chapter  14
18 Pages

Hamlet: The Self of Despair

At the outset of the drama, we confront a Hamlet suffering from the experience of his own futility. In the first of his seven soliloquies, he summarizes the various burdens contributing to this sense of futility. These burdens, which revolve around his uncle Claudius's usurpation of the throne of Denmark and his mother's sin of incest (from the standpoint of Elizabethan ecclesiastical law) with Claudius, are soon compounded by the appearance of his father's ghost, attempting to rouse Hamlet to action. Here are the terms in which

I'll wipe away all trivial fond records, All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past, That youth and observation copied there; And thy commandment all alone shall live Within the book and volume of my brain, Unmixed with baser matter. Yes, by heaven!