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How Does Shakespeare Use Conflict in Hamlet as a Way of Exploring Ideas?

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Essay title: 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

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