Hamlets Many Moods

The Overwhelming Emotional States of Hamlet

Depression, melancholy, disillusionment, and disconnectedness are the burning emotions churning in young Hamlet’s soul as he attempts to come to terms with his father’s death and his mother’s incestuous, illicit marriage. While Hamlet tries to pick up the pieces of his shattered idealism, he consciously embarks on a quest to seek the truth hidden in Elsinore; this mission of Hamlet’s is in stark contrast to Claudius’ fervent effort to obscure the truth of King Hamlet’s murder. The question of Hamlet’s sanity is irrelevant, but instead his melancholy disposition is the centering aspect of the play The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Hamlet’s melancholy is prevalent in his unique diction, his conversations with both comrades and enemies, and especially in his soliloquies. Those aspects of the play allow a glimpse into Hamlet’s state of questioning of deception versus truth and illusion versus reality. The constant struggle between the real and the imagined, along with the circumstances of Hamlet’s arrival home, and the tension between the Danish royalty, give rise to extreme melancholy in Hamlet’s personality, and thereby turn him into a stereotypical malcontent.
Hamlet’s fear, separation, and mistrust form him into a typical malcontent character. In defining the malcontent from the Shakespearean era, Christine Gomez writes that “The malcontent mood in late Elizabethan and Jacobean drama may be traced to the political, economic, social and intellectual conditions of the age.”1 Politically, Hamlet feels left down and put aside for the crown. Claudius assures himself the crown by murdering the King while Hamlet is away at Wittenberg. Not only is Hamlet offended that he is not King, but he questions his worth since he did nothing, even though he was away, to stop Claudius and take the throne for himself. Hamlet “[...] is a disappointed candidate for election, still clinging to a delusion of adequacy.”2 Issues that once enticed Hamlet now hardly satisfy him. In Act II scene ii while Hamlet is conversing with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, his mood changed dramatically within the course of a few lines. Hamlet’s “eloquent praise of the earth, sky, and man, followed immediately by intense world-weariness and disaffection from the human predicament of being reduced to dust.”3 Essentially, all of life, and all that was good and beautiful in life (e.g. the garden), is tainted. Hamlet, the disillusioned idealist, continues with the motif when he, disheartened, declares:
[...] the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’er hanging firmament, this majestical roof, fretted with golden fire- why, it appeareth nothing to me but a fouled and pestilent congregation of vapors.4
Those lines represent Hamlet’s cosmic view on the planet. He finds the world to be empty and
lifeless, dirty and diseased, and his particular place in it to be desolate and lonely. Indeed, he
feels so isolated and entrapped in his native land that he says “ Denmark’s a prison…in which there are many confines, wards, dungeons…” (II. ii.264-6). These feelings of loneliness and isolation are common to those people suffering from melancholy and/or depression. “Shakespeare represents Hamlet’s melancholy as genuine rather than stereotypical.”5 Shakespeare did not attempt to have Hamlet conform to any criteria of the time, and with his non-conformity Hamlet appears as a true character and not someone who has been forced to be a certain way in order to generate a fixed response from the audience. Even though it is presumed to be unintentional, “Shakespeare’s portrayal of Hamlet closely follows contemporary ideas of the passion of melancholy. From the outset Hamlet is described as afflicted by the passion of sorrow. His mother begs him to ‘cast’ his ‘nighted colour off’.”6 She cannot begin to comprehend her son’s emotional state and therefore takes it much more lightly than she should. Due to her inability to understand her son she resorts to pleading with Hamlet in hopes that she can change his outlook.
Gertrude’s request is made because of her concern that Hamlet is seemingly taking King Hamlet’s death to be seemingly out of the ordinary, and that his death has caused Hamlet to lose touch with his peers and even himself in a state of depression. Hamlet responds with
Seems, madam? Nay, it is. I know not “seems”. ‘Tis not