The Role of ‘the Man of Ideas’ of Hamlet In Shakespeare’s Play



The ability to formulate ideas and make use of intelligent thought are key distinctions that make the human mind so vastly unique and complex. The effective portrayal of this can enhance key dynamics and messages in literature as well as provide increased depth of ideas and meaning. The role of ‘the man of ideas’ is very fitting for the character of Hamlet in Shakespeare’s play, as his many ideas drastically improve the dramatic value and effective portrayal of key themes throughout. Hamlet’s resourceful thinking, scheming and emotional intelligence are some of his many attributes that build his intelligent character and are seen throughout the play.  

 Hamlet’s frequent use of resourceful thinking is important when considering aspects of his intelligent thought in his role as ‘the man of ideas’. For instance, Hamlet devises a plan to try and expose Claudius’ suspected guilt in the murder of his father. First, Hamlet captures his attention  by having the play presented when and where Claudius anticipated it, preventing any suspicion as well as asking Polonius to invite Claudius and his mother to attend.  Polonius states “[...] And he beseeched me to entreat your Majesties / To hear and see the matter.” (Hamlet 3.1.22-23). In continuation of his plan, Hamlet observes Claudius’ reaction to the play, which is set to closely resemble the murder of his father. Hamlet states that Claudius’ reaction and guilt will be exposed if what he has been told is true, as seen when Hamlet states “One scene of it comes near the circumstance / Which I have told thee of my father’s death. / [...] If his occulted guilt / Do not itself unkennel in one speech, / [...] my imaginations are as foul” (3.2.81.80-88).  As a result, Hamlet confirms Claudius’ guilt. 

Hamlet’s resourceful thinking is further shown when he uses it to save himself from execution as per the letter he is carrying to England. He cunningly rewrites the letter and replaces his name with the names of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, the two who accompany him on the ship. Hamlet went as far as re-sealing the letter with his father’s ring to cleverly conceal his actions. Hamlet recalls the content of the letter he read when talking to Horatio. He explains,  “[...] an exact command, [...] / No, not to stay the grinding of the ax. / My head should be struck off.” (5.2.20-26). Thus, Hamlet’s use of intelligent thought in the form of resourceful thinking supports his title as ‘the man of ideas’. He is able to tactfully find solutions to immediate problems and consequently improve the dramatic value of the play, while also portraying key themes such as revenge and deceit. 

The portrayal of his ideas and these themes are also seen through Hamlet’s ability to scheme. For example, in the first part of the play, Hamlet plans to act insane after the ghost of his father informs him about his murder. This plan is a clever attempt at portraying himself as oblivious about the truth of his father’s murder, and allows him to get revenge in a more effective and convincing manner. Hamlet, when speaking to Horatio and Marcellus explains that it will be in his best interest to put on an ‘antic disposition’. He states, “How strange or odd soe'er I bear myself (As I perchance hereafter shall think meet To put an antic disposition on) [...]” (1.5.171-173). He continues by asking them to play along in his plan to feign his own insanity, in order to make his condition believable. Additionally, Hamlet formulates a plan to prove that Claudius is guilty of his father’s murder and take revenge. First, Hamlet listens in on Claudius praying, which provides further evidence of his guilt in the form of a confession. Hamlet however, chooses not to kill him in this heated moment of anger. He realizes that killing him at this point will likely send him to heaven, which will not be the true revenge he is seeking. Hamlet states, “Now might I do it pat. / Now he is a-praying. / And now I’ll do ’t. And so he goes to heaven. / And so am I revenged.—That would be scanned.” (3.3.74-76). Hamlet instead plans to wait to kill him at a time where he will die and go to hell, and get the punishment he truly deserves, stating, “Up, sword, and know thou a more horrid hent. / When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage, / Or in th' incestuous pleasure of his bed,” (3.3.89-91). Hamlet further showcases his ability to scheme when he plans to exact revenge on his mother. Rather than physically hurting her, Hamlet decides that he will say things that will hurt her emotionally. Hamlet explains his plans when he states that he “will speak daggers to her, but use none” (3.2.325). He does so to have her understand and acknowledge her shortcomings and mistakes after King Hamlet’s death. In his attempt to do this, Hamlet insults his mother, and makes her feel guilty for marrying her dead husband’s brother. Hamlet states “[...] Almost as bad, good mother, / As kill a king and marry with his brother.” (3.4.29-30), This revenge plot works in parallel with his plan to kill Claudius. Hamlet’s ability to plan creates increased dramatic tensions in the play, and solidifies his role as ‘the man of ideas’. He is able to formulate ideas for plans and work through situations, all while continually implementing the key theme of revenge.  

Lastly, Hamlet’s emotional intelligence is another part of his intelligent thought which leads him to being ‘the man of ideas’. Hamlet is able to understand the emotional state and thoughts of others, and use this understanding to effectively take advantage of or deal with the situation. This is seen in the previous example in Hamlet’s interaction with Gertrude, as well as his interactions with Ophelia. Hamlet successfully manipulates Ophelia into believing that he has gone mad, doing so to ensure that his future actions will have less attention put on them. Hamlet’s idea is primarily executed through his denial of the idea of his love for Ophelia, which contradicts his past actions. He is able to effectively manipulate her perception of him through this idea. In addition to denying he ever loved her, he insults her and suggests her potential unfaithfulness if she is to get married. When talking to Ophelia, Hamlet states, “[...] if thou wilt needs marry, marry a fool, for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them” (3.1.139-141). Hamlet further displays  his emotional intelligence through his interactions with his mother, by telling her that she has made an obvious mistake in marrying Claudius. He continues to say that he does not hold the same qualities as King Hamlet did, using his understanding of his mothers emotions to make her contemplate the choices that she has made. He describes King Hamlet fondly, and contrasts this with the description of Claudius to make her see her mistake in marrying him. Hamlet states in his rant that “This was your husband. Look you now, what follows. / Here is your husband, like a mildewed ear Blasting his wholesome brother. Have you eyes?” (3.4.64-66). His ability to try and convince his mother of her mistake through this idea of comparison is representative of his ability to manipulate and formulate ideas that will benefit him and his motivations. Finally, Hamlet is able to read Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s true intentions of visiting him. Through a short conversation, he is able to get them to address what they have been put up to by his parents. Hamlet talks about the guilty look on their faces, and mentions, “You were sent for, and there is a kind of confession in your looks [...] I know the good king and queen have sent for you.” (2.2.301-304). Going further, Hamlet uses emotional manipulation to get an answer out of them by saying, “Nay, then, I have an eye of you—If you love me, hold not off” (2.2.314-315). Using this idea, Hamlet determines that both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have been sent by his mother and step father. Hamlet is able to effectively read the emotions of those around him and formulate ideas that help him take advantage of, or better understand situations, giving further credence to the title of ‘the man of ideas’.  

Hamlet’s ability to use his intelligent thought to successfully execute his many ideas earn him the title of ‘the man of ideas’. His use of resourceful thinking, planning and emotional intelligence display this ability clearly. Through these abilities, Hamlet improves the dramatic value of the play, portraying key themes of revenge and deceit. It is people’s ideas and thoughts that make them who they are, and it is clear that Hamlet’s ideas not only made him who he is, but impacted many people around him as well.