How does shakespeare use conflict in Hamlet as a w Essay

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how does shakespeare use conflict in Hamlet as a way of exploring ideas?

How does Shakespeare use conflict in Hamlet as a way of exploring ideas?


An individual's response to conditions of internal and external conflict is explored
throughout literature. In his play, Hamlet, Shakespeare delves into the themes of
appearance versus reality, lies versus deceit, rejection versus self doubt and tragedy,
and in doing so attacks the frivolous state of humanity in contemporary society. In order
to explore these themes, however, he uses several forms of conflict to project his
opinions and expand his ideas relating to the themes of the play. Internal conflict, as
well as external conflict are dominant features of his works, and in Hamlet are made
evident through a succession of dire events which can attack and destroy someone. However
perhaps the most captivating form of conflict Shakespeare uses to expand and explore the
ideas presented within the text is the conflict between the self and the universe.


Old Hamlet is killed by his brother Claudius. Only two months after her husband's death a
vulnerable Gertrude marries her husband's brother Claudius. Gertrude's weakness opens the
door for Claudius to take the throne as the king of Denmark. Hamlet is outraged by this,
he loses respect for his mother as he feels that she has rejected him and has taken no
time to mourn her own husband's death. One night old Hamlets ghost appears to prince
Hamlet and tells him how he was poisoned by his own brother. Up until this point the
kingdom of Denmark believed that old Hamlet had died of natural causes. As it was custom,
prince Hamlet sought to avenge his father's death. This leads Hamlet, the main character
into a state of internal conflict as he agonises over what action and when to take it as
to avenge his father's death. Shakespeare's play presents the reader with various forms of
conflict which plague his characters. He explores these conflicts through the use of
soliloquies, recurring motifs, structure and mirror plotting.


Shakespeare uses external conflict in order to explore the theme of consequence, action
and reaction in reaction in relation to consequence. Using the idea of external conflict,
the playwright is able to demonstrate the aftermath of a difficult decision, leading to
personal moral dilemma. This is made evident to the viewer when Hamlet kills Claudius.
External conflict is used to explore Shakespeare's view that man is a complex individual
and that all actions have a consequence. The consequence that follows is often an internal
one.


Shakespeare's Hamlet is presented as thinker who takes a lot of time contemplating how to
avenge his father's death, as a result of initial external conflict after Claudius kills
his father. He plots against Claudius and schemes to kill him as to avenge his father's
death. Hamlet in trying to mask his inner feelings and to foreshadow the fact that he is
about to kill Claudius acts out lunacy. Shakespeare's use of soliloquies work on revealing
Hamlet's nature and character. We see that Hamlet is a man of logic; we also see his
weaknesses such as his procrastination and his self doubt. The play, like many tragedies
concludes with the death of many of the characters. "Of carnal, bloody and unnatural acts;
Of accidental judgements, casual slaughters; of deaths put on by cunning and forc'd cause"
(Act five, scene 2). This is a quote by Horatio as he speaks of how the tragedy came to
be. This final act is the concludes Shakespeare's recipe for tragedy.


Shakespeare's structure assists him in creating tension and raising questions about the
folly of revenge and lies. Hamlet begins with an exposition where the characters and mood
of the play are introduced. The audience is then exposed to the main conflict. The main
divergence arises when Hamlet learns of how his father was really killed by Claudius. This
helps the playwright present and explore the ideas of deceit, lies and reality.
Furthermore the main conflict is followed by a rising action where Shakespeare takes a
presents the reality of the situation, from Hamlet's point of view how his father was
killed. ‘Murder most foul, as in the best it is;' (Act 1, scene 4). He merges the ideas
of lies, deceit and self doubt resulting in a melange of moral dilemma and personal
complications. This gives way to the recurring motifs of revenge, action versus inaction,
broken family relationships and the questioning of life. Using the climatic point of the
play, where Hamlet is reassured that Claudius killed his father consequently results in an
anti-climax. Hamlet's reassurance has him out to get revenge upon Claudius. The climax
results in a falling action (anti-climax) where Claudius takes charge of action and plots
Hamlet's downfall. The final ‘catastrophe' where many of the main characters die allows
Shakespeare to present to us his view that conflict can breed and multiply and even bring
upon the downfall innocent people.


Shakespeare's main character Hamlet is a victim of both internal and external conflict.
His conflict includes a physical nature as he goes about to avenge his father's death.
Shakespeare translates further the idea of internal versus external conflict by giving it
a physical nature. Shakespeare also uses soliloquies to emphasise Hamlets inner thoughts
and conflict. This stands in contrast to the way he acts amongst others; with the
intention of highlighting the inner turmoil he is experiencing. The infamous quote, "To be
or not to be: that is the question: whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer…." (Act
III, scene i, 58-90). It is during this soliloquy that Hamlet is contemplating whether he
should take his own life. He is led to the extreme where he questions his existence. As a
result of the conflict surrounding becomes it becomes the conflict consuming him. Here
Hamlet's conflict between himself and the universe allows the playwright to explore a
modern view on the questioning of ones existence. It explores through it the ideas of
tragedy, self doubt, rejection and deceit. Shakespeare's purpose here is to show Hamlet's
quality of mind. This soliloquy inevitably presents us with Hamlet's inner self, however
this is as a result of the outer struggles, such as his fathers' recent death and his
mother's marriage to Claudius which has him feeling discarded by her. ‘No by the rood,
not so: you are the queen, your husband's brother's wife.' (Act 3, scene 4) This quote
reflects Hamlet's feelings for his mother. In his soliloquy his deeply passionate nature
is complemented by a relentlessly logical intellect. This shows to us that Hamlet is
indeed sane and a man of logic, even when he is at the point of contemplating his own
suicide.


Hamlet's uses of paradoxes express both his internal and his external thoughts through a
literal and figurative meaning. Shakespeare uses this technique to emphasise the sly and
fast witted nature of the main character. An example of this is Hamlet's response to
Claudius "Not so my lord, I am too much in the sun" (Act I, scene I, 67). Literally Hamlet
means that the clouds of his fathers' death do not hang over him. Figuratively he means
that Claudius has called him son once too often. The message here is that Hamlet is
resentful towards Claudius. This paradox shows us both his inner and outer self and shows
us the sly way which Hamlet goes about concealing his scheme and figuratively revealing
what he really thinks. This is often shown through his sarcasm. The internal and external
conflict that Hamlet is undergoing is articulated through this compact and clever
technique. This aids Shakespeare in exploring most of the ideas in his play. It shows to
us Hamlet's battle with appearance and reality as a result of the lies and deceit
surrounding him.


Shakespeare uses Ophelia to mirror Hamlet's internal and external conflict. She expresses
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