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Hamlet Fate Vs Free Will Essay

Hamlet: Fate Vs Free Will Essay

At the heart of every great tragedy lies the universal struggle between the human inclination to accept fate absolutely and the natural desire to control destiny (Stockton). Like most of his plays, in Shakespeare’s masterpiece Hamlet one of the prevailing themes centers on the question, “Does fate and providence overrule man’s own choices and decisions?” Throughout the work, the main character Hamlet views Fortune in various differing lights as he plots and plans his revenge. This complex interpretation of Fate’s influence is also shared with Horatio, Hamlet’s most treasured friend. Their assessments seem to waver in different situations, or as they experience something in particular. Fate and Fortune, and Providence in all her ambiguity are all sometimes seemingly bound to the actions of man and other times they are inescapable.
At the start of the play, Horatio and his companions, Bernardo and Marcellus, witness the sudden and frightening apparition of Hamlet’s deceased father, former king of Denmark. The three friends are “[harrowed] with fear and wonder” as they encounter the ghost and Horatio is convinced to attempt conversation it (Shakespeare, I. I. pg. 2). Before engaging the ghost, Horatio recalls the time before “the mightiest Julius fell” when “the graves stood tenantless, and the sheeted dead / Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets.” (Shakespeare, I. I. pg. 4) In that instance, the rising of the dead precipitated the brutal and premature demise of Julius Caesar, a horrible misfortune that rocked all of Rome. Likewise, Horatio sees the parallelism in the appearance of King Hamlet’s ghost concluding that his manifestation must be Fate’s morbid signal of impending doom and disaster (Weller).
When Horatio finally speaks to the ghost he beseeches it to reply saying, “If thou art privy to thy country’s fate / Which, happily, foreknowing may avoid / O speak!” (Shakespeare, I. I. pg. 5) This request, contrary to his former statement concerning Caesar, suggests that Horatio also thinks fate is not inevitable. For if the ghost reveals a critical piece of information concerning Denmark, Horatio feels as though the Fate’s intentions can be circumvented (Weller).
Further on in the play, Hamlet’s mother Gertrude entreats him to visit her in her chambers. Her plan is to chastise him for his offensive and insensitive antics but before she can begin, Hamlet confronts her instead, rebuking her for her incestuous relationship with her dead husband’s brother. So threateningly ferocious is he that Gertrude is driven to cry for help. The meddlesome Polonius who hides his face among the drapery in turn also cries for help and Hamlet who believes the voice to be Claudius, his father’s murderer, stabs at the voice, silencing it forever. When he learns that the dead man behind the curtain is not his intended target, he makes this statement. “Take thy fortune. / Thy find’st to be too busy is some danger.” (Shakespeare, III. IV. pg. 73) ...

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Your father dies, you are left with emptiness and many things to ponder, months later a ghost appears and he delivers insane news about your uncle that makes you want to kill him; you have just entered the mind of Hamlet. When listening to superstitious people or relying on intangible objects to predict a future outcome, this raises the question of whether we are living by free will or forces larger than ourselves. In William Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, The Ghost is a character that does not spend much time on stage but has a very meaningful position in the play.

When coming to the conclusion of whether or not Hamlet lives by free will, or controlled forces larger than him; we must analyze the concept of being responsible for our own actions, whether God controls what happens, and if Hamlet is actually controlled by other forces larger than him. As we grow older, we are taught to be responsible for our own actions. We are told that there is no one to blame but ourselves when we make a mistake. Hamlet is a tragedy; in a tragedy, the hero has to possess a tragic flaw. Tragic heroes are not supposed to be driven by outside forces, but they must already possess the flaw within themselves.

It can be inferred that Hamlet’s flaw is indecisiveness. He could not decide what to believe for himself, therefore, this causes him to make poor decisions. Hamlet had many plans which are executed in a bad way; no one is responsible for that, but himself. Hamlet says, “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/…” (3. 1. 56-61).

This soliloquy portrays one of the many times within the story where Hamlet has no idea what he wants to do with the situations placed before him. He debated his actions and this proves that he is the only person responsible for his decisions. It is easy for the reader to believe that the larger force could be God as well. There are parts in the play where Christianity is relevant, which could make the reader believe that the larger force is God. Everything happens for a reason; though, at many times people are clueless as to what the reason may be.

Everyone has a conscious; we constantly carry the angel of good on one shoulder, and bad on the other. “Not a whit, we defy augury. There is special providence in a fall of a/ sparrow. If it be now, ‘tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come…” (5. 2. 185-187). In this quote, Hamlet expresses that God controls everything, even the sparrow’s death. This goes with the saying; there is a time and place for everything. If something happened at a later time, it is because it was meant to happen that way.

It is evident that Hamlet believes God controls the fate of men and everything else as well. Our fate is predetermined, but the way upon getting there is not. Now, many people could blame God could for not showing us the way more clearly. This aspect is left for interpretation, because it could also be inferred that the person didn’t stop to hear what the good and bad devil on their shoulders had to say. Not taking accountability for your own actions is a part of human nature. We tend to blame our surrounding for our actions, which is why the reader could blame Hamlet’s action on other forces larger than him.

The ghost in the story is very significant and can be seen as the reason why Hamlet chose to make bad decisions. The ghost says, “I am your father’s spirit…” (1. 5. 9). According to this quote, the ghost is Hamlet’s father. Growing up, we learn our values from our parents; they teach us right from wrong and we know that no matter what they say we simply have to do what they tell us. Since the ghost is Hamlet’s father, he feels obligated do something because he loves him dearly. Our parents have an effect on us. As human beings, we never let someone do something to a person we love.

If someone close to us is hurting, we tend to be hurt as well. In the story, we can see that Hamlet has a very close relationship with his dad because he is willing to do anything for him, even kill people. Hamlet’s automatic instinct is to take revenge; the ghost clearly has a powerful effect on his actions. Whether it is free-will, the power of God or other larger forces, Hamlet makes decisions that result in the loss of many lives; Polonius, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, Ophelia, Laertes, Claudius, and himself.

Hamlet is proof that many things have an effect on our lives and that he lives by free will. Things that affect you are only influences; it is your decision if you chose to bring them into action. No one has the will power to make you do anything. Sometimes we are misled by certain influences but it is up to our mental strength to help lead us down the right path. This play should make every reader realize that there is a consequence for every good or bad action, and we are not the only ones affected by our decisions.

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