Everyone has his or her own ideas about what happens in life and everyone lives in the same reality. However everyone’s perception of that reality is different. It’s different because our ideas shape our views of what is happening around us. William Shakespeare explored this idea in his play Hamlet. One of Hamlet’s lines is “For there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it/ so” (2.2.271-272). The way humans perceive reality depends solely upon our ideas and our perception of the activities around us.
When this phrase was used by Hamlet he was referring to Denmark. He was talking to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern about why they were in Denmark. Because of previous events Hamlet is unhappy about being in Denmark and says “Denmark’s a prison” (2.2.262). Hamlet’s perception of Denmark was that he was trapped there and couldn’t get away no matter what. He was mad about his mother getting remarried because he idolized his father and felt that his mother couldn’t do any better “So excellent a king, that was this
Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother
That he might not beteem the winds of heaven
Visit he face too roughly” (1.2.143-146).
It also upset him that Gertrude was married so soon after his father died. Hamlet learned that his uncle, Claudius, killed his father and that added to the anger that he felt and the trapped feeling that brewed inside him from being in Denmark. However in everyone else’s view, Denmark is a country not a prison and there was nothing physically keeping Hamlet inside the borders. It was his feelings and ideas that trapped him. Realistically Hamlet could have left at any time he only had to get permission from the king, and Claudius saw nothing wrong with him and most likely would have let him leave if he really wanted to. But instead Hamlet felt the need to stay and possibly “protect” his mother from the king who he viewed as a monster. But the rest of the country thought the king was perfectly fine and they saw no reason for why Hamlet would be so upset with him. They all saw Denmark as a nice country to live in and had no intentions of leaving which is witnessed in the conversation between Hamlet and Rosencrantz: there are many con-
Fines, wards, and dungeons, Denmark being one o’ th’ worst.
We thing not so my lord (2.2.264-267).
Hamlet was so upset he even considered suicide.
Hamlet lets his ideas get way out of control when he gives his “To be or not to be” speech. His soliloquy is about death and committing suicide and how he doesn’t want to live any longer because life is horrible. Hamlet expresses those feelings in the first part of his speech when he says To be or not to be—that is the question:
Weather ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles (3.1.64-67). He felt like life had become so out of control and he could no longer stand living in it partly because of his mother’s marriage to Claudius was too hasty “But two months dead—nay, not so much, not two” (1.2.142). When, to others their marriage was seen just as another marriage by the people of Denmark. Hamlet acted on just ideas and feelings and those ideas took over and caused him to act irrationally and think unrealistically in the eyes of his mother, Claudius, Polonius and many of the other characters. When, his mother may have married Claudius because she loved him. Perhaps Gertrude was trapped by the late king and with his death she was finally free.
Because Hamlet idolized his father so much he couldn’t see that mother wasn’t happy being married to him. Gertrude could have had an affair with Claudius before she and the late king were married but instead was forced to marry the older brother not her true love. Then when the king died she was finally able to fulfill her dream and marry the brother that she had been in love with for years. Claudius even alludes to an affair when he says “Nor have we herein barred/ Your better wisdoms, which have freely gone/With this affair along” (1.2.14-16) and Hamlet adds to that when he says “She married. O, most wicked speed, to post/ With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!” (1.2.161-162). But Hamlet being blinded by admiration for his father was unable to see his mother’s love for a man other than his father. Because of this admiration he formed the ideas that life was bad and wasn’t worth living so that led to his suicide speeches which were just based on his ideas and not reality until he finally realized that life will end no matter what.
Towards the end of the play Hamlet finally learns to accept the facts of life and what happens around him as being just a part of life. He accepts death and that it will come no matter what If it be <now,> ’tis not to come; if it be not to come it will be now; if it be not now, yet it <will> come. The readiness is all. Since no man of aught he leaves knows, what is ’t to leave betimes? (5.2.234-238). With this he realizes that his father was eventually going to die no matter what and that after his death Gertrude would have married Claudius, who was only a catalyst in the process of death. If Hamlet had realized and come to terms with the facts of life sooner he could have avoided his depression and seen what others saw not what his ideas created. The play is centered around Hamlet and because of that we only see the events through Hamlet’s perception and that makes us feel the same way he does throughout the play.
We only learn about Hamlet’s ideas and only see the other characters from Hamlet’s point of view instead of the way we would see it from a narrator’s point of view that sees the play from all aspects of the characters or even Gertrude’s thoughts and know the reason for her hasty marriage. If we would have been able to know all the characters ideas, views, and feelings we could see the big picture of what was happening in Denmark not just the snapshot as Hamlet’s perception. Instead if we could have seen other characters ideas we would have been able to know the reason behind the king’s death, Gertrude’s marriage, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s behavior, Ophelia’s madness, and Laertes’ anger. We can only assume what they are thinking and feeling and the reason behind it, which is exactly what Hamlet does throughout the entire play. Because the play follows Hamlet we only know his perception and thoughts of the events that take place.
Therefore, our own reality is based only on our thoughts and our perception of events that happen around us on a daily basis. Every character in Hamlet is subject to thinking in one way or another and they all express those ideas differently because they are all different ideas. But their thinking leads to assumptions being drawn about events that occur around them and actions based on those ideas. All humans are subject to the same type of thinking just like the characters in Hamlet. And because everybody thinks we all make unsupported assumptions and judgments. “your ambition makes it one./ ’Tis too narrow for your mind (2.2.271-272) as said by Rosencrantz. Because of our assumptions people, by nature, must prove themselves right and the way we go about that is through our actions. But all the events that follow those thoughts and actions are started by a single thought weather it is right or wrong or good or bad it doesn’t matter in the end.