Internal and External conflict in Hamlet





Internal and External conflict in Hamlet

Conflict is crucial to drama. Through conflict, drama acquires a movement or a flow that makes a narration to climax moving the audience to an animation state. Using conflict throughout a drama plays a significant role in making a work interesting and be able to communicate to the person on the receiving end. Looking at the human experience with the dramatics work, it is clear than the audience of drama is not passive. Since drama reflects life, it must reflect problems, circumstances, and struggles that the reader goes through in real life. Shakespeare achieves conflict elements throughout the drama, by creating an inward and outward conflict in Hamlet. The internal struggle of Hamlet on how to avenge the death of his father acts as the main internal conflict in the play. The conflict between Claudius and Hamlet acts as the main external conflict throughout the play. It promotes the theme of vengeance. Conflict a significant role in the drama. Through emotional repression and desire for vengeance, Hamlet presents both outward and inward conflicts.

The inward conflict in Hamlet is the character of Hamlet. The main inward conflict in the play is the procrastination of Hamlet to act when he suspects Claudius of the main character behind his father, King Hamlet, death. In Act 1, the ghost of King Hamlet appears to the son asking him for vengeance over his own death (Firrrouzjaee & Pourkalhor 218). King Hamlet tells his son that Claudius poisoned him while asleep to take away his wife, Queen Gertrude and also to steal the throne. The king in form of ghost tells Hamlet that, “the serpent that did sting thy father now wears the crown” 46-47. The appearance makes Hamlet’s life to fill with conflict. He wants to avenge his father’s death but is confused about whether the ghost is really his father. This question makes Hamlet suffer procrastination. He is confused on whether to make a move or not. He looks at Fortinbras’ ability to make an instant decision and starts comparing that to himself. This creates more distress. He is also reluctant to avenge himself, “he says, time is out of joint”. He knows that by committing murder, many other problems would emerge (Firrrouzjaee & Pourkalhor 218). His struggle in differentiating between illusion and reality makes the audience to empathize with him and worry about his wellbeing.

In Act 1 Scene II, Hamlet is stressed by the marriage of his mother to Claudius. In his soliloquy he says, “too solid flesh would melt”. He is struggling with the feelings of his mother Gertrude. On one hand he loves his mother, on the other hand, he hates it that she married Claudius so fast after the death of his father. In the soliloquy, it is clear that he has some bad feelings for Claudius. The inner struggle is seen in his preoccupation with the relationship between Claudius and his mother. In the first line he says, “a little more kin and less than kind” (1.2.65). Hamlet struggles that Gertrude betrayed his father (Bahri 358). The conflict is that he hates the betrayal yet he is unsure of how to address the repressed feelings. To him his mother lacked true love for King Hamlet and that is why she married the uncle so hastily. This makes the feeling of anguish to intensify.

Hamlet is tormented by the fact that his mother remarried only two months after the death of his father. He says that the king was excellent and loving to his mother (1.2.135-141). He says that the garden which represents his family is growing wild for not being kept. In this expression, he fails to express the dissatisfaction with Gertrude and instead represses the feeling which grows so intense that his logical behaviour is pushed aside. The inner conflicts continue manifesting when he says that King Hamlet meant little to his mother driving her to marry that quickly. In line 91-93 the ghost tells him to leave his mother to heaven and to thorns that would prick her. According to the ghost Gertrude would experience an inner turmoil that would be enough vengeance. He however feels that such a passive vengeance would be ineffective for Gertrude. He struggles inwardly on deciding what would be most effective revenge for his mother. This shows an inner conflict. He deals with internal conflict which is holding him back (Bahri 358). He struggles to come to terms with the situation Gertrude is immersed in. He struggles to understand the reality of his mother’s ways contrary to what she purports. The inward struggles with reality make the audience to sympathize with Hamlet.

Inner conflict is seen in Hamlet’s battle with the feeling of taking action against Claudius. Lack of confidence to avenge his father’s death makes him have bitter feelings that he chooses to repress. The inner conflict is seen when he decides to make Claudius watch a play that shows the killing of King Hamlet. Hamlet’s indecisiveness is seen when he wonders whether to avenge of not (3.1.56-60). He is confused on whether to take action against a sea of troubles or not, this indecisiveness shows the inner conflict in Hamlet in his conscience. The inner conflict makes him spend much time thinking on the course of action. This weakness yields frustration in him. In response he tries to fight the gut feelings and suppresses the emotions creating the feelings of uncertainty. Throughout the play Hamlet is seen struggling when it comes to avenging his father’s death. Even though he vowed to avenge, he takes time just thinking about how to do it (Nasrin & Hasan 87). He is seen struggling with himself. He is even seen cursing his lack of ability to act in his decisions.

Hamlet’s suicide contemplation serves as another inward conflict. The death of his father really shocked him. The marriage of his mother to Claudius stresses him especially because Gertrude got married hastily. The ghost tells him that his father was killed by Claudius. The man who married his mother soon after the death of his father (Cameron 162). Claudius also took the throne of his father. Again the ghost wants him to avenge the death of his father. All the happenings stress Hamlet and he has to make certain decisions. He is confused and goes through inner conflict. He contemplates suicide showing the inward conflict. He says, “to be or not to be,” he wonders whether it is noble for the mind to suffer. He however, fears the happenings of the afterlife. Presenting another inner conflict. He argues that it is better for a man to endure life misfortunes due to the unknown fear in the life after. Hamlet says that it is that fear that prevents him from taking his own life (Bahri 358). In line 83-89 he wonders who would want to experience the unknown in the undiscovered country. He ends up saying that he would rather bear the ills he is going through than go to experience the ills he knows nothing about.

Hamlet is emotionally stressed since Ophelia seems to listen to her father and brother who are advising her to stay away from him. Polonius who is the father of Ophelia spies on Hamlet. He fails to have string faith in Hamlet and ends up encouraging Ophelia to end her relationship with him. His heart is broken when Ophelia betrays him. Even though Hamlet loves Ophelia, he hates that she is unwilling to be honest and that she tricked him by refusing to retain his affection tokens, he struggles inwardly with this betrayal. The audience can’t help but sympathize with him because of the psychological conflict that he is going through. This conflict helps the play to take an internal shape (Bahri 358). The inner torment is seen on how he mistreats Ophelia for the supposed betrayal. The internal suffering of Hamlet caused by the death of his father, and betrayal of his mother, lover, and uncle causes him internal repression proving that Hamlet presents an inward conflict throughout the play.

However, there are other accounts that show that Hamlet also presents outward conflict throughout the play. The outward conflict happens between individuals. For instance, an outward conflict occurs between Claudius and Hamlet. After the supposed ghost of King Hamlet appears to Hamlet, he is told that Claudius is responsible for the murder of his father. He hates Claudius and starts investigating him to confirm the accusations in order to avenge the death. Hamlet decides to invite Claudius to a play characterized by the real killing of his father. Claudius gets angry after watching the play and is shocked by Hamlet’s decision. This raises tension and Claudius plans to avenge. This is what drives Claudius to send Hamlet to England where he would be killed. In response, Hamlet decides to kill Claudius as part of the vengeance (Javed 330). In a sword’s match, Hamlet ends up killing Claudius.

Before, Claudius tries to desperately win Hamlet by attempting to manipulate him to stop grieving over his father. He even suggested that he start considering Claudius as an uncle-dad. Hamlet does not believe in him. When watching the play, Claudius orders that they play to be stopped after having trouble containing his emotions. This shows person conflict between Claudius and Hamlet. Hamlet feels that Claudius had taken everything. He therefore had to plan a revenge (Javed 331). On the other hand, Claudius power thirst and greedy nature drove him into the external conflicts through which he was to get Hamlet out of the picture. Hamlet’s inner struggle and repression of anger fuels the conflict with Claudius. To Hamlet revenge would be the only solution to his inner struggle. Claudius on the other hand has plans for killing Hamlet. He manipulates Laertes to kill Hamlet through a mask of a friendly match. While the King watches the match praising Hamlet’s health, the audience knows that it is a plan to eliminate Hamlet. This is an external conflict with a fascinating nature for the audience.

External conflict is also seen in Hamlet’s battle with fate in an attempt to reject the notion of being destined for the throne. Although Hamlet does not think that Claudius should be the legitimate heir of the crown, he does not take an urgent action. However, the king knows that his legal case for the throne is fragile. However, the fact that Claudius managed to move the court and the kingdom to move on after the death of King Hamlet makes his case stronger. This makes it challenging for Hamlet to prove that Claudius took the crown illegally. When he went to Denmark he finds his uncle having the crown. This creates an external conflict surrounding the crown.  The infighting in the royal family of the throne and revenge serves as a source of external conflict. This defines the play. Hamlet’s internal anger is seen in his external actions (Bahri 358). The betrayal of his mother and his lover drives him to fuel external conflicts. Through his speech he shames women. For instance, he says, that women are fragile. He says that women are “frailty” (1.2.146). He also makes cruel jokes towards Gertrude and Ophelia. This creates external conflict between him and the women.

External conflict is seen between Gertrude and Hamlet. Hamlet’s heart is filled with sorrow after the death of King Hamlet. However, the sorrow and shame intensify when his mother gets married to Claudius, the brother of his father. He feels that Gertrude got married so fast after the death of her loving husband. This expresses his anger to his mother by telling her that she offended his father and that she was worse just like Claudius who had killed King Hamlet. The violent behaviour made Gertrude be afraid and this ends up creating a conflict with Hamlet. In another instance, Laertes dislikes Hamlet despite Hamlet being in a relationship with Ophelia, his sister. Laertes prohibits Ophelia from pursuing that relationship. Throughout the play, the dislike between Laertes and Hamlet continues to grow. The feeling intensifies when Laertes realizes that Hamlet caused the death of his father. This forced him to make a plan of killing Hamlet in a sword match through a poisonous sword. Laertes has in mind a master plan that would ensure that Hamlet is dead (Bahri 358). However, Hamlet strikes first and Laertes confesses to the guilt of Claudius in the death of his mother. This forces Hamlet to strike again killing Laertes and then dies. This shows the external conflict in the play.

In conclusion, it is clear that conflicts are an essential element in making an attractive plot with a purpose of educating the audience. Shakespeare uses conflict in Hamlet to make the play live. He uses inward and outward conflict throughout the play. Internal conflicts include Hamlet’s internal struggles after the death of his father, marriage of his mother to Claudius, the person behind the demise of King Hamlet, and betrayal of his lover. The internal conflict drives Hamlet to commit murder an external conflict. External conflict in the play is seen between Claudius and Hamlet with greed for power and revenge fuelling the conflict. Through this conflict, Laertes implements his vengeance against Hamlet by use of a poisonous sword. By the need of the play, several characters are killed as a form of external conflict. From the conflicts in the play, it is clear that revenge is not the solution to the human crisis because it can result in death.

Work Cited

Bahri, Syamsul, Dewi, Nora & Seni, Fakultas, “The Conflicts in Shakespeare’s Drama             Hamlet” n.d, pp. 335-360.

Cameeeron, Eileen, “The Psychology of Hamlet” International Journal of Language and Literature, vol.2 no, 3, 2014 pp.161-177.

Devi, Rajkumari, ‘Conflict in Tragedy’ An International Journal of English, no.12, 2013, pp.1-5.

Firrrouzjaee, Hassan & Pourkalhor, Omid, “Revisiting Shakespeare: A Study of Human          Nature in Hamlet and Macbeth” International Journal of English Literature and       Culture, vol.2 no.9, 2014, pp.214-221.

Javed, Tabassum, ‘Perfect Idealism in Shakespeare’s Prince Hamlet’ The Dialogue vol.8            no.3, 2013, pp.328-333.

Nasrin, Farzana & Hasan, Mehedi, “William Shakespeare: Soliloquies and Asides in Hamlet”              International Journal on Studies in English Language and Literature (IJSELL), Vol.4      no.10, 2016, pp. 82-92.