Custom Essays: Fortinbras And The Good Life

2246 words - 9 pages

Fortinbras and the Good Life         

   Hamlet lives only part of the good life. He dies. Laertes lives only part of the good life. He dies. Fortinbras lives the good life. He becomes the king. The ultimate fates of these three characters describe how close each of them come to the good life. Hamlet and Laertes are at the edge of two extremes, while Fortinbras is somewhere in between. In a sense, not living the good life causes the demise of both Hamlet and Laertes, physically as well as mentally. In contrast, living the good life allows Fortinbras to become the king of Denmark and live out the rest of his life in peace. These three characters play out three very different aspects ...view middle of the document...

His eagerness to revenge his father is exemplified in the following passage: "My lord, I will be ruled; / The rather if you could devise it so / That I might be the organ" (4.7, 67-69). His feelings of emotion are so intense that it consumes every molecule of his being. But revenge is in no way a means of living the good life, for revenge is nothing but channeling thoughts of loss and hatred into the action of killing the murderer, a truly uncivilized action. Fortinbras is in a way uncivilized, in that his actions are based upon revenge, but he has the good sense to bide his time for great opportunities. His statement, "Go, Captain, from me greet the Danish king. / Tell him that by his license Fortinbras / Craves the conveyance of a promised march / Over his kingdom," (4.4 1-4) suggests that he is driven by emotion but knows well enough to not let it consume him. His use of the word "craves" shows that he would like nothing more than to fight this war, while the fact that he is taking the time to greet the Danish king demonstrates that he is thinking about things other than revenge. Fortinbras' feelings are the feelings that most people in the same situation should have: wanting to do something about a wrongful death, but not so consumed in that emotion that one cannot act, and not so angry that a barbaric sense of justice is the overriding goal in one's life. The ability to channel those thoughts and emotions into something productive is necessary to achieve the good life because that method is the method that allows human beings to overcome the hardships that inevitably occur in their lives.

It is extremely important, especially in times of great loss, to act with some authenticity. "To thine own self be true" (1.3, 78), Polonius commands. Due to his hyperconscious state, Hamlet has tremendous difficulty with acting in accordance to his beliefs and emotions. Hamlet is able to overcome his own hyperconsciousness, with some degree of success, by using a combination of mimetic desire and actor's morality. His mimicry of the players in the play allows his to express his inner feelings and act them out, one at a time. But it is precisely this mimetic desire and actor's morality that takes Hamlet further away from the good life. Though he is finally able to act, his action is worse than his excessive inaction. Because Hamlet is acting in the image of others, he is no longer true to himself. Hamlet is somewhat authentic when he is in a hyperconscious state, but when he gives up that hyperconsciousness in favor of acting out his entire life as nothing more than a role in a play, he resigns himself to the actions of others and loses most of the control of his own life. He is no longer free, and he is no longer living any part of the good life. In the beginning, his examined life might loosely fit Socrates' idea of the good life. But near the end of the play, his actions do not stem from his own thoughts as much as they come from the actions of...

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