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Hamlet Analytical Essay

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“To be, or not to be- that is the question.” These words are easily identifiable, although not most easily understood, to anyone who has read or knows of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. However, what Hamlet is trying “to be or not to be,” who Hamlet is or perceives himself to be, has remained a mystery ever since William Shakespeare penned Hamlet in 1603. Critics such as Johann Wolfgang van Goethe from as early as the 18th century have debated Hamlet’s emotional instability, while later critics use earlier ideas such as Goethe’s to build their own assumptions of Hamlet’s situation. Critics such as T.S. Eliot, Robert Palfrey Utter, and George Anastaplo state that to understand Hamlet’s emotions, one must first eliminate their own bias before looking…show more content…
One would assume that this literature would be irrelevant and outdated, but in fact, one author in particular, Johann Wolfgang van Goethe, who wrote a large work based off of Wilhelm Meister’s and the 18th century interpretation of Hamlet, is referenced a countless amount of times by later critics for his groundbreaking early critique of Hamlet’s inability to carry out action. Goethe used a mythological approach in his argument with a knowledge that Shakespeare gave Hamlet a quest that Hamlet could not carry to its fullest extent. In typical late-1700s fashion, Goethe compares Hamlet to nature, specifically an oak tree which is planted in the wrong form, and instead falters because it lacks the necessity (in Hamlet’s case, his spirit) to survive. Goethe ends the analogy of the oak tree with a profound quote: “He (Hamlet) is called to do what is impossible, not impossible in itself, but impossible to him” (144). Thus is the basis for the argument of why Hamlet’s mental state has been appealing for generations; the above statement by Goethe is timeless and makes readers from all time periods think that Hamlet is like them, for some things that they would like to do are impossible because of who they
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