Hamlet is self-deprecatory when he begins to vacillate over the Ghost’s ‘dread command’. He knows that as a loyal and noble son that revered his father, it is his filial duty to fulfil his father’s command. However, Hamlet finds this task morally repugnant and he recoils from it wishing that he had never been born to execute such a task: ‘The time is out of joint. O cursed spite that ever I was born to set it right’. He is consumed by self-deprecation: ‘I am pigeon-liver’d and lack gall’, ‘What are rogue and pleasant slave am I’, ‘I do not set my life at a pin’s fee’. This self-deprecation and feeling of inadequacy in compounded by his sense of guilt when he compares himself to decisive revengers like Fortinbras and Laertes who are not inhibited by any such moral scruples as Hamlet is.
While self-deprecation and self-pity are generally viewed as negative human attributes, in Hamlet, I feel they depict the enormity of suffering. Hamlet clearly revered his father ‘a combination and form indeed where every god did seem to set his seal to give the world the assurance of a man’.
Hamlet’s self-pity and self-deprecation is to be understood in terms of a young man who feels in terms of a young man who feels that he is letting his beloved father down.
Hamlet’s self-deprecation is a weakness of character and it does inhibit him from executing revenge. However, Hamlet’s feelings of inadequacy and self-deprecation underscore the psychological and emotional duress that Hamlet is under. He wonders whether it be ‘bestial oblivion on some craven scruple/ of thinking too precisely on th’ event’. He self-deprecatorily announces ‘Thus conscience makes cowards of us all and thud the nature hue of resolution is sicklied over with the pale cast of thought’. Hamlet’s weakness towards self-deprecation and self-pity is indicative of an extremely conscientious person who wants to give everything they do a hundred percent. This weakness elicits our sympathy and admiration as we feel for this troubled young man who is torn between honouring the memory of his dead father and adhering to the integrity of his conscience. Hamlet’s propensity towards self-deprecation and self-pity then can be understood as a human response to very difficult situation and we admire him as he struggles to ascertain the best course of action.
Furthermore, another weakness of character that we can admire in Hamlet is his bitterness. Hamlet as the play’s malcontent, is an extremely bitter character. However, this bitterness of character only serves to evoke our admiration as Hamlet does not conform to the ubiquitous corruption that emanates from Claudius’ debauched reign.
Hamlet is refreshing in his bitterness in contrast to fulsome characters like Polonius, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as whose primary concern is ingratiating themselves with Claudius ‘soak up the king’s countenances, rewards and authorities’ Hamlet views Denmark as an ‘unweeded garden’ as a ‘prison’ and Claudius as this ‘canker of our nature’. He views his duplicitous friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as ‘sponges’ and ‘addered fangs’. He views his mother’s hasty remarriage with bitterness and tells her that his grief is genuine; that he does not know ‘seems’. He cleverly adopts the mask of ‘antic disposition’, a type of bitter spezzatura, a defensive form of irony that allows him to impugn the hypocrisy and corruption of the ‘bloat’s king’s’ reign.
Whilst bitterness of character is normally perceived as a negative human attribute that serves to alienate as oppose attract, in the character of Hamlet, it serves to evoke our admiration because it is demonstrative of Hamlet’s nobility and integrity of character, what Horatio calls his ‘noble mind’. Hamlet does not ingratiate himself with Claudius even though he could have so easily ‘you are most immediate to our throne’. Hamlet’s bitterness serves to remind us that he does not conform to the status quo of hypocrisy and corruption. Hamlet is a man of conscience and integrity. His bitterness in in response to the pervasive corruption and duplicity of the Danish court. Hamlet’s bitterness of character is compounded by the fact that he cannot openly challenge ‘the smiling damned villain’. He is forced to adopt the ‘antic disposition’ and consequently ‘unpack my heart with words and fall a cursing like a whore, like a scullion, a drab’.
The morally scrupulous Hamlet feels that it is incumbent on him to challenge the falseness and unlawfulness of Claudius’ reign and yet he is forced to do so surreptitiously. Hamlet is then to be perceived as the ‘honest man picked out of ten thousand’ because he bitterly defies the status quo and we admire this.
While it is clear that Hamlet has many weaknesses of character, it is also conveyed that he has many strength of character also. We admire Hamlet got his noble idealism. He clearly revered his father, seeing him as ‘a combination and firm indeed where every god did seem to set his seal to give the world the assurance of a man’. He also shows that he looked upon the marriage between his mother and father with great respect and admiration ‘why she would hang on him as if increase of appetite had grown on what it fed on’. Hamlet’s idealism is touching and endearing. His solicitous concern for his mother is also touching as he intends to ‘speak daggers’ to her though he makes it clear that he has no intention of physically hurting her.
His noble idealism is one of many Hamlet’s strengths of character. It is this noble idealism that motivates him to preserve with his father’s request even though it is counter-intuitive to him and causes him great psychological and emotion bedevilment. His sense of filial duty is evident in the scene of the Ghost’s second apparition ‘Do you come your tardy son to chide’. Hamlet’s noble idealism is admirable here because it demonstrates his fervent desire to be loyal to the memory of his dead father ‘Remember me, remember me’ the Ghost urges him while Hamlet tells us that he will remember his father above all in ‘his distracted globe’.
In conclusion, we admire Hamlet for his weaknesses as much as for his strengths. Hamlet’s weaknesses serve to accentuate the humanity of his character and serve to elicit our sympathy and admiration for this deeply flawed character. Despite being ‘the noble prince the rose and expectancy of the fair state’, Hamlet’s weaknesses are demonstrative of the human spirit of perservence in the face of adversity and therefore can only be admired.