Monday, November 17, 2014

Hamlet & the Performative Utterance

The cliche saying of "actions speak louder than words" suggesting that actions are more important than words was challenged by Hamlet through his internal conflicts conveyed through his words in Shakespeare's legendary play Hamlet. His choice of words were explained in Fredrik De Boer's essay "The Performative Utterances in Hamlet." De Boer slams the misinterpretation that Hamlet was a trouble-minded man and up brings the idea that Hamlet was rather a man "who could not make real what was found in his mind." Hamlet's performative utterances is what starts to stir his thoughts and begin to doubt his courage in completing the burden weighed on his shoulders.

Many of Hamlet's lines can be described as run on in depth thoughts, where he struggles with bringing himself to commit the murder of his uncle, Claudius, that will avenge his father's death. Hamlet knows exactly what he needs to do and doesn't question whether he should or shouldn't do it, but the problem arises from committing the action itself. To go beyond the words and create actions troubles Hamlet the most causing him to contemplate the before and after effects: whether he will actually have the courage to act when accompanied with Claudius, or if he will be able to live with himself after the murder is committed, and the effects on himself and everyone around him.

Hamlet's soliloquy represents speech as a transformative action turning the tides from certainty to a wavering decision. In his soliloquy, Hamlet describes whether it's better to bear a guilty, sorrowful life(after murdering his uncle) or slip into an unconsciousness completely foreign to man(taking his own life and entering the afterlife). The soliloquy accurately describes how performative utterances work in shaping our actions. In the heat of the moment, Hamlet was so sure of himself and confident in his decision to kill his uncle, but as his thoughts started turning his confidence began to dwindle as he thought of the consequences that would occur. Although actions speak louder than words, words predict whether the action becomes a reality or not.

In conclusion, performative utterances are significant elements in determining people's actions. Hamlet's acceptance of bearing the life after murdering his uncle wasn't finalized without deep contemplation and words that actually accomplished enough to give Hamlet the courage to commit the crime.

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