Was Hamlet a Reformer? Part II. /Literary Criticism/The Early Modern Absurd

•    [1.2. ] Hamlet in Search of his Being

•    This second part of the essay entitled „Was Hamlet a Reformer?” is a philosophical one. It is being asserted how Hamlet`s inner world absorbs the feeling of revenge, in which ways he manages to sustain his religious and moral „fundament” and how does the notion of `new faith` refer to Reformation despite the moral ambivalence and spiritual poverty of the same Court which had been his childhood`s actual moral  playground.


Reaching an emotional climax and that of faith in Act III. Sc 2. with the „slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” (l: 58), and the „thousand of natural shocks that flesh is heir to” (Hamlet, ibid. l: 62); the faithful character has a conscience as a „mortal coil” (l: 67.)  that deserves further analysis. His „native hue of resolution/ is sicklied o`er with the pale cast of thought” ( Act III, Scene 2, line: 85) about the essence of existence, the chance to dream and the notion of „action”[#`loose the name of action`]. Could we call this soliloquy one of the monologues of a perchance refreshing Reformer or that of a dreamer with a dread of the absurdly living absolute (l: 78.) instead?


Hereby we may need the Heideggerian concept of Being as a philosophical term; not quite similar to its first forms presented in his Being and Time; rather as it is asserted in the shorter work of Time and Being. [ 8: ‹‹ Zur Sache des Denkens››; 1969; English translation, 1972.]

The moral image of Hamlet is conceptualized by his words; yet these words designate a moral philosophy as well, we may deduce the importance of the mortal coil, with some aid by Heidegger. Heidegger asks: „Is Being a thing? Is Being like an actual being in time? Is Being at all?”

Hamlet answers:  „To be or not to be, that is the question”– almost four hundred years before Heidegger, in 1601.
Where is the conscience, the bravity of the hero, how is it hidden in the Hamletian incubator of phrases? Which words express his moral strength while facing the replaced King and the manipulated Ophelia?

May the assumption of a time-enduring „mortal coil” be replaced by a moral coil in the text of Hamlet? He says: „For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, /The opressor`s wrong […]” (l: 70-71)
Heidegger`s analysis of time, may be applicable to Hamlet`s philosophical questions. Heidegger wrote:
„Time and the temporal mean what is perishable; what passes away in the course of time. Our language says with still greater precision: what passes away with time. For time itself passes away. But by passing away constantly, time remains as time. To remain means: not to disappear, thus to presence. Thus time is determined by a kind of Being. How then, is Being supposed to be determined by time?”
Could Hamlet be a source for Heidegger?

No. At least we do not assume such violent idea. Heidegger used rather Plato; yet Hamlet is better than him in his literary language, his double-speak, his allegories and synonyms.
•    „No, good mother, here`s a metal more attractive”– thus addresses Hamlet the time-bound well-mannered but dogmatically Catholic Ophelia. (Act III. Sc 2. L: 109)
•    „O God! Your only jig-maker. What should a man do, but be merry? […]my father died within two hours[…] let the devil wear black for I`ll have a suit of sables. O heavens! Died two months ago and not forgotten yet? Then, there`s hope, a great man`s memory may outlive his life half a year […] he must build churches then…”
(Act 2. Sc 2. L:125-134.)

In comparison with Hamlet’s speech, Martin Heidegger talks to the „living transcendental” while defining the importance of „Being” and „Time” as such:

“Being and time determine each other reciprocally, but in such a manner, that neither can the former Being—be addressed as something temporal, nor can the latter—time be addressed as a being.”
The German philosopher can not substitute the language of Hamlet yet may paraphrase the hero’s long quest for self-definition. Accordingly, we glimpse here a hero, a Hamlet, who while being in his search of the meaning of Being, addresses Being itself, his own Dasein is his communication partner. Furthermore, instead of behaving in time with manners in the actual being of the Court, the dramaturgically given time of his dramatic setting, so instead of actually enjoying the written time by Shakespeare with his dogmatic virgin-like Ophelia, his presumptive counterpart, Hamlet is cast out of the language, of the millieau of the living creatures into the realm of philosophy, an infinite absolute of the pre-heideggerian conceptualized „afterlife” in the momentary existence.

Where can we see the visible signs of his promised philosophical “walk into [his own] grave”? According to our assumption, it is to be found in Act III. Scene II in his well-known „To be or not to be” monologue.

Martin Heidegger in the 20th century, shows us a Hamlettian definition of life, existence defined by a new and isolated definition of „Being” in communication. Heidegger’s ontological concepts seem us to be whirling around the notion of „Being”, an ontological „Sache des Denkens” close to our true selves:

„True, Da-sein is ontically not only what is near or even nearest—we ourselves are it, each of us. Nevertheless, or precisely for this reason, it is ontologically what is farthest removed. True, it belongs to its most proper being to have an understanding of this being and to sustain a certain interpretation of it.” (The Double Task in Working Out the Question of Being: The Method of the Investigation and its Outline qtd in A Translation of Sein und Zeit: p. 13.)  [9 ]

Yet, Heidegger  argues against a free interpretation of ontology, he rather prescribes us the terminology and its problematic nature as follows:
„But this does not at all mean that the most readily available pre-ontological interpretation of its own being could be adopted as an adequate quidline, as though this understanding of being had to rise from a thematically ontological reflection on the most proper constitution of its being. Rather, in accordance with the kind of being belonging to it, Da-sein tends to understand its own being in terms of that being to which it is esentially, continually, and most closely related—the”world”. […] [Heidegger,  id. p. 14]

Hamlet in the Shakespearean Early Modern Absurd plays with the logos, takes revenge over it, argues against „Being” in his monologues and concludes his speech with sustaining the idea that it is only he, or he is the only „being” who communicates through the „whips and scorns of time” as he has a true and personal connection with Being itself.
There’s the respect,
That makes calamity of so long life:
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The opressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despis’d love, the law’s delay[…] To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death— „


to be continued…

[8] Martin Heidegger, Time and Being („Zur Sache des Denkens” German), 1969. English translation in 1972.

Heidegger online:,ssl&ei=qzBjVrGwGKKbygOJqobIBg#q=Martin+Heidegger%2C+Time+and+Being, /November, 2015./

[9]Martin Heidegger, Being and Time. A Translation of Sein und Zeit tranl. by Joan Stambaugh (State University of New York Press): pp. 13-15.

[10] Hamlet, id. Act III. Scene 2, lines: 68-78.

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