Two questions – Hamlet – Existential and Jokes

Does no one truly hate themselves like Hamlet?

“To be or not to be, that is the question” – One of the most recognizable Shakespeare quotes is often interpreted as questioning existence and purpose itself. The quintessential examination of judging whether or not something is sentient is the ability of said thing to question its own existence. But that’s not what Hamlet is attempting to do. He isn’t questioning his existence, yet, his life and the impact it’s already had on the world and himself. The inherent need to understand why we are here is something that has faced humanity for years. It’s important for us to question and understand existence, but it’s almost more important for us to understand our own lives and what we want from it. Hamlet is at a very difficult time of his life, making him question his own reasoning for continuing and whether or not he wants to keep going on living. A common joke in theater is “No one hates themselves like Hamlet”, but is this true? Does no one else question their own life choices? Their own existence, their future, their reason for waking up in the morning and deciding to take that first step out of bed? Is that just a thing Hamlet does, or is that a natural response to the uncertainty of existence itself. If so, how is the initial interpretation of questioning existence and purpose wrong, if life is just us creating our own purpose, and reasons to continue fulfilling it?

Should Shakespeare be taken seriously?

In a bit of a side note – nearly every piece of writing Shakespeare created can be interpreted as a series of thinly veiled dick jokes. While being seen as this masterful writer with deep philosophical and moral interpretations, there is so much about Shakespeare that can be interpreted in different ways. Comedy comes in repetition. The rule of threes is important in comedy. Once is normal, twice is accidental, three times is purposeful. When analyzing non-historic Shakespeare plays, they generally end in either one of two ways – with a wedding, or with death. That’s what separates them from being comedies and tragedies respectively. But, isn’t the inevitability of something happening at the end inherently comedic? Say in a TV show, a character gets shot in the foot once an episode. Day after day, he is always shot right in the same place on the same foot. Even if it’s played completely seriously – showing the character realistically getting shot in the foot over and over again – it will at some point become comedic just due to its repetition. A character dies at the end of every single Shakespearean tragedy. This inevitability is in every single tragedy becomes funny, because no matter what, you know it will happen. Does this inevitability make tragedies funny?

3 thoughts on “Two questions – Hamlet – Existential and Jokes

  1. I think Shakespeare was a very satirical playwriter and with the question of Hamlet I have never come across another protagonist who is so morbid about themselves. This was a really good post overall and I like that you put some theatre lingo into your post.

  2. I think that purpose and existence is a concept that we as humans have created. I think that Hamlet has need for revenge was his purpose, and for the entire story tried to convince himself that he wasn’t supposed to be around just for revenge, but for something else. His need for a reason is what caused his reason and in the end, I think he got his answer, and the ending he wanted, even if it was a tragic one. I think this post was well written and I really enjoyed reading it, you had a lot of good points.

  3. I think people have experienced similar feelings as Hamlet. He did go mad but other people do as well. Some even mentioned how Hamlet’s madness was just mental illness. But, back then that wasn’t something that was normalized. This was an interesting post to read and you brought up some really great points that I wouldn’t have of thought of before reading this! Nice job.

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