‘Hamlet’ starts off as a typical Revenge Tragedy. After the death of his father, Hamlet is told to seek revenge by his fathers ghost.
A contemporary medieval approach to this problem would be to attain a quick, bloody act of what would be considered, righteous retribution. However, Hamlet constantly struggles to justify his actions and keep a clear conscience. For these reasons, Hamlet represents the new, renaissance ideals. The renaissance came about partly due to the findings of Capernicus who put forward the theory of a spherical earth.It was a time of great contemplation and a philosophical attitude to life.
Hamlet embodies these renaissance ideals in every aspect of his life. Shakespeare has portrayed this in many ways. Hamlets clarity of language and articulacy is far in advance of other characters. He is also constantly writing things down and will only act on something once he has seen it written on paper. For instance, after first meeting the ghost he writes all that he has said down, a rather strange thing to do after seeing the ghost of your dead father.
A typical medieval Revenge Hero would have gone out and instantly extracted a gruesome and bloody revenge without considering the consequences. Hamlet does not feel morally obliged to gain this revenge until he has real written proof that the king was trying to kill him. After this, Hamlet gains a whole new resolve. He is now very focused and determined. Shakespeare shows this as Hamlets language is now very concise whereas before he was very vague. He even now uses the imperative tense and is able to assert himself as we can see from the confident phrase, ‘I shall win’.Shakespeare’s moral message in this is very unclear. Although this renaissance thinking allowed Hamlet to justify his actions, it also resulted in the unnecessary deaths of many of those around Hamlet.
One could assume that in such circumstances, Shakespeare’s message is that it is wrong to think too much. Hamlet is even able to identify this fault in himself, evident in the statement, ‘I think too precisely on an event’. This can also be seen in the man who ultimately changes Hamlet’s mind and gives him the mental strength to precipitate his revenge.
It is an uneducated gravedigger who gives some of the most wise philosophies hinting that maybe this time of great enthusiasm in education is not warrented. Hamlet is put under great pressure from the medieval tradition of revenge. He is constantly comparing himself, throughout the play, to Laertes (insert Laertes quote here). However, even under this enourmous pressure of what he feels morally obliged to do, he still does not do what is expected of him. He has very strong moral values.He also sees the great importance of killing a king and maybe this is why such meticulous care is taken over planning his revenge.
Here he would be taking into consideration the medieval views on the divine right of kings. Hamlet does not take any decision lightly. He is seen, throughout, to be very troubled by having to make decisions and following them through. Shakespeare highlights this indecisiveness with the use of soliloquys to represent some internal conflict. The most famous of these speeches being ‘ to be or not to be….
.. . Here, Hamlet even goes so far as contemplating suicide instead of having to deal with these choices he has been forced to make. In conclusion, I think that this clash of cultures hinders Hamlet in achieving his ultimate goal of attaining revenge for his fathers murder. The new renaissance ideals only served to lengthen this process. If unhindered by these new ideals, I believe that Hamlet may have attained the same result without hurting others around him such as his mother and Laertes.