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Freewill and Fate in Hamlet

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Kimberly Wells

on 10 December 2015

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Transcript of Freewill and Fate in Hamlet

Freewill
Fate
Freewill and Fate in Hamlet
Introduction
Ultimately, through the course of the play Hamlet's own freewill predetermines his bloody fate. Though the task given to him Hamlet's stalling on his plan ultimately leads to the death of several characters including himself. The prince's fate was predetermined the moment he agreed to avenge his father's death.
Meeting his fate
"
nature's livery, or fortune's star
" (1.4.32).
“The time is out of joint; - O cursed spite, That e’er I was born to set it right!” (1.5.210-211)

“My fate cries out / And hardy as the Nemean lion’s nerve. / Still am I called. Unhand me, gentlemen. / By heaven, I’ll make a ghost of him that lets me! / I say, away! - Go on, I’ll follow thee,” (1.4.91-96).

Fate in Hamlet's eyes
"there is a divinity that shapes our ends rough hew them how we will" and that ultimately, "the readiness is all." 
To Be or Not to Be
The famous line "To be, or not to be--that is the question" can be interpreted as Hamlet's decision to go through with the murder. He has a choice to make that will ultimately alter his future fate
By agreeing to do so, Hamlet ultimately set himself up for a pending death that he was not expecting.
This quote ties more into the freewill spectrum, while his fate is presented to him through the form of a ghost who resembles his father ultimately, it was prince Hamlet who agrees to murder the king.
Fate as a Woman
When Hamlet is speaking to Rozencrantz and Guildenstern the group of friends personify fate as a woman who screws everyone over.
Fate and fortune is a woman and a game, sometimes the odds are in your favour and sometimes you're stuck on the bottom of her shoe.
"Happy, in that we are not over-happy, on fortune's cap we are not the very button" (2.2.228-229). 

Hamlet believes that there is an ultimate fate destined for every person on Earth. Everyone has a destiny that waits them at the final moments of their lives.
However, he touches on the fact that freewill that plays a part in his day-to-day life wouldn't even change his fate. His buffering in the action of killing Claudius only puts a hold on his fate.
He believes that fortune will throw whatever circumstances it will at you (Hamlet seeing the ghost) and all human beings can do is be ready to act or react to it (his decision to kill King Claudius).
Conclusion
Freewill and Fate both take part in the life of Hamlet

His actions are carried out by his own freewill but determine his fate
This reflects Hamlet's belief that a person's fault or fortune cannot be something that he chooses, rather something that simply happens to him, and cannot be controlled. The statement "fortune's star" refers to a person's destiny falling to them by chance.

Hamlet feels the burden upon his shoulders. Hamlet feels dismayed by the situation in which he now finds himself and so he gives expression to his feeling:

Hamlet is already aware of his inadequacy for the task that has been imposed upon him.

First Appearance
Second Appearance
This second visitation serves, firstly, to emphasize 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).

"Do not forget: this visitation / Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose." (III.iv.111-112)
The ghost reminds Hamlet that his main purpose is to avenge his father's death, not wasting time arguing with his mother.
Hamlet declares that fate is driving him forward.
Appearances of the Ghost
Hamlet Carries Out the Plan for Revenge
The "Mouse trap"
Hamlet decides to not to kill Claudius right away when he is praying, not knowing that Claudius’ words have no heartfelt meaning Hamlet decides that it would not satisfy him if his act of revenge would send the seemingly repentant Claudius to Heaven
He reveals that he wants to take revenge on Claudius when his heart is sinful and “Then trip him, that his heels may kick at Heaven / And that his soul may be as damned and black / As Hell, whereto it goes” (III, iii, 93-95)
Fate has declared it Hamlet’s duty to take revenge on King Claudius, but not to determine where his soul will rest.
“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” (V.ii.217-222)

“There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, / Rough-hew them how we will” (V.ii.10-11)

Hamlet realizes that fate will ultimately have its way, no matter how one tries to meddle with it. It is evident that Hamlet has given up trying to interfere with fate. He also apprehends that death will come upon a person when the time comes, and that one should be ready to accept this undeniable fact.

There is a manifestation of fate in the accidental encounter of the ship, by which Hamelt is proceeding to England, with a pirate vessel. If this accident had not occurred, Hamlet would have arrived in England, perhaps, never to return.
Between Acts 1 and 4, Hamlet works against fortune to some extent, not fully understanding it and its power. He questions his own fate, and the fate of others (including Claudius, as Hamlet questions fate whilst pondering his murder). Further towards the end of the play, Hamlet comes to an acceptance of fate, including his fate and the fate of others. He has accepted that there is a higher power who works to shape his fate and free will, and that he can go through life knowing that whatever happens is his fate- and that he cannot know what it will be.

Both Freewill and Fate take part in Hamlet's life. His actions are carried out by his own freewill and determines his fate.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
For Hamlet, the consummate Christian tragic hero, fate exists, but human choices may cancel its power. Do you believe Hamlet's actions throughout the course of the play were influenced more by his own freewill or because of his obsession with his pending fate?
How do you believe the murder of King Claudius would have gone differently had Hamlet not been a firm believer in the Christian faith?
Hamlet is supposed to carry out the murder of King Claudius to avenge his father's death. Not knowing if the ghost is actually his father or the devil playing tricks on him. Do you believe that Hamlet had a choice in what was to happen to him from that moment on? Was he destined to die?
"It is but foolery, but it is such a kind of / gaingiving as would perhaps trouble a woman" (V.ii.229-230)
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