Character Analysis Hamlet Essay Introductions
Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Existentialism
by Feross Aboukhadijeh, 12th grade
What is mankind? Who am I? What is the meaning of life? These are multifaceted existential questions that ancient and modern philosophies have yet to adequately answer. Countless philosophers have spent their lifetimes in search of answers to these questions but died before finding a suitable answer. Certainly, the philosophy of existentialism is an interesting phenomenon. The dictionary defines existentialism as a "philosophical movement . . . centering on analysis of individual existence in an unfathomable universe and the plight of the individual who must assume ultimate responsibility for acts of free will" ("Existentialism"). The character Hamlet from Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet explores these existential questions, seeking truth and understanding as he tries to come to grips with his father's death. In the end, Hamlet proves to be an exceedingly existential character.
Prince Hamlet is a university student who enjoys contemplating difficult philosophical questions. When his father, king of Denmark, dies, he returns home to find evidence of foul play in his father’s death. The Ghost of Hamlet (the dead king) tells Prince Hamlet that his uncle Claudius is the murderer. Throughout the rest of the play, Hamlet seeks to prove Claudius’ guilt before he takes action against Claudius. However, Hamlet is pensive ad extremum, at times even brooding; he constantly overuses his intellect while ignoring his emotions and ignoring what "feels right." His extreme logic causes him to delay his revenge against Claudius until the final scene of the play where he kills Claudius and proves that he has progressed into a truly existential character.
At the beginning of the play, Hamlet acts out of pure intellect and processed logic. He suppresses his natural instincts, his emotions, and trusts only in the power of his intelligence. For instance, when Hamlet encounters his father's ghost, he does not believe it is his father—even though he has an emotional reaction upon seeing it. Hamlet says “Let me not burst in ignorance; but tell / Why thy canoniz'd bones, hearsed in death, / Have burst their cerements . . . Say, why is this? wherefore? what should we do?” (I.iv.46-48,57). Hamlet is so confused by the sight of his father’s ghost that he is unsure of how to act. His intellect tells him that the sight is not possible, however his emotions tell him otherwise. However, he stifles his emotion and retains his doubts about the ghost. Later, Hamlet plans a play where actors re-enact the king's murder in an effort to prove the validity of what the ghost has told him.
Although Hamlet appears to be the epitome of an anti-existentialist from the outset of the story, Hamlet's logic slowly begins to unravel scene by scene, like a blood-soaked bandage, with layer after layer revealing snippets of Hamlet's emotion and feeling. When Hamlet utters the famous lines " To be, or not to be: that is the question: / Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer / The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune / Or to take arms against a sea of troubles " he is contemplating the thought of suicide and wishing that God had not made suicide a sin (III.i.58-61). Hamlet's anxiety, uncertainty, and tensions cause him to doubt the power of reason alone to solve his problems. Hamlet begins to realize that reason is impotent to deal with the depths of human life—one of the central assertions of existentialism (Bigelow, paragraph 6). Perhaps this is why Hamlet feigns madness; he realizes that he lacks the emotions to avenge his father's death. Indeed, Hamlet does go temporarily insane in Act I, scene ii, and it is during this time when he is able to act out of pure sensation, with no thoughts about the consequences of what he says or does (e.g. when he undeservingly criticizes Ophelia). However, in uniting his emotions and reason, Hamlet is careful to avoid the temptation to commit suicide because if one commits suicide to escape life's pain, then one is damned to eternal suffering in hell. To Hamlet (and most other people of the 1600s), suicide is morally wrong. By making the decision to stay alive and fight Claudius' corruption, Hamlet demonstrates existential qualities. However, this is not the only scene where Hamlet acts existentially.
In Act IV, Hamlet encounters alienation and nothingness when he meets a Norwegian captain under the command of Fortinbras. When Hamlet asks the captain about the cause and purpose of the conflict, he is shocked to learn that the countries' armies will go to war over "a little patch of land / That hath in it no profit but the name" (IV.iv.98-99). After Hamlet recovers from the shock of the captain's honesty, he is dumbstruck by the thought that Fortinbras would sacrifice the lives of thousands of men for an admittedly inferior "patch of land." At this point in the play, Hamlet is still struggling with his own inaction, unable to kill Claudius even though he knows of his guilt. Hamlet has a good reason to kill Claudius, yet he fails to do it. How can Fortinbras sacrifice so much for such a futile purpose? In this scene, Hamlet realizes the brutality of humanity and first ponders the idea that no one is safe—another central pillar of existentialism.
From this point on, Hamlet declares that he will have bloody thoughts. "My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!" (IV.iv.9.56). Hamlet is impressed by the forcefulness of characters like Fortinbras and Laertes, who turn thought into action quickly (Phillips). Laertes, who, like Hamlet, has a father to avenge, does not hesitate for a moment when seeking vengeance on his father's murderer. As Hamlet decides to strive for this personal quality, he begins to act increasingly existential and decreasingly reflective.
When Hamlet finally does achieve his father’s vengeance, he was not spurred to it on his own, but by watching his mother and Ophelia die in front of his own eyes. Furthermore, as Hamlet realized that he had only two minutes to survive, he really had nothing to lose; this is when he made his move to stab and poison Claudius.
Prince Hamlet is introduced as a reflective, slow-to-act character. While he stays true to this characterization for almost the entire play, he does undergo a transformation by the end of the play. By the end, Hamlet decides that he is no longer going to deprive himself of the revenge he so badly desires against Claudius, so he kills him. At this point, Hamlet is existential. He is the only character who fights back against Claudius’s usurpation of the throne, and he accepts the consequences of his actions (i.e. death) without a flinch. This final existential act is what qualifies Hamlet as an existential character in an existential drama at a time when existentialism did not exist in literature.
Bigelow, Gordon E. “A Primer of Existentialism.” The Practical Stylist with Readings. N.p.: n.p., n.d.
“Existentialism.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated . 4 Mar. 2008 <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/existentialism>.
Phillips, Brian. SparkNote on Hamlet. 4 Mar. 2008 <http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/hamlet/>.
Aboukhadijeh, Feross. "Sample Character Analysis Essay - "Hamlet"" StudyNotes.org. Study Notes, LLC., 17 Nov. 2012. Web. 13 Mar. 2018. <https://www.apstudynotes.org/english/sample-essays/character-analysis-hamlet/>.
In any TV crime drama or British detective movie, a group of investigators is trying to solve the law case by defining the specific features of the potential offender. It can be noticed in any episode of "Colombo." Even fantastic TV series like "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" or team Fang Gang from "Angel" deal a lot with personality identification. These skills are really useful in real life. However, if you have no idea on how to analyze one's personality, you'll be stuck in many life situations. That is why your school and college teachers often ask to write character analysis or analyze just any other subject.
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Harry Potter, Buffy Summers, Colombo, Sarah Connor, Hamlet, Othello, Thor, ... There are so many wonderful fiction and non-fiction characters to analyze!
Further, in the text, we will cover the best examples of how to write a character analysis, great ideas, structure, and most useful tips that help to write an in-depth literary analysis that works. Read the guide on formatting academic essays to gain extra credit from your tutor. The result of the efficient paper is your "A" and teacher's appreciation.
Types of Character Analysis Essays
Before writing a character analysis piece, students must observe possible types of heroes to discuss. They include:
Protagonist - the central figures in any story. The plot tells about their lives and deeds. In "Buffy" series, a protagonist would be Buffy Summers herself while Angel(us) dominates in his personal TV show.
Antagonists (often defined as villains) - the opposites of heroes who tend to change during the entire story. Thus, their nature is usually more interesting to describe. Keep in mind that each personality you choose does not have to be a human being; it can be a force of nature, animal, not a living creature, etc. In our example, Faith Lehane is one of the antagonists who switches from light side to dark after killing a human and returns to light closer to the show's culmination.
Major - these characters dominate the entire story. On the example of "Buffy," we can say Scooby Gang with its five and more members represent the majors of the show.
Minor - these characters start in a couple of episodes or book chapters. Their role can be significant in the development of other figures and entire plot. In our example, we would pick someone like Amy Madison Witch or Vampire Darla who both have an influence on the main characters of both shows.
Dynamic and static characters are two opposites. The first group keeps changing throughout the story while static heroes remain the same. Willow Rosenberg, the Witch, evolves from a shy straight school girl to the world's most powerful witch with a lesbian context; Harmony remains the same silly, naive blonde even once turned to a vampire.
Stereotypical - we believe everyone knows what a stereotype is. Jonathan represents a member of this category by being a typical high school nerd who has no friends and keeps on studying all the time.
Foils - the role of these characters is to contrast with the majors throughout the story. Faith is the opposite of Buffy, Spike is the opposite of Angel, Draco Malfoy is the opposite of Harry Potter, etc.
Three-dimensional (round) personalities. These are people with double-nature, and multiple characters in their mind are all great examples of 3-dimensonal heroes. Have you watched the movie titled "Split" with the guy who had 23 or more personalities living inside of him? That's what we mean!
Unlike round characters, there are one-dimensional (flat) ones who are boring to discuss and play an insignificant role in the story.
How to Write a Character Analysis: 8 Helpful Tips & Tricks!
Do not confuse personality analysis essay with a simple descriptive essay! This type of academic paper has several peculiar features to consider, and below we share top tips on how to write an analysis of a character.
- Mind Character Analysis Form
There is two possible analysis forms student should consider when he is ready to write such type of paper:
- A part of a literary analysis paper. It means a writer should first write the summary of the story plot, include other details, and end up with the strong character analysis.
- A separate essay that focuses on a single personality. Should the character wisely to write a powerful, interesting analysis paper (it is recommended to choose three-dimensional characters, heroes, villains, or foils).
As you can guess, the first type involves more text and more sections. Write about things like:
- Main idea
- All main heroes
- Compare & contrast
- Other elements of literary analysis
In the first case, you don't have too much space to write a detailed character analysis as you have to write about all elements equally. Thus, if your analysis essay must include more than 1000 words, and you have three literary elements to discuss, you should not write more than 200 words on each topic taking into account introduction and conclusion are always needed. These two parts figure as the summary. At the same time, there is more evidence to support your view on a particular hero.
A separate character paper is a bit less complex, and our article focuses on revealing its main rules and structure. If you are in a hurry, use the crucible character analysis example.
- Begin with the Basic Information
You should start with identifying the hero: name the original story, author, years of publishing, and write a summary. Then recall the hero to whom you wish to dedicate your analysis essay. Write some basic observations first:
- Full name and its interpretation (if any). E.g. name Angel is a short form of the evil vampire's name Angelus; Buffy is a short version of Elizabeth. The name of your target hero may have a different meaning than you expect. E.g., Faith is far from giving hope to people.
- Age - it is easier to explain the actions of different characters by taking into account their age: Dawn Summers often acts silly because she's a 15-year old kid.
- Gender (man/woman/unknown)?
- Social status - write about character's work and role in community he or she is living in (unemployed heroes tend to behave more aggressively than employed ones, for example)
- Physical appearance - it is not enough to write Cordelia Chase is beautiful, and she was a Prom Queen - more details are expected! Small elements of analysis include weight, height, and clothing. They point to the main qualities of your hero. Clark Kent wears glasses and strict suits to hide his Superman nature under the mask of office nerd.
- Speech patterns. See how speech, language, the manner of voice reveals different Shakespeare's characters nature in hamlet character analysis
The primary step is to describe your hero before composing a more detailed analysis. You should have a draft where you mention how each quality influences your chosen character and, perhaps, the whole story.
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- What Would Your Interview Questions Sound Like?
Pretend that you have a chance to talk to your hero: what questions would you write down to conduct an analysis? Read the original story to find some proper quotes to answer these questions; make sure to cite every quote properly. Choose something like:
- Character's background: has Harry Potter's difficult childhood and complicated relationships with family members made him a bad person?
- Write about the way other people talk about your hero. In other words, get and share the feedback from Hermione, Ron, Draco, and Hogwarts teachers.
- Try to imagine how this character would describe his own In case such information is missing in the book, try to guess as the students do with Betty Parris, John Proctor, and other people in the crucible character analysis example.
- The analysis essay requires a short review of the relations with other people. Highlight the name of his friends and enemies (Willow, Wesley, Ron, Hermione, Leonardo) - it may tell a lot.
- Write down the ways your individual acts in different force majeure situations.
- Any good character analysis example involves these recommended questions - take the time to read outstanding examples of expert writing.
- Use Supportive Materials
We recommend using extra study materials and prepared templates to write a character analysis essay every teacher wants to see. The best way to write a perfect analysis essay is to find excellent samples online.
We also encourage you to try one of the worksheets attached. Try to keep your ideas and entire character study organized:
More Tips to Observe
Those were the main tips each student must remember when writing a character analysis essay; it is time to read the last three recommendations. Also, it is interesting to read this article to find ways to write a successful essay of any type as a part of English test.
- Find a Focus
When you write, it is critical to concentrate on something. Even though the main goal is to conduct a character's in-depth analysis, you should still define the main point of the paper. Name all features of your hero and his or her role in the story. Then, highlight only one trait that you find to be the most curious. In other words, define that one thing that made you choose this character (unless you were assigned your topic).
Here is an example of great analysis focus. Both Harry Potter and Buffy Summers have a hard mission they should accomplish by sacrificing their own lives. There is a common term used to describe such heroes as these two and Neo from "The Matrix" - The Chosen One. Write down about this trait in your character analysis.
- Body of Evidence
Present evidence from credible and up-to-date sources to support every aspect of your character analysis. As far as most of the time you will have to provide analysis of fictional character, scientific materials and academic journals won't do. Be ready to find evidence from the piece of literature you're working on. You will have to prove your awareness with the in-text citations and indirect quotes from the book or movie your hero comes from.
- It's All about Powerful Conclusion!
At the end of your character analysis essay, you need to find out whether the information you have provided throughout the text would be useful for detectives. Will they identify a character using your writing? Have you mentioned the most outstanding and important traits of your chosen person? A killer analysis essay conclusion might reveal one more aspect of your target character which would be a shock to the audience. Finally, you must write down the reasons for choosing this character out of all other alternatives.
How to Write a Character Analysis Essay
Do you wonder what to include in a character analysis paper? There are three things that make any character analysis essay specific.
Relationships: Write down the names of people with whom your target character interact most of all during the entire story development. Explain specific goals for choosing these characters to describe the target hero. On the examples of their relationships, a writer can point to the place of the chosen character in the story and explain his actions.
Author's Main Goal: When you write about the personality, it is important to specify the character's type (see the full list of types above). Write down why you think the author has created this specific character. Explain his/her role in the lives of other story heroes and entire plot; conclude with the lesson this character gives.
Organization: The structure of character analysis essay is different from the regular academic paper. If you write about specific fiction personality, there is no need to share any research findings. Follow a five-paragraph formula:
- Introduction paragraph
- Body paragraph number one
- Body paragraph number two
- Body paragraph number three
- Conclusion paragraph
An introduction must be based on the powerful thesis statement, which is the main argument in your essay. Make sure to attract attention from the opening paragraph. Involve a hook sentence, referencing the title of the chosen writing piece along with its author, and revealing the purpose of writing in a clear, concise thesis sentence. A good thesis includes at least three subtopics in the order the writer is going to write his character analysis essay: from the least to most important. The rest of the essay has a typical academic paper structure. Write an impressive conclusion which will motivate the readers to like/dislike the target personality.
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It's not easy to write about personality. Not to waste time on reading the full story, learning how to write excellent analysis essays, finding tips on proper formatting, and writing a character analysis paper, we offer fast and cheap academic help! It's up to you: stay creative, or ask for professional online help immediately after you receive a confusing task like that.
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