Uncertainty in Hamlet

A popular theme that I have noticed among most of Shakespeare’s plays we have read thus far is the constant impossibility to reach certainty. I feel this is especially visible in Hamlet because the uncertainty is extremely visible and vocal as opposed to The Tempest were the uncertainty was less visible and more searchable. For example, Hamlet contemplates the certainty of an afterlife in Act III, Scene I: “To die, to sleep. To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub, for in that sleep of death what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause.” This quote here is seen/heard during one of Hamlet’s soliloquys; he reveals that he is uncertain with whether or not he wants to take his own life; he is also ambiguous, that if he did take his own life, whether or not he would be directed to an afterlife of sorts. Hamlet also mentions the uncertainty of the pain that would be involved in his committing of suicide. This theme undoubtedly shines through Hamlet’s soliloquys because he is rather blunt about his ambiguities.

Another point at which we see Shakespeare’s use of a character’s impossibility to reach certainty is when the ghost appears. This is rather obvious because even as readers we hesitate in believing that the ghost was not all a hoax or tricky plan from an enemy neighbor. The ghost appears in such rich attire and plays back memories for Hamlet creating our want to believe what is happening. Shakespeare creates these questionable moments and uses them to toy with our balance beam of a belief system. I know I definitely was unsure with whether or not I should believe what I was reading the first time around reading Hamlet, and even the second time I was still question certain character’s motives.

This theme is extremely apparent and has oddly aided me in understanding this work of Shakespeare, as well as the others we have read, simply because it makes the readings relatable. It makes them relatable by having them touch on subjects that appear to be controversial or uncertain, and I honestly enjoy that. 


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