Hamlet (c. 1600) is perhaps the most famous of all the tragedies created by William Shakespeare. The main character – Hamlet – may be the most complex and controversial character any playwright has ever placed onstage. Hamlet’s erratic behavior poses a question: is he being rational in his acts and sacrificing himself for the “greater good” or is he simply mad? How and why does Hamlet move from one state of mind to the other? What significance does this have for the play? Throughout the play Hamlet goes through several different stages of life, constantly being in a tortured mental state, caught between love, grief, and vengeance. His different states of mind are the result of his controversial personality and his ability to objectively analyze any situation.
Over the centuries there have been a multitude of different explanations for Hamlet\'s behavior. One of the views is that Hamlet is simply a victim of circumstances; the other presents him as a beautiful but ineffectual soul who lacked the willpower to avenge his father. Hamlet can also be viewed as something close to a manic-depressive whose melancholy moods, as his failure to take revenge continues, deepened into self-contempt. His disturbing gift of laughing at his own grief as well as at the shortcomings of the world in general also contributes to the complexity of his character. His laughter strengthens the plot, by becoming one of the qualities of his mind that enable him to avoid his mission and postpone his revenge. The reader can see that Shakespeare meant to create Hamlet to be such a complicated character. Hamlet is a person of exceptional intelligence and sensitivity, raised to occupy a high station in life and then suddenly confronted with a violent and terrifying situation in which he must take drastic action. He admits that he is not ready for this task: “The time is out of joint. O cursed spite, / That ever I was born to set it right!” (1.5.188-89). At this point Hamlet’s mind is torn apart by the controversy of vengeance. It\'s hardly surprising to find him veering between extremes of behavior, hesitating, demanding proof, and looking for the most appropriate way to carry out his task. The Ghost appears before Hamlet at a very disturbing time in his life -- his father’s tragic death and his mother’s quick remarriage are more than Hamlet’s mind can bear. The reader can easily find justification for this point of view, especially in Hamlet\'s own soliloquies. Early in the play Hamlet manifests his anger:
Let me not think on’t; frailty, thy name is woman—
A little month, or ere those shoes were old
With which she followed my poor father’s body
Like Niobe, all tears, why, she—
O god, a beast that wants discourse of reason
Would have mourned longer—married with my uncle,
My father’s brother, but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules. Within a month,
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,
She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
It is not, nor it cannot come to good. (1.2.146-58)

Linked to the theme of revenge is the great question of Hamlet\'s inner meditations: Is there a point to life at all? Do humans suffer in this harsh world for a purpose, or simply because they are afraid to find out what may lie beyond it? Is there a higher power, and how does one seek its guidance? Hamlet\'s anguish is caused by his effort to link even the most trivial event to the order of the universe. His inability to cope with reality because of his philosophical beliefs causes Hamlet’s state of mind to constantly change. His dilemma is in his unsuccessful attempts to create a tangible bond between his passion, which would spur him to immediate vengeance, and reason, which is God-given, and which would soothe Hamlet’s action with sensible judgment. Hamlet is trapped between two worlds: the ideal world that he created in his head and the existing reality. Worst of all, however, is that he realizes that the weakness of his mind prevents him from acting: “Why, then ‘tis none to you, for there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so” (2.2. 253-54).
Another point worth mentioning