Sunday, October 29, 2017

Immortality, Revenge and a Ghost

"Hamlet" is, in my opinion, Shakespeare’s most complex play, with so many layers that can be tackled and even more interpretations of what the characters have done or are about to do, not to mention what Shakespeare might have implied and what the background and the cultural context actually were centuries ago.

"Hamlet" is, no doubt, a play about death and revenge. Killing Claudius seems easy once there is evidence of what he has done, but when evidence comes in the shape of a ghost, things turn to be more complicated than expected, especially in a time when the trend was to distance from superstitious imaginary and embrace humanism. In my opinion, there are many perspectives on death in the play, depending on our prior knowledge and the way we would like to understand and decompose it.

 If one is familiar with the Buddhist teachings, then the lines in Act 1, scene 2 (72-73) “all that lives must die, / passing through nature to eternity” is not at all strange. In the same scene, Hamlet wishes “that this too too solid flesh would melt,/ and resolve itself into a dew!”(129-130). In this respect, Buddhists are quite aware that we will return to nature when we end our time on Earth because we are one with it. Through karma and eventual enlightenment one can escape samsara and achieve the end of suffering, which is Nirvana. Isn’t Hamlet trying to escape his faith by not committing any murder and not avenging his father’s death, but the odds are against him? Doesn’t he wish for a more gentle task?  “The time is out of joint. O cursed spite/ that ever I was born to set it right!”(I.5 190-191)

In the final scene of the play, before Hamlet dies, he says “there is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow.” (211). He seems to have resigned himself with what had happened mainly because he knows he would be taken care of by God or the supreme force governing all creatures. This return to the original, natural condition of the human mind, without any worry or struggle, letting it all be is defined as enlightenment or Satori in Buddhism and, unlike animals, which are always in this condition, we have lost this condition and made things and life more complicated. In order to regain this state, we need to reach true inner peace, “… the rest is silence.” (350)