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Belle O’Hara

Mr. Palcsey

Honors English 10

October 19, 2017

Internal Struggles

The Catholic faith is a very important factor in Shakespeare’s tragedy, Hamlet. The

characters in the play are heavily influenced by their beliefs of the Catholic church. The main

character Hamlet, clearly shows his beliefs of the Catholic religion with every choice he makes

in the play. Hamlet is influenced by his religion, with his internal struggles of his conscience, the

concern of the well-fare of his soul, and the concern of the well-fare of other’s souls.

Hamlet’s biggest internal conflict with his conscience is when and how to murder his

deceitful uncle. He struggles with the thought of himself going to hell for murder, but yearns for

revenge against the murder of his father. Hamlet struggles with his conscience in Act 2 Scene 3,

when he was unsure about the truthfulness of the spirit of his father. In an attempt to clear his

conscience, he comes up with a plan to see how the king reacts with a play that resembles the

murder of his father. “The plays the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.” (Page

119) Hamlet also has a struggle with his conscience in Act 3 Scene 1, where he becomes upset

with himself that he cannot take action due to his Catholic beliefs affecting his conscience. He

says this in his famous “To be or not to be” monologue. “The conscience does make cowards of

us all, and thus the native hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought.” (Page

129).

Hamlet throughout the play continually worries about how his actions on earth will affect

him when he dies, and if he will be allowed into heaven. Hamlet wants to kill Claudius and
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avenge his father, but is worried he will end up with the same fate of his father, purgatory, or

worse. When Hamlet was making decisions to make the play like the murder of his father, he

was not only doing so to clear his conscience, but because he was concerned for the well fare of

his own soul. “That guilty creatures sitting at a play have, by the very cunning of the scene, been

struck so to the soul that presently they have proclaimed their malefactions.” (Page 117)

Not only does Hamlet worry about the well fare of his soul, but he also has a concern for

the better or worse of other’s souls. In Act 3 Scene 3 after Hamlet figures out that Claudius really

did murder his father, he fails to react immediately. He finds Claudius when he appears to be

praying, so Hamlet decides not to kill him then because he doesn’t want his soul to be pure when

he kills him. “And am I then revenged to take him the purging of his soul, where he is fit and

seasoned for his passage?” (Page 167) Hamlet, due to his Catholic faith, believes that is he kills

Claudius in a state of prayer, the king will go to Heaven while his father is suffering in

purgatory.

Hamlet is a character, like many of the others in the play, that is heavily influenced by his

faith and beliefs. He believes his actions on earth will affect the well fare of his soul and other

people’s soul. Hamlet’s beliefs reflect the religion of Christianity today, where Catholics believe

in Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory and believe their actions affect where they will spend eternity.
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