Hamlet: A tragedy of the Renaissance mind

Hamlet is presented as a celebration of
the Renaissance mind. The mind was
seen as a medium for philosophical
understanding of the world and
 At the same time, Shakespeare created
essential ambiguity around Hamlet’s
strength of mind- he thinks too much, he
is suicidal, and he is threatened with
Focus in the play is on the mind and
inner experience. This includes extreme
states of mind, imagination and intense
feeling, intense meditation and
speculation; a mind in crisis, conflict,
contradiction and debate about
choices of action in extreme
First long speech stresses intense inner
experience, “I have that within...” This
establishes Hamlet’s identity and role.
 His first conversation stresses that he is
articulate and eloquent with a poetic
imagination. “A little more than kin and less
than kind” establishes Hamlet’s quickness of
mind. Note the poetic eloquence “the
fruitful river of the eye” and the patterned
rhetoric .The connection and contrasts
between the inner world and the outer
world of action become a main theme.
Do we see Hamlet’s intense feelings as
excessive? Shakespeare positions us to respond
ambiguously to Hamlet through Claudius’
suggestion that it is “unmanly grief”.
“O that this too too solid flesh” Hamlet begins
with a philosophical meditation about suicide
and the nature of the world (extended
metaphor of the unweeded garden) . The
understanding of his father, Claudius and his
mother is structured in terms of classical
mythology. These references place Hamlet
and his issues in relation to the Renaissance
vision of the world.
Emphasis on intense feeling and an
extreme state of mind through repetitive
exclamations that include ‘O God, God’
, ‘Fie on’t, ah fie’. Note the heavy use of
exclamation and the stages of disrupted,
broken thought and feeling. Hamlet
ends heartbroken, stressing the focus on
Hamlet’s inner condition and adds to the
Hamlet a student of Wittenberg and also
a prince, set apart even by his friends as
“my lord” by his “poor servant” Horatio.
He responds with restraint in public to the
news of the apparition, adding to the
conflict between his inner identity and
his identity as a man of action.
Horatio says that Hamlet “waxes
desperate with imagination”
 Act 2- continues Hamlet’s interest about
philosophy about the meaning of life.
”for there is nothing either good or bad but
thinking makes it so”
“What is this quintessence of dust?”
Series of philosophical questions about
the mind, the meaning and nature of life
and action. Mind both stops action and
provides strategies for action (sicklied
o’er with the pale cast of thought).
 In Act 4, Hamlet asks himself whether he
has been thinking too much (“too
precisely on the event”)