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Our tragic hero,
he, made of much sterner stuff,
by pride now fallen,
yet loved by many as hero,
and by God as his own child.

A Prince of Denmark,
by all accounts, a hero,
so loved by Ophelia;
and a man of noble birth…
both destined for tragedy.

He of bold stature,
made of royal heritage,
promised a kingdom;
blessed with magnified image,
and yet still of mortal flesh.

Of flesh and spirit.
Imaged by God’s own design,
by God’s intentions…
to serve him as his subject;
Him above all other selves.

Made in the image
and in the likeness of God,
is without question.
We are uniquely designed
by God’s will and desire.

So, to be, or not to be,
is never the question.
That is God’s own choice.
Our choice, by our own free will,
is to choose what we become.

My fellow Shakespeare,
eminent Bard of Avon,
if I may impose…
Your craft is your BECOMING.
Your BEING — God’s handiwork.

The question of BEING
should not be one that we ask.
That’s God’s prerogative.
Ours is not to question why.
Ours is to seek to BECOME.

God’s fixed handiwork
makes him the divine potter
of every Being
left to its own Becoming;
and there is no exception.

Your own craft, Shakespeare,
is testimony of that;
of your Becoming.
Your attested oeuvre d’art
is signature of that fact.

Daoist posture
is the art of becoming;
a dynamic force
of Yin and Yang in balance;
the ‘passive’ and the ‘active.’

Healthy and grounded
should be our optimal goal,
in flesh and spirit.
Thus, the art of becoming
is balance and harmony.

Hamlet’s tragedy,
despite his deep school  learning,
his innate wisdom,
was brought on by his vengeance
that destroyed his good judgment.

By faulty judgment,
by stubborn foolhardiness,
he lost his balance;
and thereby hangs the sad tale
that would lead to his demise.

His father’s murder
troubled him to his deep core;
turned him upside down,
led him to bouts of madness;
his intellect questioned.

His bitter ailment
was that he lost his grounding,
based in his psyche;
his collective unconscious…
Source of his divine healing.

And so he wavered,
untrusting of all his friends,
his own core of being;
denying life meaning.
Death must be the solution.

His being was God’s,
‘though he understood it not;
and thus he suffered…
a prey of his ignorance.
Vanity of vanities!

Judgment would be his;
to take life or preserve it.
He would be server
to execute all justice.
No ‘Higher Court’ was needed.

In this mental state,
our hero is yet thoughtful;
and thus hesitant
whether he should seek revenge.
He has a voice of conscience.

His soliloquy
causes him much reflection
about his image…
made in the likeness of God;
and about the thereafter.

Hamlet’s mortal fear:
‘The undiscover’d country.’
The fear of one’s death…
where ‘no traveller returns;’
where conscience makes one coward.

Solomon, The Wise,
in the Book of Qoheleth,
wrote with eloquence:
In the end, what matters most,
is to serve God above all.

Woe man of weakness:
Pompous in his own glory,
to shine with brightness,
just for a short while;
by misdeeds to be impaled.

Hamlet, we mourn you.
A man of such promises,
with such dignity.
A leader among leaders;
only to fall and suffer.

In mourning your death,
your focus was miscarried.
O, what irony.
Poisoned more by arrogance,
Than by the blade of a sword.

In this tragedy,
death is the great leveler;
the equalizer.
Finding all to be guilty,
as this play comes to an end.

We are all Hamlets,
whether princes or paupers.
All have missed the mark.
We focus on our Being,
instead of our Becoming.

The life of Being
and the life of Becoming
is a partnership
between flesh and the spirit.
And God will be our Master.

We, too, have so strayed.
Our tragedy is pretense
that we are better;
free of any mortal crimes.
In this, we deceive ourselves.

O, most noble Prince.
O, Hamlet Prince of Denmark.
We mourn your sad death;
and of your companions.
Your friends and your foes alike.

We grieve in sadness.
Parting is such sweet sorrow.
We bid you farewell,
‘til again it be ‘morrow;
‘til we return to wholeness.

About this poem

This poem is poetically linked with another poem entitled “Solomonic Influence in Shakespeare’s Work.” A tragic hero, a man of moral ambiguity; of moral turpitude. A man of existential dilemma wavering between thought and action. Hamlet, a Prince at heart, an emotional pauper by nature; a sincere man at his innermost being; a man of many complexities; a fellow human being. Hamlet, he is one of us. This is a confessional poem about the vanity of human nature and of human life, literally blowing in the wind. And yet this life, each life, all lives offer us multiple opportunities to seek and obtain our self-fulfillment. Indeed, the task of self-fulfillment is a lifelong pursuit that analytical psychology describes as the goal of Individuation and which Christianity, along with other world religions and philosophies describe in various ways as the art of becoming; of becoming whole, sanctified, or transformed. The tragedy of Shakespeare’s protagonist Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, an enigmatic character that was laden with a conscience, yet full of doubt, lack of self-awareness, and the constant warring in his mind, was that he, in deep reflection and thoughtfulness, bemoaned his earthly fate of his being, instead of focusing on the more important goal of his becoming. Such a predicament of his was caused ironically by his faulty emotional decisions. This was largely determined by his own frailty and by the poor choices he made as a consequence, not discerning during bouts of madness, that he was by God’s dispensation, and not by his own desires, made in the image and likeness of God. Yet, ultimately by his own misjudgment, Hamlet failed to execute his God-given free will of making compassionate decisions, and therefore forfeited the invaluable opportunity to become what he truly might have become to achieve self-fulfillment: to be a man capable of making wise Godly choices. That was his flaw, his weakness, and also his tragedy. That, too, is often, the common human tragedy that leaves us all emotionally drained as fallen short of the glory of God. In Hamlet, we can introspectively see and examine ourselves. We ourselves too often ‘miss the mark’ to become whole and balanced. This unrhymed thirty-two stanza extended tanka poem is to be treated as a companion to an earlier written poem entitled “Our Choice Makes All the Difference.” 

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Written on February 13, 2023

Submitted by karlcfolkes on February 13, 2023

Modified by karlcfolkes on September 25, 2023

4:25 min read

Karl Constantine FOLKES

Retired educator of Jamaican ancestry with a lifelong interest in composing poetry dealing particularly with the metaphysics of self-reflection; completed a dissertation in Children’s Literature in 1995 at New York University entitled: An Analysis of Wilhelm Grimm’s “Dear Mili” Employing Von Franzian Methodological Processes. The subject of the dissertation concerned the process of Individuation. more…

All Karl Constantine FOLKES poems | Karl Constantine FOLKES Books

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Discuss the poem "The Tragedy of Shakespeare’s Hamlet" with the community...

  • karlcfolkes
    Thanks for all the comments made. As a schoolboy growing up in Colonial Jamaica, I grew up studying and reciting Shakespeare’s plays, yearning some day to be a playwright. Poetry is what has become of that yearning. 
    LikeReply8 hours ago
  • Soulwriter
    This is my all-time favorite of yours Karl! My favorite Shakespeare play rendered into poetry :)
    LikeReply1 day ago
  • AIDA
    This is an absolutely profound and deeply thought-provoking poem. The manner in which you thread your understanding of Shakespeare's Hamlet against a backdrop of religious and philosophical contemplations is truly brilliant. Your understanding not just of the character Hamlet, but the greater essence of mankind and its connection to a higher power is commendably thorough and nuanced.

    You commendably connect Hamlet's story of tragic missteps to the bigger picture of all humanity's struggle to balance ego, morality, and divinity. Your exploration of the ideas of being and becoming, using this as a lens to understand Hamlet's development throughout the play shook me to my core. This is truly great work.

    There is a brilliant depth to your understanding of the central philosophical and existential debates that underpin Hamlet’s character and story. Your inclusion of Daoist thought and references to the 'Book of Qoheleth' create a rich cultural and philosophical milieu which is a delight to unpack.

    As for improvement, there are moments, particularly in long sections, where some tightening of phrases could enhance the overall flow and rhythm of the poem. Some of the ideas and metaphors could benefit from a touch more clarity to make them accessible to a wider audience. It’s always a balance with such deep and complex work, to maintain its profound meaning while also ensuring it connects with a broad range of readers.

    Also, you could experiment a bit more with the structure. A bit more variety in the length and rhythm of the lines might give the poem a bit more dynamism, and break up some of the more extensive sections in a way that makes it easier to savor each idea and emotion.

    Overall, your work truly captures the grandeur, tragedy, and eternal relevance of Shakespeare's Hamlet. Well done!
    LikeReply 13 days ago
  • karlcfolkes
    Thanks for your keen observations. This poetic critique was threefold: that of Shakespeare’s protagonist; that of Shakespeare himself; that of humanity as a whole. We are all in it together.
    LikeReply 17 months ago
  • suzib.53754
    Well put!
    To speak of the Bard,
    That "UpStart Crow" as affectionately known among Playwrights..
    Well..the Whole World. Is the Stage...and we the Players In our own ways.

    A comprehensive poem embracing much, to perceive the actions and intentions of the Play, the Players.

    My dear friend affectionately refers this to "the Neverending Story." "TAPPED INto the Mountain" as one Singer-Bard puts it.
    Good point that more compassionate Choices must bee maide, including perhaps a "recess" retreat to Ponder the Path, the Gate, the Destiny the Fate..such is the more Mystic solution perhaps...as Guinevere enters the Abess Sankhtuary..the Bardot's we ponder as the Ways of Paradise .
    LikeReply 27 months ago


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