Hamlet is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare, but despite being set in the late middle ages, it provides insight into modern society as it covers many issues that still have relevance to this day. How does the impossibility of certainty influence our actions?The omnipresent theme in Hamlet is the impossibility of certainty, which is represented by the fog in the previous image.
To elaborate on this, unlike other Shakespearean plays, the action we expect to see is constantly put on hold as the ever indecisive Hamlet searches for answers. The low-lying cloud of fog which shrouds nearly everything visible symbolizes the uncertainties that surround Hamlet throughout the play. The young child standing in the middle of the fog represents Hamlet who is, literally, a child lost in a big world with not enough answers for him after the passing of his father, King Hamlet.
This image is an accurate representation of modern society as well. The fog is essentially every uncertainty in life that holds us back. We feel lost when surrounded by fog as it is difficult to see what is around us. We are a race of people who fear the unknown – throughout history, we have always been afraid of things we don’t understand.
When faced with uncertainties, we stay within our comfort zone – this is where we feel safe because we are certain of things. The quote, “To be, or not to be: that is the question” – meaning: to live, or not to live – comes from the most famous soliloquy spoken by Hamlet in Act 3 Scene 1. This is when he is contemplating suicide and comes to the conclusion that the uncertainty of the afterlife is ultimately what prevents mankind from ending their lives. This is only one of several examples in Hamlet showing how a lack of certainty influences our actions, as this newfound knowledge results in his failure to act accordinglyHamlet’s inability to act out his revenge quickly is due to his uncertainty of several things, such as: whether the ghost that speaks to him is really his father or a spirit trying to lead him astray, whether we can be certain in the existence of ghosts, and whether the ghost has reliable knowledge of its death. These issues that arose in the play relate to those in modern society as well. For example, how can we know the facts of a crime when there are no witnesses? Can we judge a person’s soul or mind by observing their behavior? Can we know the consequences of our actions? Can we know what to expect of the afterlife? Through these issues that it covers, Hamlet teaches us of the many uncertainties that our lives are built upon, as well as how there are many unknown elements which are taken for granted when we act or judge another’s actions. Hamlet finds himself lost in a spiritually ambiguous world on several occasions, and much like Hamlet, we sometimes allow this knowledge to influence our actions.
After learning the truth behind his father’s death, Hamlet moves forward to exact his revenge, but procrastinates when he is hit with the uncertainties of the afterlife. Despite having the perfect opportunity to kill Claudius, he refrains when he sees he is praying, as he believes that killing him whilst praying will send him straight to Heaven. In reality – all of these things are unknown.
There is no proof of divine entities, yet we, along with Hamlet, allow spiritual beliefs to influence our thoughts and actions. In truth, most of life is uncertain. We as a society walk through fog for the majority of our lives, but it’s the only way to get to where we need to be. Throughout the story, much like the people of Denmark, we as an audience are wondering what happened to King Hamlet. This uncertainty consumes us towards the end of the play. This works to help us explore the uncertainties that surround us as well.
Like Hamlet, we experience inner conflicts