Reigniting the Flame


Despite nearing his departure for England in the beginning Act 4 Scene 4, Hamlet is motivated to finish his revenge. This change of thought is caused by an encounter with the captain of Fortinbras’s army. In this encounter, Hamlet realizes that twenty thousand men are facing “imminent death…for a fantasy and trick of fame.” The deaths of these men are merely for a worthless plot of land. This causes Hamlet to take a moment to reflect back upon his underlying goal of revenge. He reasons that his “honor’s at the stake” if he does not carry out his plan to completion. The fulfillment of his plan will not only be for his late father, but for his mother as well. Hamlet’s image in the mind of Gertrude is “stained” by what she has witness. Hamlet does not want his mother’s last recollection of him to be as a killer of the innocent. This soliloquy in larger context could be seen as Shakespeare’s critique on war and living life. War is viewed an “imposthume”, or an ulcer, of wealth and peace. The seeds of violence is scattered throughout history. Whether it is the result of internal or external conflicts, war eventually leads to loss of lives. The expense of these lives many times are often the result of meaningless confrontations. As for life itself, Shakespeare states that everyone have “capability and godlike reason”, but many times these characteristics are wasted by not being used. For Hamlet, the distraction with the disposal and the subsequent conversation with Polonius puts his plan on hold. With the rejuvenated idea in mind, the flame of revenge is once again reignited.

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One comment

  1. This interpretation is interesting. What really stuck out to me was your statement that Hamlet has his plan on hold due to various circumstances. I think this can reflect on one of his personality traits, Hamlet’s inability to act. He spends so much time analyzing and thinking about outcomes that he never follows through with what he implies he wants to do. He says he will avenge his father and kill Claudius but he has not yet done so. At the end of scene 2, Act 2, line 560, Hamlet says, “This is most brave, That 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.” He is constantly thinking about how he has been doing nothing and as he says here, that he should have been brave and sought revenge for his father already! This trait also reveals itself when he is questioning whether or not it is better for him to live or die. He analyzes the consequences and benefits and yet does nothing but think. In Act 3, scene 3, line 74, Hamlet exclaims, “Now might I do it pat. Now he is a-praying. And now I’ll do’t.” He goes as far as pulling out his sword to kill Claudius but stops and analyzes instead. Hamlet is constantly a man of all talk, no action; however, as shown with Hamlet’s stabbing of Polonius, he is beginning to be more impulsive. It will be interesting to see where this change in character leads.

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