makes Hamlet understand that his father was killed by his uncle. Ghost is also a warning about
the lies that need to be resolved in Hamlets life. Hamlets life is a lie and this lie is created by his
uncle. Solving this lie means solving the murder. Therefore, this event could be accepted as a
significant moment in Hamlets life about his character change. It symbolizes the awareness of

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Hamlet and it is actually inciting incident of the play which will bring Hamlet to different events,
change and to murder.
Lastly, madness is an unnatural case and it lets Hamlet look at the world differently.
Madness is an important element in the play. We see two different kind of madness. They are
both accepted unnatural for human life and they also have effect on Hamlets character change.
When we look at those two madness examples, we see that Hamlets madness is different from
Ophelias madness. Hamlet fakes his madness by showing himself like mad and it is explained in
Harold R. Walleys essay correctly. Walley says:
The principal character and themes are closely allied. Hamlet is pre-sented as a sensitive
gentleman scholar disillusioned in his social contacts and oppressed with the villainy and
futility of life. This disillusionment crystallizes in his horror at the wickedness of his
mother. For the pur-pose of facilitating his revenge he feigns madness. But this madness
is of a peculiar nature. It is not a mental collapse, like that of Ophelia, but a sort of
supersanity. It reveals itself in his conduct with fools and those whom he distrust. (778)
Hamlet also uses this madness advantage to escape from the revenge because he is not ready for
it yet and this madness provides him enough time to be ready. His character change is not
completed yet and madness is required to make this change possible. Walley also explains this
situation in his essay. Walley indicates that:
This mental obsession, which issues in the evidences of Hamlet's supposed
madness, is intimately connected with two other important features of the play.
Hamlet is much concerned with his inability to carry forward his revenge. This
delay is essential to the plot; that it is a delay for which Hamlet is himself

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responsible Shakespeare makes clear throughout. Much, however, as Hamlet
endeavors to understand the reason, he is incapable of explaining it to himself; it
is an ingrained part of his character. (779)
Walley clearly explains that Hamlet needs time to carry forward this revenge need in this
paragraph. Ophelia also dies because of madness in the play and it is another important moment
in Hamlets life. Hamlet feels guilty about Ophelias murder. He again sees an unnecessary death
and this death comes from an unnatural event, madness. Then Hamlets decision about murdering
his uncle-father becomes stable and it is the biggest step in completion of his character change
which makes him a totally different person with his thoughts, ideas, and experiences.
Consequently, Hamlet is a character who is in search of a true identity. He is a man who
learns from experiences. He faces different situations and tries to learn something different from
every moment in his life which will soon improve his character. For these reasons, we can
definitely say, in the end, that Hamlet is a character who changes along with unnatural events in
the play and those changes are associated with his characteristic features.
Works Cited
Walley, Harold R. PMLA Shakespeare's Conception of Hamlet. 48.3 (1933): 777-779