Hamlet and Words
Hamlet is regarded by many as William Shakespeare's greatest work. One of the many reasons for such claim is Shakespeare's exquisite use of words. Shakespeare's adeptness in words is best voiced out by arguably the best dramatic character ever written, Hamlet. Hamlet becomes an effective mouthpiece for Shakespeare's words as Hamlet himself seems to fancy words and recognizes the power of them. One of the scenes that express Hamlet's fancy with words is when he had thought of hiring actors and staging a skit in his quest for revenge. Hamlet had thought of staging a simulation of his father's murder that was supplemented with his commentaries as a means of investigating whether Claudius is guilty or not of the murder of his father. There are several instances in the play that suggest that Hamlet has this fancy for words and recognizes their potential. That fancy for words had led him to the staging a play/skit with a strong belief that words can aid him in his quest for revenge.
Hamlet had even expressed his excitement when he had heard that the acting troupe was arriving: "O Jephtah, judge of Israel what treasure hadst thou!" (Shakespeare 107, Act 2, Scene 2, Lines 403-404). Hamlet's excitement on the arrival of an acting troupe can be due to his fancy for words. What the acting troupe can offer is a play/skit, a form of communication that employs heightened language. Shakespeare's time can be considered one of the golden eras of plays. Plays are regarded as an effective way of communication as they usually directly target the emotions of the audience. Hamlet wanted to directly attack the emotions of Claudius and see if he will be shaken by an organized use of words.
To support the claim that Hamlet had trusted words as his initial weapon for revenge, there are other instances in the play where Hamlet had used words to achieve what he aims for. This is particularly evident in his love letters to Ophelia. Such beautiful words could even make the cold heart of a woman softer: "to the celestial and my soul's idol, the most / beautified Ophelia... / doubt thou the stars are fire / doubt that the sun doth move / doubt truth to be liar / but never doubt I love" (Shakespeare 107, Act 2, Scene 2, Lines 109-119). The words used in that poem were so effective that Hamlet was able ensnare the love of Ophelia. Those words could probably have added to the causes of Ophelia's insanity.
Hamlet's adeptness in words may have endowed him with the ability to sense whether a person could be vulnerable to the power of words. Hamlet had confirmed that Ophelia was vulnerable to words when she had said "...words of so sweet breathe compos'd / as made the things more rich" (Shakespeare 129, Act 3, Scene 1, Lines 98-99). He may have applied the same kind of reasoning for his entrapment of Claudius. After Hamlet had delivered a speech, Polonius confirms Hamlet's fancy of words and a certain adeptness in using them "fore god my lord, well spoken, with good accent / and good discretion" (Shakespeare 107, Act 2, Scene 2, Lines 466-467).
One needs not look far in search for a possible reason for Hamlet's adept command of language. One of the possible reasons for his grandiose use of words is also the cause of his greatest flaw: Hamlet is famous for contradicting himself. Shakespeare's most famous line expresses Hamlet's habit of contradicting himself "to be or not to be?" (Shakespeare 129, Act 3, Scene 1, Lines 67). The habit of contradicting one's self is due to contemplating much about things. And that contemplating means that there is intrapersonal communication happening, as in the case of Hamlet, it is not just simple intrapersonal communication; it is more of an interpersonal version of the Jerry Springer Show. This paper is not certain if there are critics with the same interpretation, but it can be deemed that Hamlet's fancy for words was due to his constant intrapersonal communication.
The previous paragraph is just in support with the main argument of this paper, that Hamlet recognizes the power of words and sees an opportunity to use them for the purpose of revenge. However, it is also important to consider that Hamlet's adeptness in words does not work all the time; in fact, it backfires most of the time. There seems to be an overloading of words that are constantly circling the back of his head. This overloading of words makes it difficult for Hamlet to decide on an issue promptly. His method of contemplating is not of the average individual. The scene where Hamlet had his first chance of killing Claudius is a good example. Words had rung in his head like the static of a radio; the words in the back of his head had spoken to him that if he kills Claudius in prayer he might go to heaven. The overload of words had left him unable to finish the task.
That is why Hamlet had chosen to utilize a word-based kind of revenge partly because it is the closest option to his mode of thinking, but most significantly, he acknowledges the potency of words. The very evidence of that claim is that Hamlet had amplified the play by supplying a running commentary. Actually, this is one of the main themes of the play as Claudius' pouring of poison to King Hamlet is considered by many as a symbolism of transmitting noxious words Hamlet had shown us that words are more lethal than they appear; words are that potent as they can even push individuals into obsessions, or worse, insanity.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet (The New Folger Library Shakespeare). NY: Washington Square Press. 1992. Print.