Amy’s comments during our discussion today prompted me to write about the role of isolation in developing some of Shakespeare’s themes in the play, Hamlet.
I thought about the types of isolation in the play and came up with the following:
- Hamlet’s suffering over the memory of his father and thinking how to act on his revenge turns him inward and away from the moment. Here, Hamlet intellectually isolates himself. This intellectual isolation is enhanced by the fact that he does not return to Wittenberg to continue his studies.
- Memories, or reflections on the past take Hamlet out of the experience of existence, or out of his being. In this way, he emotionally withdraws from the world around him in favour of emotions once experienced.
- Hamlet sends Ophelia away “to a nunnery” isolating himself from romantic love, and this accelerates into a distrust for all women isolating himself from his mother, Gertrude.
- Through deception and feigned madness he isolates himself from friends and family, and arguably he alienates himself from reality.
- Physical isolation begins after Hamlet believes he is “too much i’ the sun” and “dreadfully attended” until he says “Now, I am alone”.
Finally, Hamlet’s self-imposed isolation could be seen as a form of self-destruction.
Caution: the following animation from “Waking Life” has mature themes and images that may be disturbing.