Hamlet, unlike the majority of protagonists in the other works that we’ve read throughout this semester, is a character who is constantly concerned about doing what’s right. Because of this, he spends much of the play, Hamlet, being uncertain of who to trust, and how to act. He is so worried about doing the wrong thing that as a result he spends much of the beginning of the play not doing anything at all. His goal is to avenge his father’s death, but he is uncertain of how he should go about doing that, and at times, if he should even follow through with it.
Hamlet’s second soliloquy in Act II, “O, what rogue and peasant slave am I,” takes place immediately after seeing a play performed that very closely mirrors the events of his life. The difference, however, is that the character in the play lacks the uncertainty that Hamlet embodies, and feels with a passion that Hamlet does not. Seeing how moved with emotion the actor is in performing this play calls into question for Hamlet why his own feelings are so far below that emotional level. He feels guilty for all of the sadness that he has not felt, and the action that he has not taken. “I, the son of a dear father murdered, prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell, must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words and fall a-cursing like a very drab, a scullion!” In comparing himself to the character in the play, he comes to the conclusion that the way he has grieved over his father, and the action that he has taken (or not taken) to avenge his father, has not been the right way to act or to feel. He feels that because he does not mirror the play’s character, he is wrong in his character. He is less of a son and a person than he should be, and he needs to immediately avenge his father in order to prove to his father’s ghost and to himself that he is as much of a person as the character in the play.
However, Hamlet’s efforts to get revenge throughout the play do not go smoothly or as planned. While he doe succeed in killing Claudius and therefore avenging his father’s death, he and everyone he loves dies in the process, and no one gains anything from the experience.
To me, this really made me think about why it is that people so often compare themselves others, whether it is people that they know in real life or fictional characters that they see in plays or on television. So often people look at characters that they see in stories and feel that their lives should play out in similar fashions, or that they should reaction to situations in similar ways. However, there is no right way to feel things or right way to act. Hamlet’s fate was very different than that of the character in his play, and the plot of fictional stories is not necessarily representative of real life.