"The Heartache and the Thousand Natural Shocks That Flesh Is Heir To" - the Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
CitationPopa, Robert. 2019. "The Heartache and the Thousand Natural Shocks That Flesh Is Heir To" - the Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractThis thesis proposes that heartbreak is the core of Hamlet’s character, that it is “the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to” that defines him, not madness. From the actor’s perspective, it is imperative to gain an in-depth understanding of the thoughts within the character’s mind, as well as all the feelings within the character’s heart, for a truthful performance.
Scholarship suggests that Hamlet is either on a path toward madness, given the visitations of his father’s Ghost, or that he is an intellectual, perfectly sane, and only feigning madness on the path toward avenging his father’s murder.
The research methods employed are as follows: we compare six different performances of Hamlet by professional actors, then we analyze Hamlet’s relationships, and conduct close-readings of the text and selected soliloquies in order to find answers pertaining to Hamlet’s essence. The chief result suggests that Hamlet’s multiple heartaches, in conjunction with his compounded stress, may have induced a psychotic break. More specifically, an acute psychosis, that peaks in intensity and transparency in the Closet Scene. The psychosis is triggered when he confronts and berates his mother. This type of mental illness, or “madness,” would be the most suiting and realistic in portraying the character.
My conclusion is that any actor fortunate enough to play the role of Hamlet should focus on the emotions within the character’s heart, truly understand the world surrounding our protagonist, contextualize his text, and then decide the fate of his mental health. If the heartbreak is extreme enough, it most definitely affects the mind.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42004175