Transience In Shakespeare's Hamlet

Better Essays
In the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare, the antagonist Hamlet finds himself lost and confused. His father is dead, his mother marries is uncle, and to add even more confusion, his father’s ghost asks him to avenge his death by murdering Hamlet’s uncle. With his life losing meaning, Hamlet must figure out his place in the complex world of Denmark. Also, he must weigh his religious beliefs against his own personal morals. To discover these, Hamlet begins a journey of self understanding. Hamlet’s original understandings of transience and the purpose of life change, due to pivotal moments in his journey. Hamlet’s original definition of transience brings his internal struggles to the forefront. At first, Hamlet sees the transience of life as…show more content…
As the play progresses, Hamlet has experiences that make him privy to the importance of his transience. During a soliloquy Hamlet wrestles with the thought of young Fortinbras fighting a battle for a meaningless piece of land. Hamlet says “Exposing what is mortal and unsure To all that fortune, death, and danger dare, Even for an egg-shell. Rightly to be great Is not to stir without great argument, But greatly to find quarrel in a straw When honor's at the stake”(4.4.51-56) bringing up the concept of reputation. The land, while it is not rich in resources nor is it in a strategic military position, is worth something perhaps more important to Fortinbras than these tangibles. This land is worth pride, respect, and reputation. This soliloquy denotes the beginning of an alteration to Hamlet’s notion of transience. Hamlet understands that what is done on earth is important, not only for the sake of getting admission into heaven, but for the legacy that you leave the world. Hamlet’s new understanding is furthered during his conversation with two gravediggers. While examining the skull of Yorick, the king’s late jester, Hamlet recalls Yorick as ”a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. he hath borne me on his back a thousand times. and now how abhorred in my imagination it is!”(5.1.173-176). Hamlet continues to contemplate the lives of…show more content…
Also, Hamlet discovers meaning to his transience. Hamlet is now able to give priority to both spiritual and earthly reputation. Before the final duel, Hamlet lets go of nearly all of his worries about the afterlife by saying “The readiness is all. Since no man of aught he leaves knows, what is’t to leave betimes? let be”(5.2.200-202). By casting away his worries about the afterlife, which he has no control over, Hamlet allows himself to complete his mission of killing Claudius. Hamlet understands that the reputation he leaves on earth will be just as important as his afterlife. By killing a corrupt leader like Claudius, Hamlet is leaving a great legacy behind. Furthermore, Hamlet even begs Horatio to abstain from killing himself “And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain, To tell (his) story”(5.2.331-332).Hamlet’s imploring of Horatio portrays the new importance Hamlet places on his legacy. He wants people to know what he did, he cares about the reputation he is leaving. Originally, Hamlet cared very little about how he was perceived by others as long as he made it to the afterlife. However, he now cares about the his spiritual afterlife as well as his earthly afterlife. His new understanding of the purpose of life gives meaning to his transience. Hamlet can now work towards both his spiritual and earthly goals Hamlet
Get Access