Truth Justice and Uncertainties of the Past - Hamlet Essay

Truth and Justice Unshadow Our Uncertainties

Time and again, mysteries of our past reappear in our future. Questions left answered can return to haunt us and change the way we view subsequent situations. In Hamlet, Shakespeare examines the human need to reconcile uncertainties of the past with present situations in order to uphold justice and truth. Young Hamlet is one character who indeed faces the need to reconcile his past, when it directly confronts him in the form of his late father’s ghost. Thus we behold a mission of reconciliation as Hamlet tests whether the Ghost is reliable or not and at the conclusion, when Hamlet urges Horatio to let the complete story be known. We further see this human need to reconcile the past and present when Laertes storms into Elsinore to avenge his father’s death. Each of these instances demonstrates the desire for matters to be settled truthfully and with fairness.


When we receive shocking news, we often endeavour to see if it is correct. We compare our knowledge of the past with the evidence we later find. When the Ghost confronts Hamlet at the beginning of the play, Hamlet is undoubtedly forced to reconcile the uncertainties of the past with a new situation. On finding that the recount of his father’s death was in fact a lie , Hamlet now knows that Denmark is in turmoil;  in accord with the Elizabethan view of the universe. To restore peace to Denmark, he must avenge his father’s murder and kill Claudius. Yet Hamlet does not rush to action, he fears that the “spirit” that has seen “may be a devil”.  Thus, Hamlet recognizes that he must reconcile the past and present by testing the Ghost’s words. Hamlet wants to take the right course of action, one that is just and appropriate, so he sets a ‘mousetrap’ to discover if Claudius is actually at fault. With the help of the players, Hamlet orchestrates matters in order to ‘catch the conscience of the King’. Shakespeare displays how our reactions are also purposely delayed when we want to uphold truth. Before we rush to a hasty action, we generally view it as wise to test both sides, to reconcile our past and present knowledge.


We further see Hamlet on a mission of reconciliation at the conclusion of the play when he tells Horatio to recount the whole story. For the truth to be known, Horatio must keep alive and tell the audience what really occurred. Reconciliation is still important to Hamlet right until his death, because he realizes the story will live on, and so it must be told correctly. Hamlet tells Horatio: “Thou livest, report me and my cause a right to the unsatisfied”. Hamlet’s dying wish is for Denmark and the on-looking world to know of Claudius’ evil deed and the reason for Hamlet’s actions. Shakespeare shows that ultimately, we want to truth to be told, especially when it involves ourselves and our loved ones. After all the effort invested, Hamlet wants the issues raised to be resolved once and for all, and in public knowledge. Hamlet further gives Fortinbras his blessing to be King, which also helps to reconcile the past and present circumstances. Shakespeare also notes that many times, we will even die for a cause that we believe to be noble, and at that point, we die satisfied knowing that we have met our aim.



Hamlet is not the only character in the play who seeks to reconcile uncertainties of the past with new situations. Laertes, on hearing of his Polonius’ death, returns to Elsinore to “demand his fill” and avenge his father’s death. For Laertes, the cause of his father’s death is uncertain and so he takes it upon himself to find his father’s murder and kill that man. Laertes storms into the King’s palace and prepares to attack Claudius, who he believes to be his father’s murderer. Shakespeare reoccurringly portrays the loyalty of a son to his father, in Laertes determination as well as Hamlet’s final deed. Laertes makes known that he will not “be juggled with”. He feels that his anger is justified, meaning that he does not worry about being sent to Hell. Hamlet  shows how we constantly strive to know our true friends from our enemies and how loyalty plays a powerful role in reconciling the uncertainties of our past with present situations. Often, nothing can stop us from trying to attain justice and truth when the insecurity is close to home.


The Play Hamlet, demonstrates the way uncertainties of our past will often creep up on us, and force us to a mission of reconciliation. As humans, we often have a need to uphold justice and truth when we reconcile the past and present. Hamlet made sure to test the Ghost’s words, to determine if it was right to kill Claudius.  The maintenance of justice and truth further motivated Hamlet to urge Horatio to stay alive, and accurately recount the turn of events. When the uncertainties of our past involve those who we care about, often nothing will stop us from this path of reconciliation, as we mark where our loyalties truly lie. Shakespeare shares a fitting lesson on the mysteries of our past, perhaps implying that when we seek to reconcile past and present situations with pure motives, it bestows upon us the upmost honour and dignity.

By Roli Edema.

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