Douglas Horton, a clergyman, once said
Douglas Horton, a clergyman, once said, “While seeking revenge, dig two graves - one for yourself”. This philosophical idea is the basis of the tragical play Hamlet by William Shakespeare. In the play “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare, Hamlet suffers detrimental losses throughout the play. Beginning with the loss of his father, Hamlet is subject to a domino effect that causes a forfeiture of everything he values. Unable to cope with his grievances, Hamlet’s erratic behaviour causes him to transcend up a path which ultimately leads him to lose much more than he initially did. Consequently, he suffers many losses over the duration of the play, losing: his mother’s love, Ophelia’s love, and loses sight of himself. Over the course of the play Hamlet’s mental state deteriorates arguably his most consequential loss, losing himself, his mental state worsens as the damage of the losses increase and so influence Hamlet’s actions greatly. Through Hamlet’s predicaments, Shakespeare magnificently develops the theme that continuous misfortune in life leads to one changing as a person and starts the descent to the total loss of one’s identity.
Firstly, Hamlet has to confront the peril and the grief corresponding to the loss of his parents. Not receiving emotional support from the neighboring characters, Hamlet mourns his father with an insensitive and unsupportive environment. Namely, when Claudius addresses Hamlet, “Tis’ sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet, / To give these mourning duties to your father. / But you must know your father lost a father… We pray you, throw to earth This unprevailing woe, and think of us / As of a father.” [1.2.87-108]. Furthermore, exhibiting a paucity of sympathy and consideration towards Hamlet, Claudius essentially points out that Hamlet should come to the realisation that his father has gone through the natural process, his father no longer alive and that he should not mourn him instead Hamlet should push on to accept Claudius as a father figure. Moreover, Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother chooses not to provide emotional assistance for her son instead remark on the fact that he should be happy about her second marriage. Lacking emotional support, Hamlet uses the instance to contemplate and reflects upon his mothers’ action, where he says, “yet, within a month / Let me not think on’t. Frailty, thy name is woman!… married with my uncle /… no, more like my father / Than I to Hercules… such dexterity to incestuous sheets!” [1.2.145-157]. Thus, proving the loss of respect towards Gertrude, in Hamlet’s soliloquy he characterizes her as a feeble woman. Truly, this is because Hamlet views his mother’s efforts as treachery as she had an obligation of fidelity towards his father, the previous king. Meanwhile, perturbed, Hamlet contemplates suicide the prospect of which turns up on after his insensitive interaction with Claudius and by his reflection on Gertrude’s hasty marriage. Thus, he considers, “Oh, this, too, too sullied flesh would melt /… His cannon ‘gainst self-slaughter! /… How weary… and unprofitable / Seem to me all the uses of this world!” [1.2.129-134]. Furthermore, the death of Hamlet’s father causes Hamlet’s sporadical behaviour, and thoughts to be vicious and of self benefit. Moreover, as Hamlet learns about his father’s unsparing demise, his only conjecture is to take action against the assassin; his uncle. Losing both his parents, his father physically and his mother emotionally, Hamlet starts to change. Additionally, his passive conjectures on vengeance and revenge slowly render him impassive. Moreover, the situations that Hamlet is subject to deeply penetrate his well-being, which seemingly is the first notable step that changes Hamlet’s temperament and character into an impulsive individual.
Analogous to the enterprises deriving from the omission of benevolence from Hamlet’s parents, Hamlet’s loss Ophelia’s love since she too abandoned him in his moment of need. Still, Hamlet looks for compassion and sympathy coming from his loved ones. Thus, Hamlet is coarse with Ophelia as he could not rely on her for emotional support. Unknown to Hamlet, Ophelia still loved him, but her father forbids her to avoid any displays of affections for prince Hamlet, as they would be too great for her to manage and that the relationship would bring dishonour to her and her household. Ophelia’s commands are as follows, “Tender yourself more dearly, / Or not to crack the wind of the poor phrase, / Running it thus you’ll tender me a fool.” [1.3.46]. Agreeing to Polonius’ orders, she becomes bound by her agreement and thus cannot show any affection to Hamlet. Indeed, Ophelia’s love for Hamlet is legitimate, but since she had the inhibitions of the concurrence between her father, Ophelia could not give emotional support to Hamlet. Furthermore, Hamlet’s erratic conduct towards Ophelia hurt her feeling and so Hamlet lost the change of retaining any relationship between Ophelia and him. In contrast, if Ophelia could provide affirmation of her love in front of Hamlet, he may have found the solace needed to grieve for his father. Instead, he ostracizes all his other feelings, primarily focusing on his father’s vengeance. Truly, his outlandish behaviour is reflective of his mental state, when Ophelia states, “Lord Hamlet, with his doubted all unbraced; / No hat upon his head; his stockings fouled, / Ungartered, and down-gyved to his ankle; /… As if he had been loosed out of hell / To speak of horrors he comes before me.” [2.1.78-84]. An appearance of affliction and turmoil is not of Hamlet’s usual character as described by Ophelia. Hamlet’s chaotic appearance directly stems from his presumption of Ophelia’s affection. In conjunction with Ophelia hiding her love from Hamlet and Hamlet dreadfully needing someone close to him to grieve with, he transforms into a distinctly individual atypical of his typical behaviour. Between his father’s death and his unrequited love for Ophelia, his rage over all his other obstacles in his life cause him to lose Ophelia’s love. Hamlet’s mixed feelings coerced him into say things he does not mean but reveal his disturbed mental state. Substantiated as he affirms the theory when Hamlet reveals to Ophelia, “You should not have believed me, for virtue cannot so/ inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it. I loved you/ not [3.1.119-121]. Contrary to what Hamlet says is what he believes. Meanwhile, Hamlet does truly love Ophelia, but his perception of misfortune, his experiences prompted him to consider that Ophelia too has repudiated his endearment. Since Ophelia does not declare her affection in Hamlet’s presence, this provides legitimacy to his perception that Ophelia had generated an infatuation with him rather than love. Consequently, this drives another symbolic step towards Hamlet’s slow destruction of his mental presence, and his identity as the Prince of Denmark, as he purposes gradually morph into attaining retributive justice rather than vindication.
Lastly, losing his father puts Hamlet into shock, he does not cope mechanism to cope with his father’s death. Thus, he slowly closes out everyone from his life as he takes his father’s death roughly and is unwilling to take the steps to regain his way of life. Specifically, Hamlet tries to assert his sorrow by telling Gertrude, ‘These indeed “seem, / For they are actions that a man might play. / But I have that within the passeth show, These but the trappings and the suits of woe.” [1.2 24]. Ever since losing his father, Prince Hamlet has largely been mourning and seldom engages in the political reformations following his father’s death. However, Hamlet seeks to explain how it may look like many others, he is fabricating his misery, however, he is wise to interpret that his black clothing represents only a small amount of grief compared to what he really feels within. Additionally, Hamlet not only undergoes his father’s death, but no one seems to grief over the death, which is disconcerting, Claudius asks Hamlet, “How is it that the clouds still hang on you?” [1.2.67]. This quote shows Claudius’ absence of sorrow towards King Hamlet’s death, oppose to when Polonius dies, he immediately tells Laertes, “I must commune with your grief” [4.5.213]. Besides, Hamlet observes this and starts to act duller, gloomier, and grimmer and at times aggressive when provoked about his father’s demise. Moreover, his ineptitude to accept any of the losses he sustains slowly contributes to the degradation of his own psychological state, as he suggests losing all sense of emotion and motivation and concentrates merely on avenging his father, which prompts him to adhere to a dark passage of cruelty and creating hardship in his life.
Losing what matters the most can altogether destroy what their ethics and ideals once were. In the instance of Hamlet, losing his parents shows to be his embarkation onto a series of losses, blinded by vengeance. Nevertheless, he loses the love of Ophelia, his mother and ends up losing himself. Moreover, Hamlet becomes a man whom he can no longer recognize himself. Throughout Hamlet, Shakespeare excellently proves that continuous losses ultimately lead to the changing of an individual beyond recognition of oneself.