The Overpowering Emotions of Hamlet and Antony

Two of the most the most complicated characters in Shakespeare’s plays are Mark Antony, in The Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra, and Hamlet, in The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. They share many similarities, but also have notable differences. The biggest trait that they have in common is the effect that their emotional state of mind has on their actions. Antony and Hamlet are overcome by their emotions and lose their objective reasoning power. They are both irrational and disorientated in the decisions they make. Hamlet differs from Antony on a personal level. This is to say that his mood does not shift as sporadically as Antony’s, and his melancholia is present throughout the entire play. Antony, on the other hand, has mood swings that take him from love to anger in short periods of time. The biggest difference between the two is the speed of their actions. Antony has many different affairs throughout the play and wastes no time carrying them out or thinking about them. Hamlet’s revenge on Claudius is his sole task in the play, and it takes him months to accomplish. Another clear distinction is that there is a theme of madness in Hamlet that is not as evident in Antony and Cleopatra. The question of Hamlet’s madness, or ‘Antic Disposition’, is one of the most debated in English literature. Antony’s mental state, on the other hand, is never questioned, but he is still very irrational. Love is a key theme. There is a question of love in Hamlet, but it does not play such an important role. Both characters are obsessive and delusional; all of these factors cause their inevitable deaths.
Hamlet and Antony are both overcome by their own emotions. Their uncontrollable emotions are perhaps their most tragic flaw. The emotions that they are overwhelmed by are very different for the most part, with the exception of their aggression. At the beginning of Hamlet, Hamlet is in a state of depression, due to his father’s death, and his mother’s ‘incestuous’ marriage to Hamlet’s uncle. He is unstable and already contemplating suicide:
O that this too too sallied flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d
His canon ‘gainst [self-] slaughter! O God, God,
How [weary], stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world! (I.ii.129-34).

When Hamlet learns of his father’s ghost his emotional unstableness is only heightened. After learning of his father’s wrongful death, Hamlet loses all respect for anyone’s life as well as his own. Hamlet acts on his emotions, not on reason. His mood varies throughout the play, and this is reflected in his actions. He goes from being on the break of suicide to murderous rage. Virtually the only emotions we see in Hamlet throughout the play are sorrow and anger. The only sign of happiness that we see in Hamlet is in the letters he sent to Ophelia. Polonius reads the letters to Claudius and Gertrude, “To the celestial and my soul’s idol, the most beautified Ophelia” (II.ii.109-110). It is not known when the letters are sent. This is significant in the argument regarding Hamlet’s madness. If they are sent before his father death, it signifies the drastic change in Hamlet’s mood. If they are sent after, it is possibly a tool used by Hamlet to portray his ‘antic disposition’. Presuming that the notion for his insanity is merited, his madness could be attributed to his melancholia and desire for revenge. His depression and bitterness take control over him. He needs to be reminded of his task, which is to avenge his father’s unjust death. Evidence of this is found when he attacks his mother in her chamber. He ends up unintentionally killing Polonius, and he quite possibly would have killed his mother if it were not for the ghost appearing. Hamlet feels no remorse for killing Polonius, even though he was Ophelia’s father, “This counsellor/ Is now most still, most secret, and most grave/ Who was in life a foolish prating knave” (III. iv. 214-15). Hamlet’s emotions transform him into a chilling person, who cares about nothing but revenge. His plot for revenge causes him to think too much. This affects his decisions, especially