Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 9: No 2) >> A Review of Simms's ''The Moral Character of Hamlet'' >> Page 34

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Page 34

Secondary Scholarship | 2001, 2002
Transcription and not the king, Hamlet shows little remorse and "expresses no sort of
compunction at his mistake." Simms asserts that this lack of compassion for such an
error is due to Hamlet's "assurance that Polonius is the creature of the King, and a
spy upon himself; he is really pleased that he is now entirely out of his way."
Hamlet also shows no guilt for the murders of his childhood friends Rosencrantz
and Guildenstern. In what Hamlet praises to be "rashness," he has discovered secret
letters sent by Claudius to the king of England encouraging Hamlet's execution, and
has replaced them with letters demanding the executions of his "friends". Simms
comments, "Conscious of his own weakness, it is a triumph to Hamlet, over
himself, as well as over his enemies, that, on an occasion so vital, he has been able
to overcome it simply by obeying a thoughtless impulse." Therefore, Hamlet is
capable of action when time for thought is not allowed.
Simms asserts that "the vanity of Hamlet is the medium by which he is to be
ensnared." This vanity is portrayed in a number of instances following Hamlet's
forced "exile" to England and subsequent safe return. When learning Ophelia's
death by possible suicide, Hamlet shows little in the way of passion and more in the
way of vanity when he strives to "out-do" Laertes' show of grief in the cemetery.
Simms writes, "He leaps into the grave where he should not have been – he who has
slain the father of the maid – whose rash act and desertion, have probably
occasioned her insanity and death. His presence there at such a time... is mockery
and insult." In this act that serves as an impetus for Laertes, already willing to d
Hamlet harm in revenge for his own father's murder, to conspire with Claudius for
the death of Hamlet.
Again, Hamlet's vanity comes into play leading him to his death. When
Hamlet learns that Claudius has placed a wager upon him in a sword fight against
Laertes, purported to be the best fighter in the court, Hamlet's "vanity makes him
forget all his wrongs and revenge...to submit to be the subject of a wager." When hi
naturally cautious nature again shines forth in an uneasy feeling about the contest,
he, for once, "objects to this. It [refusing to fight] would be an acknowledgment of
The catastrophic events at the end of the tragedy come in a rapid-fire series of
fatal deeds and actions, well suited to Hamlet's impulsive, active side. The events
the Queen drinks from the poisoned cup, Hamlet is mortally wounded by the
envenomed sword, and Laertes is wounded by the same instrument – leave Hamlet
with "the impulse of desperation...no time for thought." Upon learning for certain
what he already knew, that the King was guilty of the entire evil plan, Hamlet grasp
the envenomed sword and impulsively destroys his uncle. Hamlet soon dies upon
the promise of his friend Horatio that his story will be told.
Simms' in-depth analysis of the moral character of Hamlet reveals that the
"melancholy prince" was led to his tragic end by his own moral weaknesses.
Hamlet's vanity, suspicious nature, and varying states of sluggishness and
impulsiveness lead not only himself but also many of the royal court of Denmark to
their tragic demises. Yet Simms is a great fan of the bard's most complex character.
He ends his summary of Hamlet by commenting: