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 is the effect that the
concept of revenge has on Hamlet. This powerful demand is countered in Hamlet\'s
mind by three questions: Is revenge a good or an evil act? Is Claudius truly
guilty and so to be punished? Is it Hamlet\'s responsibility to punish him? The
fact that