Universal Acceptance of Hamlet by William ShakespeareThe tragedy and situation in the play ‘Hamlet’ has been commented on as ‘universal.’ Audiences of many different cultures can enjoy ‘Hamlet’ even though it is set in an alien culture to them. The reasons for this are that many people can relate to the play, they feel that they are living though a profound experience, even if nothing in the plot of Hamlet has ever happened to them. The experience of ‘Hamlet’ is not restricted to the plot and its characters.
A large factor in this universal acceptance is that the main character, Hamlet, around whom the entire play revolves, is realist and ‘universal’ himself. In this Hamlet is merely a reflection of aspects found in all men, he is a symbol for how any man would act given the situation. If he reacts the way you would react, that makes him a very easy to relate to and sympathetic character.
This does not mean that Hamlet reflects the common man and his action, or Rosencrantz and Guildenstern would be more probable ‘universal men.’ Hamlet reflects what the common man wishes and feels he could do if he were given the chance. Hamlet is ‘superhuman’ in this sense. He is able to find the strength to act though his tragic situation with out giving in to easier ways and temptations along the way. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are more common man than universal, for though they have loyalty to Hamlet as they have been his friends for many years, they still have their own ambition.
(Gertrude) “Your visitation may receive such thanksAs fits a king’s remembrance…(Rosencrantz) by the sovereign power you have of us,…(Guildenstern) Heaven make our presence and our practicesPleasant and helpful to him! [Hamlet]” (Act1, Scene2)
They make a choice, and like Judas, they make the ‘wrong’ one. They do not stand strong and faithful to Hamlet, but act on King Claudius’s behalf, in hope of recognition. This is a ‘common’ man’ action, to take the favorable route on the behalf of personal interest. Hamlet’s main appeal is that he is trapped into a cycle, but he takes the noble and faithful action to affront the situation, leaving no doubt to the audience that he is in the right.
Though Hamlet is in a sense ‘superhuman,’ he is still human and easy to relate to for he does have flaws. He is not the shining hero riding in on a white horse to save the day, he…
…ample Hamlet forgives Laertes, yet kills him. Therefore Hamlet can not give punishment without commit crime. As a result the cycle starts again, against Hamlet this time. The crime is committed, and the ‘Commits the crime and must suffer for it’ role acts again. Hamlet is forced into the cycle over which he can have no control. In being the punisher Hamlet must also be punished. In this Hamlet may symbolise an aspect that many people feel, that they are locked into cycle that they cannot escape.
Hamlet is therefore a symbol of the ‘universal man.’ He does not reflect the common man’s actions and deeds, but what the common man could possible do if given the chance. He represents the inner strengths of humanity, the virtues that they are capable of achieving. Yet he still remains truly human, making mistakes and being unable to escape the greater cycles and powers that exist. Hamlet may not reflect every man that exists, he reflects a part within them that exists. Hamlet is not the common man, but this is not due to his sovereignty, education, manners or upbringing. It is due to his ability to access his inner strength and do the right thing, even when the odds are against him.