Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies. The plot revolves around the main character Hamlet who cannot make up his mind on whether or not to take revenge over the murder of his father, King Hamlet, the ruler of Denmark. This indecision arises after Hamlet is visited by a ghost which claims to be that of his late father and it reveals to him that Claudius is the culprit in the murder. Claudius happens to be Hamlet’s uncle and he has gone ahead to marry Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude after the death of the King. Despite several opportunities that present themselves for Hamlet to kill Claudius and take revenge, he cannot bring himself to perform the act.
Hamlet’s indecision presents the central pillar of the internal conflict that is evident in the play Hamlet. The procrastination that defines Hamlet’s character in relation to taking revenge against Claudius presents a sense of drama that defines the entire play.
The consequences of this procrastination are eventually evident, underlining the significance of the internal conflict that surrounds Hamlet. It is clear that had Hamlet taken the decision to avenge his father’s death early enough, he would probably never have taken the eventual decision to end his own life. Other lives that were eventually lost as a result of his indecision may also have been spared. The running theme of death and destiny are therefore central pillars in the understanding of internal conflict within the play.
The difficult decisions that face Hamlet are a reflection of life’s dilemmas that he has to grapple with. He expresses the conflict within his conscience through one of his soliquoys. In the soliloquy, Hamlet wonders whether it is better to suffer in silence amidst all the troubles or to confront them (Shakespeare Act III Scene I). This particular soliloquy reflects the troubles deep within Hamlet’s soul. In this soliquoy, life is presented as a battle that produces both defeats and triumphs. Overcoming the conflicts within the human souls is central to one’s eventual fate.
The distinction between illusion and reality presents another internal conflict within Hamlet. When Hamlet is visited by his father’s ghost, he is instructed to avenge his father’s death. There is a developing conflict on identifying this encounter as illusion or reality.
External conflict in the play is reflected in the way the characters project their internal conflicts to the outside environment. This is especially the case between Hamlet and Claudius. The conflict between them is displayed through the hatred and indignations with which they regard each other. The desire for Hamlet to take revenge and the fact that Claudius sees Hamlet as his enemy leads to the differences between them. Such is the conflict between the two that it eventually costs them their lives and also seals the fates of others within their circle. External conflict in this case appears to be a way of resolving internal conflict and providing closure to the emotions within.
The bitter engagement between Claudius and Hamlet reflects the conflict that exists between man and man in the play. Another instance of this conflict would be that between Hamlet and Ophelia. Ophelia is clearly in love with Hamlet, but is appears the former’s intent is far from love. He mistreats Ophelia and in as sense, this conflict is emanates from an internal conflict within Hamlet. A possible reason why this conflict occurs is the negative attitude that Hamlet has developed against all women. This is motivated by his indignations at his mother’s decision to marry his ‘enemy, Claudius. In a way, Hamlet takes out his bitterness against Ophelia.
The book also portrays the conflict that exists at a societal level. A major conflict and which Hamlet continually points out is relationship that his mother has with Claudius. Immediately, King Hamlet dies, Hamlet’s mother marries Claudius. This relationship represents what Hamlet views as an incestuous union that is in conflict with the dictates of society. Hamlet in the book condemns the hurry with which his mother remarries (Shakespeare Scene II).
The conflict at a societal level is also seen in the conflict between Denmark and Norway. There is a desire to take back the lands that belonged to Fortinbra’s father. The conflict between Denmark and Norway also gives rise to an internal conflict within Hamlet as he compares himself to Fortinbra. He thinks he is a coward for not acting bravely like Fortinibra.
The central conflict in the play is that which confronts Hamlet in relation to the killing of his father. This conflict shapes the plot of the play and it is the theme around which the play revolves. It is evident that most of the events that take place are related to this conflict. Overall, the conflicts in Hamlet are all interrelated and intertwined. Hamlet as a character is caught in a web of indecision, unresolved emotions and uncertainty which only he has the power to resolve. Unfortunately he doesn’t, and this shapes the play.
Shakespeare, William. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark 1993. Web.