We will discuss the Role of Fate In Hamlet in this Article.
The Tragic Flaw in the Hero
It is chiefly character that is responsible for the tragic fate of the hero, but a Shakespearean tragedy also arouses a feeling that there is a mysterious power in this universe, whom we may call Fate or Destiny or Providence, that operates in the universe and is responsible for the manner in which things take shape.. Hamlet is by nature a deep type of man very much given to philosophic speculations. He is not by nature a man of action, though he certainly performs certain actions on the spur of the moment. Whenever he acts, he acts on impulse pnly. He is incapable of formulating a bold plan of action and executing it. In other words, he is incapable of planned or premeditated action. This is the reason why he is not able to accomplish the task that has been imposed upon him by the Ghost. He very much wants to avenge the murder of his father, but he goes on delaying his revenge till he himself becomes a victim of the intrigue of a man whom he should have killed long before. This dilatoriness, this tendency to procrastination, constitutes a serious defect of character which eventually leads to the tragedy of Hamlet.
The Responsibility of a Supernatural Power : The Appearance of the Ghost ‘
But this play also produces in us a feeling that a supernatural power (Fate, Destiny, or Providence) controls to some extent the affairs of human beings. The very appearance of the Ghost is a manifestation of Fate. Hamlet has been feeling gloomy and despondent on account of the indecent haste with which his widowed mother has got re-married, and on account of the further fact that she has now married a man who is in every respect inferior to her dead husband. But, with the passage of time, Hamlet would have gradually recovered from this feeling of melancholy and might have been able to lead a normal life. Fate, however, intervenes. The Ghost of the dead King appears and makes a revelation which shocks and bewilders Hamlet. Not only that, the Ghost imposes a ta6k or a duty on Hamlet, namely, that Hamlet should avenge his father’* murder. Hamlet feels dismayed by the situation in which he now find himself and he thus gives expression to his feeling :
The time is out of joint ;—O cursed spite, That e’er I was born to set it right !
These words show that Hamlet is already aware of his inadequacy for the task that has been imposed upon him. We can clearly see that the responsibility for the difficult situation in which Hamlet now finds him is definitely that of Fate or Destiny by whose will or decree the Ghost of Hamlet’s father has made its appearance.
The Second Appearance of the Ghost
The Ghost appears again to Hamlet when Hamlet is speaking to his mother in her closet in Act FI I, Scene iv. This time the Ghost has come to whet Hamlet’s “almost blunted purpose” in avenging the murder committed by Claudius. This second visitation serves, firstly, to emphasis Hamlet’s delay in carrying out his task and, secondly, to reinforce the Queen’s impression that Hamlet is mad (because the Queen herself cannot see the Ghost and she interprets Hamlet’s reference to the Ghost as “the very coinage” of his brain). On this occasion our feeling that fate intervenes in human affairs is strengthened, and we arc led to believe that, in Hamlet’s case, fate insists that he should do something and not allow himself to drift.
The Role of Accident
The manifestations of fate are also seen in the accidents of life. When an accident occurs, we attribute it to fate or destiny and we never say that so-and-so was responsible for a particular accident, becausc an accident is something that just happens. In Hamlet, we witness such a manifestation of fate in the accidental encounter of the ship, by which Hanhlet is proceeding to England, with a pirate vessel. If this accident had not occurred, Hamlet would have arrived in England, perhaps, never to return. As it is, fate intervenes with the result that Hamlet is able to come back to Denmark, so that the story takes the course that it does. This accident in the play then confirms the impression of the existence in this universe of that mysterious power to which we give the name of fate.
Remarks Suggestive of a Supernatural Power
Next, there are a couple of remarks that Hamlet makes in Act V, Scene ii, which also serve to confirm the same impression. Speaking horatio,’Hamlet says : There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, Rough-hew them how we will.
A little later, in the same scene, again speaking to Horatio, Hamlet says with reference to the possibility of danger in his playing a fencing-match with Laertes : “There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ‘its not to come ; if it be not to come, it will be now ; if it be nol now, yet it will come ; the readiness is all.”. Commenting on this speech of Hamlet, a critic writes : “This passage is one of the simplest, as it is one of the strongest, proofs of Shakespeare’s belief in presentiments. In all the instances he gives us, the moral to be drawn is that the warning is neglected and the fate comes. At first we might think that Hamlet’s feeling was natural. He had detected the King’s villainy, and he knew his own counter-plot would not long be secret. But it is plaia that he suspected nothing in the challenge to fence with Laertes. He never once examined the foils or measured them, but picked up the first that came to hand, and took the length on trust. Just before, when Horatio warned him, he had said, ‘the interim is mine’, and he clearly looked forward to having things his own way till the next news from England. (What Hamlet means to say in this spcech of his is that he cannot fall except by the will and direction of Providence.)
Fate In Hamlet Was Not Very Controversial But Was Natural Event.
The Working of Fate As Seen in Some of the Deaths
Finally, the manner in which several characters including Hamlet are killed almost at the same time confirms the impression of fate. The Queen, wishing to celebrate Hamlet’s initial victory in the fencing match, drinks wine that was poisoned by the King in pursuance of his plot against Hamlet’s life. When Laertes has injured Hamlet with the rapier the point of which had been dipped in poison, , and Hamlet now wounds Laertes with the some fatal rapier with which he himself has already been wounded. Then, at Laertes’s pointing out that “the King’s to blame”, Hamlet stabs the King after saying : “The point envenom’d too !—Then, venom, to thy work !” The deaths of all these characters certainly strengthen, as has been said above, the feeling that fate or providence is at work. The fact that the King’s plans go awry is not due to any counter-plan of Hamlet, but due to the working of a mysterious power in the universe.
Bradley puts the case thus: Hamlet possesses some mysterious or vast power we apprehend some mysterious, vast power.. The King, turn and twist as he may, must reach the appointed goal. Not only docs the feeling of a supreme power or destiny become very strong in us as we read through this play, but it also has at times a peculiar tone which may be called religious. Of course, it is true that we do not imagine the supreme power as a divine being who avenges crime or as a providence which super- naturally interferes, but we do get the feeling that Shakespeare is here using current religious ideas.