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Alienation in Hamlet - Essay Example

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* Alienation can be seen within Hamlet's soliloquies, his conversations with other characters and within his actions.
Hamlet may be regarded as the prototype for the scores of "angry young men" what have populated literature, poetry, plays and latterly films since he first appeared on the stage. Hamlet's alienation is personified by his opening line:
It is the fact that his first line is an aside that so perfectly encapsulates his alienation from a society that he should be the center of. He does not speak the line to his Uncle, or even the Court, but rather as an inward comment aimed at breaking the third wall of the stage for the audience. He is alienated from his world, and part of ours because of it.
As the play continues Hamlet's alienation deepens and starts to influence many of those around him. When he decides to put "an antic disposition on" (I.5, 175) the question arises for the rest of the play whether he is playing at being mad, genuinely mad, or perhaps both. Here is the second part of "alienation" - madness that removes a person from the common spheres of reality. But Hamlet's madness is in fact closer to the reality and genuine feeling than those supposedly sane people around him. Thus later in the scene when he is chided for carrying on with his mourning beyond that which is seen as convenient or seemly, he answers, "I have that within which passeth show." (I.2, 85) Others show their feelings on the outside, they are merely masks of feeling while Hamlet genuinely feels on the inside. The fact that he cannot show what he feels properly, or more importantly, act upon what he feels brings further alienation. After the King chides Hamlet for being too gloomy, the latter produces another pun, as he states "not so, my lord, I am too much in the sun" (I.2, 67). Thus the fact that Hamlet is too much in the 'light' for his liking is mirrored with the fact that he is too much a "son". Hamlet cannot forget his father as the rest of the kingdom appears to have found it so easy to do. This sense of aloneness is another case of alienation for the young prince. He uses a bitter kind of humor to try and hide it, but it is a futile attempt. When Gertrude attempts to lighten the mood by saying that Hamlet's attitude "seems" peculiar to him, Hamlet retorts with the following:

. . . seems madam Nay, it is. I know not seems.
(I.2, 76)

Later in the play these themes develop to fruition. When the actor cries over the death of his imaginary lover Hamlet is disgusted with himself, "what's Hecuba to him or he to her" (III.1, 497). Nothing is the silent reply, but the actor can show more emotion than Hamlet when can when his father has been genuinely murdered.
In this opening scene the King and Queen say far more to Hamlet than he says in return. This illustrates the fact that words can at times be used to dissemble rather than communicate. The King and Queen use words to hide the obvious impropriety of their marriage so soon after Hamlet's father's death. Hamlet says so little because there is little that needs to be said. He regards the facts about the marriage as so obvious that they ...Show more


Hamlet is perhaps the most famous play of alienation ever written. While this essay will concentrate on the character of Hamlet himself, many other characters also exhibit alienation in the course of the play. Ophelia is alienated by her misunderstanding of Hamlet's actions, Polonius by the fact that his trite philosophy ("to thine own self be true etc.) cannot explain the subtleties of actual human behavior…
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Alienation in Hamlet
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