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Academically Shakespeare has created some of the most well-known works, literature, and characters in our field, one such example of a character whose existence resembles that of a double-edged sword to critics is Hamlet and his famous verse “To Be or not to Be: That is The Question”. This lead to research delving into the idea of Shakespeare’s characters being considered as so ‘human’ that they also communicate with their conscience through their soliloquies. Therefore how does one distinguish between a character’s persona among other characters and the character’s inner persona often labeled as the Conscience?
In the opening part of his book Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, Harold Bloom, who had taught the subject of Shakespeare and Shakespearean Literature and Performance at Yale for a long time, recommends that before Shakespeare, the characters in plays would unravel however not really expand and grow. On the off chance that a character simply expands, we already guess that we definitely know everything there is to know about them when they initially are showcased in front of an audience on stage or in the pages of a book. Their creators have denied them of the one element that would make them intriguing: the limit with regards to self-analyzing that may uncover something surprising to us readers as well as to the characters themselves. They show us little since they can’t bewilder us in any way, basically on the grounds that they can’t amaze themselves. This might be the present reality similar to the scholar who leaves an information session and thinks to himself, “Nothing I haven’t heard before,” and afterward says to themselves, “I figure I am what I am!” or “I have my way of doing things, and some people like it and some people don’t.”
Shakespeare does not let us free so easily though. He insinuates to us that we are not just who we say we are, but rather are comprised of many clashing and obscuring parts. As Bloom claims, Shakespeare’s characters grow due to the fact that they can hear themselves talk, either to themselves or to other characters, and are in this way ready to re-examine themselves. By supplying his characters with elaborate inner worlds, Shakespeare treats us, 400 years ahead of Freud, to expert presentations of what to the academic ear sounds especially like self-revelation. There isn’t just one single Hamlet yet numerous. Subsequent to learning of his Father’s sudden death, he finds (in Soliloquies) that he can’t stand to stay as he is at that moment in time. He is so torn by his internal struggles of conscience that he considers, in maybe the most well-known discourse in all writing, the advantages and disadvantages of suicide (“To Be or Not To Be: THAT is the Question.”).
Shakespeare indicates to us through Hamlet and numerous other characters not just the sine qua non of human growth — that with a specific end goal to change ourselves we should first discover our true selves — yet also what that improvement sounds like, resembles, and feels like. He demonstrates to us that it is the moment when Hamlet is so close to falling into despair and spiraling out of control that he finally finds himself. In similar ways, the young Prince Hal, in Henry IV, Part 2, on getting the Throne, neglects his then friends (“Presume not that I am the thing I was”) and starts his Incredible change from degenerate ruler to King Henry V, Hero of Agincourt.
In order to explore the theme of Consciousness in Shakespearean characters, one must first delve into the idea of what Consciousness is. Kant speaks of his Theory of Mind and Consciousness with regards to the concept of Apperception: “The most central and specifically Kantian concept of consciousness is that of apperception. It is argued that ‘apperception’ is not to be understood as self-consciousness or self-awareness. Rather, apperception is a capacity to be aware of one’s spontaneous activities, and it can be further analyzed as the ability to respond to rules and norms.” Therefore, ‘apperception’ assumes a focal part in Kant’s hypothetical reasoning as well as in his hypothesis. ‘Inward sense’ is another focal idea for Kant. In the primary studies and later works, Kant distinguishes the differences between apperception and inward sense: the inward sense is the awareness of what happens inside the brain instead of apperception, which is the awareness of one’s exercises. These two ideas of awareness, ‘inward sense’ and ‘apperception’, produce two altogether different questions concerning the connection between cognizance and nature. From one viewpoint, there is the subject of how inward or mental nature is identified with physical nature; then again, there is the topic of how suddenness is identified with the entire of nature, internal nature and in addition external. So how does this apply itself to works such as Hamlet?
Hamlet is riddled with inward and outward conflicts, which ultimately forges his path to his end. The internal clash experienced in Hamlet lies in the mental disgruntlement of the play’s main character, Hamlet himself. At an inside level, Hamlet is by all accounts postponing his vengeance since he is ‘divided’ by his mother’s treachery of his deceased father and her marriage to Claudius, which is a constant distraction to him. This inward distraction is inconsistent with the apparition’s request for retaliation. Tabassum Javed in “Perfect Idealism in Shakespeare’s Prince Hamlet” attributes Hamlet’s internal struggles to a conflict between his own despondency and the ghost’s insistence for retribution. Javed states, “He can save himself and Denmark by killing Claudius, but to kill Claudius is to act out his father’s wish and the disaster for Hamlet is that this course of action perfectly coincides with the solution of his own problem. Hamlet is torn between two courses of action, both equally painful” (327).
To this reality, Hamlet’s inward distraction lies mainly with the connection between his mother and uncle. The principal line he expresses is, “a little more kin and less than kind” (Shakespeare I.2.65). Hamlet battles with the idea that his mother Gertrude could double-cross his father. The double-crossing of his father weighs heavily on Hamlet’s mind since he doesn’t know how to manage his subdued emotions about his mother and his own particular oedipal bitterness towards his father. Likewise, the mental stun of losing his father is expanded by an apparent disloyalty to the sacredness of marriage and family ties. Kawsar Uddin condenses Freudian investigations of Hamlet’s parental relationship expressing, “Hamlet in his unconscious had an incestuous desire for his mother and had a murderous desire towards his father” (695). In the conversation that takes place in Act 1 Scene 2, where his mother, Gertrude, questions Hamlet’s despondency his psychological state and inner conflict become very obvious and apparent; “If it is, why seems it so particular with thee? … Seems, madam? Nay, it is. I know not ‘seems’ … Together with all forms, moods, shapes of grief, … That can denote me truly… These indeed ‘seem,’… For they are actions that a man might play… But I have that within which passeth show, These but the trappings and the suits of woe” (line 74– 85).
Hamlet communicates his actual mental anguish to his mother and is by all accounts shocked at her indifference and lack of dejection for her deceased husband. Hamlet’s issues with his mother turn into an internal whirlwind that pushes the story forward. Sandra Young discusses the idea of Hamlet suffering from a severe form of the Oedipus Complex in her essay “Recognising Hamlet.” Young contends, ““Oedipus offers an explanation for this vigorous Hamlet’s indecision in the matter of avenging his father’s death — he can’t kill the usurping Claudius because he unconsciously identifies with him” (14). The possibility that Hamlet immediately detests his uncle for killing his dad yet in the meantime is envious in an oedipal framework strikes at the heart of the internal anguish that Hamlet is experiencing from the absolute starting point of the play. After an encounter with his uncle and mom, he states, “Fie on ’t, ah fie!. Things rank and gross in nature possess it merely… So loving to my mother is it her face too roughly!” (Act I, Scene 2, Lines 135– 141).
He attests that the garden (his family) isn’t being kept and growing rampant and wild. He doesn’t express his discontent towards his mom however holds it inside enabling it to rot and push aside all forms of logic from his mind. The topic of birth-right to Hamlet isn’t just about taking his father’s place, but also the overthrow of his father’s powerful position on the throne with respect to his mother. It is this internal battle characterised by Hamlet’s delay of his father’s retaliation that enlightens the gathering of people into his inward battle. Javed clarifies, “Hamlet could be a man of decisive action, capable of anything — except the avenging of acts, his conscience intuited, that was in keeping with his own repressed desires”.
This inward hesitancy between his deep-seeded hatred for his uncle who killed his father yet at the same time profound respect for doing what he may have wanted himself is indicated at in the content as he doubts the apparition of his father. At the point when the king’s ghost uncovers the killer, Hamlet asks, “O my prophetic soul! Mine uncle?” (Act I, Scene 5, line 41). Hamlet all of a sudden wavers to believe — and later act — when a couple of minutes before he was excitedly expressing how eager he was to exact his revenge in the name of the late king of Denmark. (Act I, Scene 5, line 29– 31). The give and take occurring inside Hamlet’s mind is quite substantial. His uncle and mother’s depraved relationship is despicable to him, as we have talked about beforehand and, yet, with regards to his uncle and exacting his vengeance on him, Hamlet can’t force himself to act, even leading him to muse over the idea of suicide in his epic soliloquy; “To be or Not To be, that is the Question…” (Act 3, Scene I, Line 57-92). The mental clash moves the powers of Hamlet and this play along and gives a vehicle to the plot to come to fruition internally and also, as we will see, outwardly.
Hamlet has the essential components to build up the anguish inside yet additionally demonstrates that Shakespeare understands the many-sided quality of legitimate frameworks and the give and take of political power and position. At the core of the play the external clash circles around the topic of the crown and succession. Michael Taylor in “The Conflict in Hamlet” outlines this theory in a nutshell; “The essential conflict in Hamlet, I believe, is that between man as a victim of fate and as controller of his own destiny” (150). The topic of destiny identifies with Hamlet in connection with the Political Position of King. Driven by the ghost’s thirst for revenge (as well as his own) Hamlet actually contemplates escaping along with Claudius’ banishment to England.
In this play, Shakespeare beautifully harmonizes and balances internal and external clash into his play. The major internal clash is set apart by Hamlet’s subdued wants and his refusal to trust his father’s apparition and later to rapidly retaliate for him. Hamlet, suffering from an almost debilitating oedipal complex, immediately is hollowed against a curbed want for his mother and envy of his uncle. He, who is engrossed continually by — what he describes — as the forbidden idea of his mother’s association with his uncle, harbors wants that he can’t put into words and that at last led him to delay his act of vengeance. In the meantime, the inward associates with the external and the fight for the crown of Denmark turn into the concentration of the outward clash. Dedication to the crown and the implications of who fairly merits the crown can be felt when King Claudius tells Valtemand, “Farewell, and let your haste commend your duty” (Act I, Scene 2, Line 39). The political play for the crown provides a perfect backdrop for the play, with the outward clash the moves the plot along. In this way, Shakespeare makes a show utilizing both internal and outward clash to connect with audiences that span the centuries.
Bloom, Harold, “Hamlet” (New York: Chelsea House, 1990)
Brook, Andrew, “Kant And The Mind” (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994)
Heinämaa, Sara, and Martina Reuter, “Psychology And Philosophy” (Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands, 2009)
Javed, Tabassum, “The Dialogue, V.8, No.3”, Perfect Idealism In Shakespeare’S Prince Hamlet, V. 8 (2013)
Young, S, “Recognising Hamlet”, Shakespeare In Southern Africa, 26 (2014), 13 <http://doi.org/10.4314/sisa.v26i1.2>
Zamir, Tzachi, “Shakespeare’s Hamlet”, 1st edn (Oxford University Press, 2018)
Shurgot, Michael W, and Yu Jin Ko, “Shakespeare’s Sense Of Character” (London: Taylor and Francis, 2016)
Talyor, Michael, “The Conflict In Hamlet”, The Shakespeare Quaterly, 22 (1971) <http://doi.org/10.2307/2868804>