Shakespeare's Hamlet

In Shakespeare's Hamlet, though the prince struggles to answer the ghost’s call to avenge his father, once he has decided to kill Claudius, he doesn't hesitate to eliminate those against him.

The Legend of Amleth

Claudius sends a letter to the King of England through Rosencrantz and Gildenstern to eliminate the Hamlet. When Hamlet discovers the letter, he forges another one, calling on the King of England to kill instead the messengers, his boyhood colleagues. He could just have them jailed, but eliminating them would probably delay the news from reaching Cauldius, giving Hamlet enough time to crush his enemy. And he used the hands of the English king to eliminate his enemy’s lackeys. The Hamlet who forged the letter has evolved from the one questioning whether the ghost was lying to him and he changed from a bystander in royal politics to a key player. The Hamlet at the beginning of the play has disappeared and a more decisive and perhaps ruthless one takes his place. We can only speculate on what he would have done if he has survived. He may have ruled Denmark ruthlessly.

The Grave Digger

But he dies because he lacks a politician’s experience and doesn't anticipate Laertes plotting with Claudius. He should have understood Laertes’s feeling because he was also trying to avenge his father. But perhaps he believed Laertes was too upright to poison him. Yes, he, unlike Claudius who sets up a second offense with the poison wine, lacks a politician’s experience and instinct. And we wonder how Hamlet would have maneuvered Denmark against Fortinbras, and for that matter, England.

Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment Book Review

An idea possesses Raskolnikov. He believes there are supermen, Newton’s and Napoleon’s, who transcend ordinary men and women, who can act without moral constraint to judge evil and levy punishment, and to determine whether he belongs to this superior race, he kills the greedy and usurious pawn-broker. But unlike Napoleon in Austerlitz he doesn't execute his plan coldly and tactically. Rather, he nauseatingly dreams his way into a double murder, the pawnbroker’s sister having returned because he tarried. And, the sight of blood terrifies him to the extend his hands could not stop trembling. He discovers that he isn't upright or courageous, that he could not transcend the law, and that he is just a louse, a member of the inferior class. 

Crime and Punishment showcases Raskolnikov’s contradictory actions and emotions and reveals a split psyche fighting for wholeness. He despises others but dreams about saving the world. After reading his mother’s letter about his sister’s misfortune, he sheds tears but also sneers. He gives the little he has to help the Marmeladovs but then regrets helping them. He kills the pawnbroker to prove an idea but takes her money and valuables. He avoids the head detective Porfiry’s questions in the first interview but in the second falls upon the man. The psychological tensions grasp the reader and move the story forward.

Raskolnikov’s punishment begins not in Siberia after the verdict, but immediately after killing the pawnbroker, his irritability, nervousness, suspicion, delusion, and mania tormenting an already fragile psyche, not allowing him to eat, drink, sleep, work or socialize, and pressing him to hide in his coffin-like apartment trying to curl up under his blanket, feverish and delusional and escape from reality. His conscience torments and implicates him even before the law does so. Only through Sonya’s help and guidance could he find strength to confess his crime.

This novel’s conclusion reveals that Dostoyevsky rejected any social system that tries to replace the jagged path of life with linear reason and save people from their predicament. Although his moral heavy-handedness in Raskolnikov’s repentance and redemption seemed to scar the artistry of the mental battle, Crime and Punishment is psychological novel at its best.

Prayers for the Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston

Prayers for the friends and families of the victims in the South Carolina shooting and for the church where the shooting took place.

Soren Kierkegaard’s Sickness Unto Death

For Kierkegaard, “the self is not the relation (which relates to itself) but the relation’s relating to itself.” From the start, he shifts from a Cartesian or essentialist view of the self to an existentialist one. Whereas for Descartes “self” is a common noun, for Kierkegaard, it is a gerund. And the embedded verb, to relate, points to the dynamics of the self. In this case, relating to itself.

The first despair is that “which is ignorant of being in despair, or the despairing ignorance of having a self and an eternal self.” Similar to the “unexamined life” of Socrates, this is the unexamined self. And for Kierkegaard, this is the most common despair, though the individuals involved aren’t aware of it. In the Christian worldview, “a human being is a synthesis of the infinite and finite,” and therefore the tension between these poles becomes the source of next two types of despair: “wanting in despair to be oneself” and “not wanting in despair to be oneself.”

For Kierkegaard, despair is the sickness unto death, one different from an ordinary sickness that leads to physical death. Within the Christian framework, physical death may be a path toward eternal life and a dying person may hope for the life after. But despair, as the sickness unto death, is when one hopes for death as a resolution, but the person cannot die. Hence, the despair. Such despair presupposes life after death. For the atheistic existentialist, such as Sartre or Camus, death is the ultimate end and creates the despair by nullifying hope and achievement and life.

Faith, the interacting with the “power which established it,” is for Kierkegaard the only way the self can overcome despair.

Kierkegaard contributes to Christianity by reformulating faith as the dynamics between the believer and the “power that established it,” in overcoming the ignorance of a self, and in reintegrating the self with this power so as to resolve the tension between the two. Not longer is faith accepting a set of doctrines and carrying out the rites and rituals of the Church.

And he contributes to our understanding of human beings by modeling the self as the relating to itself and others, rather than as static stuffs: bodies, minds, souls and spirits, etc. So the focus shifts from being to becoming.