Hamlet’s Views on Men, Women and the World
When Hamlet is asking questions, he is not asking questions for himself but for man in general. How does Hamlet depict the world through his own problems? What kind of light does it cast on the world/society at large?
The Tragedy of Prince Hamlet, a play by William Shakespeare, tells the tale of the youthful Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, who seeks retribution for his dad’s murder by his uncle, Claudius, the newly appointed King of Denmark. In this play, it’s evident that Hamlet’s views on certain things get altered by the actions of characters, such as Queen Gertrude, his mother, King Claudius, his uncle and others. These two, in particular, make Hamlet perceive this world as a gruesome place to live in. Furthermore, their joint efforts against Prince Hamlet leave him scarred and compelled to view humanity as very corrupt. Throughout the whole play, no one gives Hamlet any reason to think positively, with the exception of Ophelia, however, it turns out to be futile and she gets consumed by her own demons in the end. Overall, all of things the King and the Queen do while conspiring together against Hamlet are like poisonous daggers that stab him right in the chest leaving him no alternative but to be uncertain about everyone’s actions concerning him. Thus Hamlet’s numbersome questions and reflections raised throughout the play manifest that his view on men, women, and the world and are predominantly bleak, dreary, and pessimistic.
Hamlet’s disappointment with the state of affairs in his life currently is best shown in his soliloquy To be or not to be, wherein he clearly addresses the issue of living in a corrupt world and the consequences of it.
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to,
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns (3.1.60-70)
The imagery of the whole soliloquy focusing on pain, suffering, and torture clearly shows that Hamlet sees life as nothing else but an enduring pain and lest one wants to end the torture,one must take action, meaning one must kill oneself to oppose The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. After the awful discoveries and truths about his life in terms of the disappointment he has in everyone, Hamlet develops his pessimistic view of life. Thus he starts to see Denmark as a prison, however, not due to the place itself however because of the corrupt characters of most of his friends and relatives. Further in his soliloquy, Hamlet mentions his mortal coils referring to troubles of daily life and the strife and suffering of the world. To him the sling and arrows represent the pain that love causes, like being struck with a thousand arrows because of the pain that love causes. According to Hamlet the mortal coils are unrequited love, oppressions of the powerful, slowness of justice, disrespect of people in the office and the abuse of good people by the bad. Through his thoughts, we can clearly see Hamlet’s pessimism, namely, towards the world being corrupt and morally depraved. Additionally, Hamlet doesn’t have anything positive or optimistic to help him move forward,which discourages him from acting on impulse. All in all we can see through Hamlet’s eyes the world is corrupt and so are the people in it.
In addition, Hamlet is equally disillusioned by humanity, even though admitting that man’s versatility is commendable. We can see this peculiar reflection on humans present in Hamlet’s monologue. What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals. And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me. No, nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so(2.2.284-290). By saying this, Hamlet is praising humans, stating that their prowess of utilizing reason, and the ability to use knowledge is admirable. Furthermore, he continues to say the ability to move and the shape we possess surpasses anything on this world and it’s an angelic,admirable and mesmerizing view. Nonetheless he soon follows with And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me (2.2.290). Furthermore, he affirms that men are nothing more than dust, and he is not curious about them, just as he is not interested in women as well. All of this shows that Hamlet in his current pessimistic state and is not able to find inspiration in humans and the way they do things. His melancholy consumes him even more due to his philosophical, deep thinking and eventually becomes his undoing. In brief, Hamlet is stating that albeit humans may come out as noble, they are essentially nothing but dust as well as their need to be the best and how they actually behave is what depresses him.
More than anything else, Hamlet is greatly disgruntled with women, ultimately resulting in his misogyny. Throughout the whole play, we can see the recurring theme of misogyny that consumes Hamlet. Frailty, thy name is woman! (1.2.146) is one of the most evident quotes that suggests Hamlet’s misogynistic ways. In this quote, he claims that women are weak. His view on women has been essentially altered because of his mother, Queen Gertrude, by sleepin in incestous sheets with King Claudius promptly after her husband, King Hamlet, dies. She had moved on so instantly that Hamlet can’t seem to comprehend it, thus starting to believe that all women are dependant on men and cannot exist without them. He loathes his mother for not grieving enough, leaving him disappointed and let down, which eventually causes him to doubt the actions of any woman. Another example of him developing the theme of misogyny is when he tells Ophelia to go to a nunnery. marry a fool; for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them. To a nunnery, go “(3.1.136-139). This quote suggests that Hamlet sees women as substandard individuals that turn their husbands into monsters. This thought is fueled by the previous events with his mother’s incestous marrige that led him to presume that all women are identical to each other, unfaithful humans who cheat thus ordering Ophelia to go to a nunnery. Hamlet continues his rant by saying “God has given you one face, and you make yourselves/ another: you jig, you amble, and you lisp”(3.1.144-146), trying to express that women put on makeup to conceal their true selves. He further delves into this by assuming the way women talk, walk, and play dumb, which makes them appear as something they never really are. Finally, we see how the woman’s actions affect Hamlet in a way that he can’t let himself trust anyone of that gender.
In conclusion, The Tragedy of Prince Hamlet shows how all of these aspects of Hamlet’s life when added together make Hamlet a very pessimistic and doubtful person of men, women and the world they live in. They have all caused him pain, which had eventually resulted into him being sceptical of everyone and the actions they take. Thus when dealing with women, he would look at every situation differently because he is uncertain of what way can a woman deceive him. Furthermore, due to the damage that his mother had caused he is constantly uncertain and guarded with women and the ways they act because he is certain their purpose is to deceive the men in their lives. His overall look on the world is that it’s corrupt, and if God hadn’t made suicide a sin, he would commit the deed, so he could stop the everlasting heartache he felt due to the unscrupulous ways humans behave in. Finally, we understand the origin of Hamlet’s views on the world, as well as on men and women as hopeless, troubling, and degenerate people.